What do you miss when you don’t get your local paper?

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I don’t want to preach. It will come off self-serving. I work for a community newspaper who pays me a wage to make photographs and tell stories. A salary comes from people subscribing to the paper and advertising sales. Without these, I wouldn’t have a job and you wouldn’t have a paper.

I had a very nice conversation today with a mom of a little guy I was photographing. We got to talking about him, his name is Max and he loves baseball. He is autistic.

At the paper, we recently covered the preliminary work of the Oil City Autism Walk and I asked her if she participated in that walk. She said she didn’t and it was because it wasn’t very well advertised.

I hope I wasn’t rude in the way I responded (I didn’t mean to be). I told her we had three stories in the paper about it.

Here is another picture of Max!

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This is how the whole conversation started. The stories we did about the Autism walk were about the organizer with a photo of her and her family hanging ribbons around town. Then, those ribbons were vandalized, then stolen. We did two more stories. Then, they caught the guy and the guy was sorry and decided to help re-hang the ribbons and gave a hundred dollars to the Autism Walk. We did another story on the rehanging of the ribbons. So, in total we actually did 5 stories.

She admitted to not being a subscriber. I don’t fault her because a lot of people aren’t. It’s not a part of our culture like it once was.

And that is something I lament … not just because my job depends on newspapers continuing but what is missed by not having one. The internet is great, I use it all the time myself. But what is missed is that connection to serendipitous information we didn’t know we might have an interest in. Scrolling, we make fast decisions and we bypass so much, especially when it is intermingled with posts by our friends on what they had to eat or what their kids are doing. We take a second to acknowledge that with a smiley face or like button push or, if you’re me, a snarky remark.

A local community newspaper gives you information you just wouldn’t think to look for or if your circle of friends aren’t sharing on the internet. And the physical paper can sit around on the counter, couch or bathroom floor to be glanced at even a day or two later. They are fun to clip out and save. Scrapbooks in every household I’m sure have mini-histories in albums with important newspaper clippings of family and friends.

But the real thing we miss is gaining a better understanding of who we are and the community we live in.

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The New York Times online isn’t going to give you the story about a community rallying around one of its members to help after a roof collapsed. Your local paper is going to do this and, when possible, with photos to help give the story further context.

Yes, we have an online product, too, and many of the stories can be read there, but you have to find it, engage with it and have the desire to stick with it as your phone or computer buzzes with each new text or phone call. The paper sits there and simply waits. It’ll be there later. It’ll be there tomorrow and it’ll be there until you decide to toss in the recycle bucket, use it as a layer in your organic gardening (We use soy based inks now and its a very good tool in gardening), clip out things you want to save, line a bird cage, wrap your glasses and dishes for moving (which you’ll want to subscribe to your new town’s local paper), start a fire or write a ransom note … er … maybe not that last one.

I really don’t want to preach, but the overall experience of being an informed member of a community is still greater with a newspaper subscription than it is clicking around online or listening to people on Facebook or any other social media. It may not be as convenient as whipping out your cell phone to check out the headlines, but those headlines you missed yesterday, you’re likely not going to scroll down far enough to find.

And you’re less likely to print out an article or picture for your fridge. And the printouts don’t look nearly as cool as those old yellowed newspapers!

PS. If this made you want to get a subscription please mention that it was me who convinced you – pappa needs a raise! Haha!

PPS. If you get today’s paper, you’ll see a picture of Max throwing a ball and learn a little about a home-run derby this weekend to raise money for a good cause. CNN or Fox won’t have this story and if I gave you all the details here, I’d be making my point above somewhat moot!