January 04, 2012 - As the dawn of yet another year approached, the leaders of the universe that is Sherman Publications sat atop their ivory towers and looked down at me. From far atop I heard their voices, bellowing like rolling thunder. In unison, three voices spoke as one . . .
"Donald," they summoned. "Donald. It is time. We have you here to hear of our desires. You are the chosen one to tell our people."
"But," I interjected, "Will they listen?"
Their voices boomed out their annoyance at my doubting, "No buts! Tell them, tell them it all!"
And then, as if under some unearthly command, cumulonimbus clouds converged to obscure my vision of the Three Towers. They spoke no more, were they still up there? Watching me? What were they doing up there in those ivory towers?
"But, you forgot to tell me what it is you wanted me to say, and to whom," I said softly, obviously to myself.
What had they said? "Our people . . ." What did that mean? Our people? Their children? No. Their employees? No. Then, out of nowhere a thought hit me. Their people are their readers.
So what message did they desire me to send to you, the reader?
My best guess is about a golden rule of community journalism -- one we may have gotten away from recently. That rule?
"Thou shalt accept for publication, those announcements from individuals, groups, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas -- any interested party. Thou shalt accept said announcements with smiling faces and plenty of thank yous -- and then follow through and publish said announcements promptly."
That means we cannot make you readers jump through hoops to get information published. Mail it, e-mail it, drop it off, call it in -- if you make the effort to furnish us with information it is our job to get it in our community newspaper. (Of course, we reserve the right to correct spelling, etc. -- come on, it's still our business.)
As editors and reporters for a community newspaper, we need to get out there and pound the pavement, press the flesh and meet new people. We have to hear different points of view. We cannot rely (solely) on one source of information. We cannot rely (solely) on public relations personnel for info from our local forms of government.
Many residents criticize elected officials and administrators of being smug and beyond reproach. Those same folks may think the same of us.
When we get a letter to the editor criticizing us, we have to realize there are other points of view. We need to come to grips with the fact that criticisms are not necessarily a bad thing. When readers see spelling errors and let us know, they actually care enough about us to tell us to shape up.
The message seems pretty simple, we need to be open to our readers. We need to get back to the idea that everyone in our community has a story, and that it is our job to tell it. Before we can tell it, though, we need to get out and talk to the community.
What was the message those leaders of this community newspaper want me to share? I guess it is to share our renewed commitment to the readers and our community. If you want to see something in the paper, think we should do something better, by all means let us know.
I think they mean, you can help us. Keep us on our toes. Be our ears and eyes. And, when you do, send us your phone number so we can call to verify.
Send in your announcements of births, weddings, anniversaries and life's achievements. Send in your recipes and letters to the editor. Send in those funny pictures you take that make you smile. We have room for it -- we are your community newspaper.
(Oh, then thank the local businesses who advertise, they make it all possible!)
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org