By Tracy Dingmann
Why would anyone want to pick up a local newspaper anymore?
Thanks to the Internet, people no longer have to rely on their local paper for national news. Or to get the television and movie listings, or celebrity gossip, or the want ads, or the weather.
So what can local newspapers still do best?
In my (perhaps idealized) estimation, the best reason to keep reading your local newspaper is simply to find out about your community and the people who live in it.
Good local newspapers can and should provide locally-generated news about hyper-local topics like schools, sports, business, religion, arts and culture, politics, public works and public safety.
I really don’t think people are picking up their local paper to read alienating editorials, stale movie star gossip, and day-old wire service stories that have been hacked to pieces.
Put very simply: I believe people read the paper to see stories about their neighbors. They want to see local faces in the paper; they want to see stories that make them laugh or cry or learn something they didn’t know about their community and the people who live in it.
When I was a reporter, I sincerely tried to live by this credo. I did all kinds of writing and covered many, many topics, but my favorite stories to write were ones that showed unique and heartening connections between people in my community.
So it’s with this spirit that I want to point out several reporters at the Journal who (I think) did great work this week.
Hailey Heinz’s story about the broken-hearted dad who spoke to kids at Jefferson Middle School about the consequences of bullying was done exceptionally well. The dad’s 13-year old son committed suicide in another state several years ago after being bullied by his fellow students.
In a brief but moving story, Heinz related how the dad still chokes up when he talks to other students about the death of his son and the pain bullying can cause. And with one poignant detail, she also showed what effect his talk had on the audience.
Lloyd Jojola’s story about a missing dog that likely saved her owner’s life after a car accident was also well told. Zulu the lab mix has not been seen since a car accident in a remote area of Southwestern New Mexico that seriously injured her owner. When the owner was finally rescued, days after the accident, Zulu was seen laying on top of him. Spooked by the rescuers, she ran away. The owner is recovering in a New Mexico hospital, and many say the dog’s warmth likely saved his life.
Jojola not only tells the uplifting story of what Zulu did, but the details the extraordinary and touching effort of people all over the state who are working to make sure this sweet dog will be found safe. Nice lead on that story, too.
Finally, I was impressed by Olivier Uyttebrouck’s story about a nonprofit group that sent dozens of children and spouses of fallen military personnel- including a few from New Mexico – on a fun-filled trip to Dallas. Uyttebrouck told the story simply and without exaggeration but still managed to convey the unimaginable pain the families have endured.
I read the Journal every day because I have to. But it’s stories like these that would make me still keep picking it up anyway.