Newspapers can be a force for good

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Lost on most people is the fact that this week – Oct. 6-12 – is National Newspaper Week. Like so many other observances National Newspaper Week means little to people who don’t work for newspapers.

But it does serve as a reminder of why I’ve stayed in this business for nearly 30 years, through a topsy-turvy economy that brought the end to thousands of news reporting positions around the country and through a transformative change in the way we present news – not just in print any more, but online and at all times of the day or night.

I learned, by experience, that newspapers can be a force for good in their communities.

Two particular incidents remind me vividly of that fact.

About 15 years ago, I worked at The Wake Weekly, one of our sister newspapers within Restoration Newsmedia. A particularly bad storm had done a lot of damage in the community. I can’t remember if it was a hurricane that came through the area or if it was just an especially bad weather event, but I learned about a woman who was just a few days away from delivering her baby. A small bridge that connected her driveway to the street in front of her house had washed away in the storm. The bridge had spanned a stream bed that was too deep and wide to walk across without the bridge. Someone had put a few flimsy boards across the gap to allow people to walk across. But getting a car across the gaping hole was impossible.

I wrote about the woman’s plight and the next day, we started getting calls at the newspaper from people who wanted to help. A local company donated some large earth-moving equipment and that weekend, volunteers gathered in front of the woman’s home to replace the bridge.

I am certain most of the people who volunteered didn’t know the woman, but they had learned, by reading the local newspaper, that a community member was in need. And they did what it took to remedy the situation. The repairs were made before the woman went into labor and her baby was born without incident a few days later.

I was astounded at the reaction that story brought from the community. There were a lot of people – and I mean a lot of people – who turned out that Saturday morning to help that woman.

Closer to home, I recently wrote an article in the paper about the need for more volunteers to help with the Reading Buddies program in Person County. I later called the program’s leader up to volunteer for the program myself and we set a time and date for her to train me.

A few days later, though, she called me to ask if we could change the date and time of the training, because she had gotten a number of phone calls from people who had read that article and wanted to volunteer. Last week I trained in a room with about six other people.

Because those people responded to a story they read in the newspaper, the program will be able to serve its full complement of students.

Newspapers can be a force for good in the community. And that’s what makes me glad I work at the local newspaper. And it’s what makes me want to come to work day in and day out.

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