Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

October 11, 2013

The greatest journalism happens in small towns

GLASGOW — In 17 years of being a journalist there has often been one question asked more often than any other: “Have you ever wanted to be at a bigger newspaper in a bigger area?”

The answer has almost always been “No.” (The Glasgow Daily Times is the largest circulation newspaper for which I’ve worked, but its not the largest community in which I’ve worked.)

There are things metro newspapers never cover and more often than not, those are the things I love most to tell the story of. Things such as local rodeos, or organized pick up games of football (see page C1 today), or Hispanic members of the community gathering on Sunday afternoons to play soccer.

When individuals come to talk about becoming a reporter at the Glasgow Daily Times, there are a few questions I often ask them. It’s good to know what people’s professional ambitions and goals are.

One person who interviewed for an opening here and eventually came to work for us said she wanted to write for “Rolling Stone” magazine. She loved music and wanted to be a music critic. I recall my response being, “That’s great. How do you feel about covering a small-town police department and sheriff’s office?” It didn’t thrill her, but being in Glasgow, Ky., was better than taking a job in Liberal, Kansas, so she came to work here.

After nearly three years, she left and now she is a cops and courts reporter for a larger newspaper in a larger community in Ohio. She loves it. Even though she is in a larger area, at the core of what she still does is community journalism. She keeps the people who are interested informed on the daily dealings of police and courts in her newspaper’s coverage area.

Another person who eventually came to work for us was obviously a wild-eyed idealist when they came for the interview. Idealism is great because we must all continue to cling to youthful dreams, even if they can’t be fulfilled. Our desires motivate us, in my opinion.

Even though an idealistic view is great, it is essential in community journalism that those views do not hinder us from doing our jobs. I asked that person what they thought of covering a tractor pull. Looking for a job, I am certain that guided their answer that they wouldn’t have a problem with it. Little did she know she would, having grown up in a city, become an agricultural reporter and eventually win an award for her reporting. Turned out she loved going to farms and learning about the world of farmers.

After more than two years here, she decided to go on the adventure of a lifetime, as if being here had not been adventure enough.

Many young reporters in community newspapers start out by covering the police beat because it’s mostly writing stories from reports prepared by public affairs officers for said agencies. The work is procedural in nature. They must also learn how to respond to crash scenes, fires and other human calamities. It’s not an easy job emotionally, sometimes, but it is essential to learn the nuts and bolts of the business.

Some reporters decide those are the types of news items they want to write about their entire careers. They often move to larger newspapers in more populous areas for more pay.

Others decide they like writing stories about many different things. They enjoy telling peoples’ stories whether those people are farmers, bankers, coaches, teachers, politicians, police chiefs or the homeless man under the bridge. I am one of those people.

Prior to coming to Glasgow 10 years ago, I had decided professionally there were two paths forward. I either wanted to be a reporter writing exclusively about a college’s sports, or I wanted to be the sports editor at a daily newspaper. The latter would allow me to write stories, shoot photos and design sports pages. The Daily Times came calling and I’ve been here since. I never imagined I would become the editor. After 17 years, I still love being a community journalist and that leads to the usual answer to the question posed at the beginning of this column — “I love what I do.”

James Brown is editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes. com.

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