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Stemme
Your community newspaper is your concerned friend and mirror

Putting a newspaper together is never an easy feat.

It is hours of research, making endless phone calls and emails to get to the crux of the matter, writing and re-writing sentences so that it can eventually make sense and become something meaningful to the reader.

But much more than that, putting a community newspaper together means bottomless cups of coffee, endless discussions with colleagues around the impact a story may have – it means second-guessing yourself up until the moment it has to go to the printers. It’s about reading each story – 170 of them sometimes, at least five times over because you want to do it justice, only to find – much to your annoyance – there is a typing error or spelling mistake.

While reading a few internet articles on the role of community newspapers, I came across an article written by the late Arne Jones III, who in essence grew up in the newspaper industry. She passed away in 2016, and an article she had written a few years before was republished in the Greenville Sun (of Greenville, Tennessee in the US).

Some of what she wrote resonated with me and I wish to highlight some of it.

Being a journalist is not an 8 to 5 – it’s a full-time commitment. It’s about missing out on family celebrations because you have to work, it’s about missing out on quality time with your nearest and dearest, and not being completely present in the moment. It’s about always knowing what’s happening so you can share that information with your audience 24/7, 365.

You dream, eat, sleep deadlines, getting to the press on time and how to stimulate circulation. You live the stories of the day - and sometimes go home and cry on your husband’s shoulder, because you feel for the parents who had just lost both their children in a car accident. Being a journalist is about going home at night, pouring a glass of wine and trying to make sense of it all…

A community newspaper is your concerned friend – we celebrate and mourn with you, support and promote good causes, we inform and educate you. But we are often taken for granted and become an easy target for unwarranted criticism.

If only I had a R1 coin for every time a grieving parent took their frustrations out on the journalist or the number of times I have been threatened, attacked even.

A community newspaper “is always there for its readers and fellow citizens, to be looked to and depended on. It envisions itself much less as a business trying to pay the bills by marketing a “product” than as a service in, and for, its community.

A concerned friend will always be truthful, and as a newspaper we have to be a reflection of what’s happening in the community; sometimes it’s bad and ugly, and not what one wants to see. But if we don’t report on it, who will?

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