Outside Looking In

Three community newspapers from really fine cities (Centerville, Knoxville and Pella) were closed last week. For the guy who operates three newspapers between those three communities it was a shock.

The plan to serve those communities announced by the gigantic newspaper corporation CNHI was to have Oskaloosa publish a twice a week newspaper for Oskaloosa, Pella and Knoxville and Ottumwa publish a three-times a week newspaper for Ottumwa and Centerville. The exact way they were going to do that was pretty sketchy.

The three newspapers were troubled (in my opinion) before the COVID-19 pandemic cut in half newspaper revenues throughout the country. On the other hand, Facebook and the Internet had pretty much given all of us a hacking cough as people have chosen to take the free route of Facebook over the traditional news and advertising of the newspaper industry.

Centerville attempted to remain a daily newspaper far too long. Knoxville had competition from a local guy. Pella (a magnificent college town) has for as long as I’ve been in southern Iowa never accepted its local newspaper, choosing instead to pour its advertising dollars into a free shopper.

But those newspapers had good people trying to serve their communities. I think especially of Knoxville’s Perry Bell, one of the finest sports editors I’ve ever had the honor to know.

It’s all I can do worrying about my own publications, while appreciating the small family newspaper group that owns us and has allowed us to thrive in good and not so good economic times. The closing of Centerville, Knoxville and Pella, however, reminds me that I have to be vigilant in telling our story as a community newspaper and keep reminding people of our importance to the community.

Importance in keeping local government honest. Importance in uplifting the efforts of high school athletes and fine arts students. Importance in serving as the community’s historical record. Importance in placing names with faces and connecting the dots to families instead of simply posting a hundred nameless photos on-line. Importance in serving our retail community.

And as a reminder to all. We don’t do fake news. We remain honest about the opinions we express and open to other points of view. Because of the people who work in each of the communities we serve, we remain sensitive to specific needs of each community. We are a direct reflection of the communities we serve.

My wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary Sunday in what has become a very familiar style. We either do nothing, have some sort of disastrous travel trip or watch a children’s or grandchildren’s sporting event.

This year it was do nothing, but not for lack of imagination. The stupid COVID-19 shutdown has created an entertainment and celebration industry that is barely on life support. The plan we talked about in early March (since our anniversary fell on a Sunday) was to head to Branson on a Friday, do a night and a day of shows and fine dining and sort of drift back home to Iowa on Sunday.

That plan was knifed in the heart when COVID-19 killed the hotel, restaurant and theater business in Branson. Probably our next best options were to either head to Cedar Rapids or Des Moines and do dining and either a movie or some sort of live production.

Dead.

So we decided on a Saturday dinner at Bogies in Albia (doing well under the governor’s opening guidelines) and a family steak fry on Sunday.

Flipping back over the years, though, our wedding on May 17 was done with a very narrow range of thought. First of all, my junior year ended on May 15, Jan’s sophomore year enough ahead of that for her to head back to Waverly and complete the wedding preparations with her mother. We didn’t want to spend the summer apart.

Read the May 29, 2020 edition of the Chariton Leader/Herald-Patriot for the rest of the story.

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