In Defense of the Local Paper

Living in a small town there are many ways to get a pulse for the community: eating at the local diner, a hot drink at the coffee shop, playing at the park, and walking the streets of the neighborhoods. We love taking part in all of those activities in our town of Cole Camp. It truly is a gem of a place, situated in the middle of Missouri surrounded by farm fields and vast open skies. Travel down winding roads leads to cows and horses grazing, beautiful creeks to throw rocks in, and old, red barns dotting the horizon.

We’ve also found that we don’t have to leave our home to experience the heart of the community. Every Friday in our mailbox, the local paper, The Cole Camp Courier, arrives.

To be fully honest I didn’t always read the paper. For a number of years I lived in the community but worked 20 miles away in a neighboring town. Not until I transitioned to being home full-time with our kids and spending the majority of our days in town did I start to read the Courier. Being a part of the town makes it seem that I should read the paper, but more importantly, I want to read it.

Every week the paper includes information about family reunions, obituaries, local auctions, upcoming events, church news, and history. I read about birthdays and anniversaries, baby announcements, and town members sharing their gratitude for neighbors, pastors, and local businesses. Everytime I read the paper I get a glimpse into the heart of this community.

One of my favorite recurring columns is entitled: From my Front Porch. The writer, Evelyn, shares pictures and stories from her life in Cole Camp. She reflects, remembers, and gives thanks. In each column I see her heart and what she loves - family and this place that she calls home. I feel as if I’m sitting with Evelyn on her front porch when I read her words. She doesn’t shy away from her grief and loss. In her writing I get invited to know her family and to fall in love with them. She makes me laugh, too. Sometimes I read her words and wonder why it matters and why she keeps writing her column. But each week it hits me: this is her life, the simple and the profound, the everyday joys and the life-altering challenges and loss, and all of it together pointing to a life well lived, a life lived in gratitude to God. Evelyn makes me stop and see the beauty in my everyday experiences and to see them as God intended: good and holy.

In each paper I don’t always agree with some letters to the editor or opinion pieces, but I know that others in the community do. To me that’s the point of community - to be open to listening and hearing one another and seeing what matters to our neighbors without making judgements. All the while giving thanks for the diversity of thought.

The paper arrives in our mailbox on Friday and with each copy we’re saying yes to local writers and publishing. We’re saying yes to supporting local and investing in where we live and showing our children that it matters. The paper gives us a snapshot of the community and it’s precisely in this community where we practice being human - loving, forgiving, listening, and respecting our neighbors. We get to do that when we purchase and read our town’s paper. I hope this is what our children glean from our reading the paper, the importance of discussing ideas and celebrating the accomplishments of our neighbors; seeing the life around us as good and holy.