Do you remember a few months ago when we ran those “Meet the Team” segments we ran a few months back? They were just little placards that we included at the bottom of the page with small introductory passages about the GO! team. Each person had to include an inspirational quote about why they chose to become a journalist.
The reason I bring this up is because I was recently made to seriously reconsider my choice.
At the time, I chose a quote from playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard: “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is the more immediate short-term weapon.”
A good line, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t really apply in our context, does it?
Let’s be honest: we’re not necessarily here to change the world. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, mind you. What I mean is that the purpose of the GO! & Express has never been about the big, earth-shattering stories one might find in our larger sister papers, like the Dispatch.
We’re a community paper which means our focus is on stories that directly affect our community. Whether it’s potholes in Cambridge or school sport in Stirling, beauty pageants in Duncan Village or bodybuilding in King, the important thing is that the stories are immediately local and relevant to everyone.
Which brings us to a new quote I think better sums up what we do. It comes from Leo A Lerner, an American editor who founded a successful chain of community papers that ran from 1926 until 2005. During World War 2, Lerner encouraged his staff to focus on local community news even as the war waged around them with the saying: “A fist-fight on Clark Street is more important to our readers than a war in Europe.”
That sums it up perfectly, doesn’t it? As a community paper, we cover the stories that would otherwise be ignored by larger publications, stories that really capture the essence of our communities and the places where we live.
Community journalism, to shamelessly crib another quote (this one from Harvard professor Ron Heifetz), is the “glue that binds communities, reminding us every day of our collective identity, the stake we have in one another.”
We’re not here to necessarily change the world, but just to reflect our own. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.