Michael Wilcox, Publisher/Editor
I was asked by a television production company executive Monday, “Why should we choose your newspapers and area as a focal point on a new reality series featuring hometown newspapers? I thought for a second, and then remembered what I had awakened to that morning.
Although the tragic car accident happened Friday night, we were still learning the details of what happened Monday morning. I was being emailed the details (see story in this week’s newspaper) as I was enjoying my first morning coffee at 6 a.m. It’s not often that a community- in this case, Marion, has to mourn the tragic loss of a community member like Jasmine Rogers, and then has to endure the resulting investigation that found the driver of the car, Audreyonna Humphries, driving from the scene of the horrific accident and later found at a Temple home that she had broken in to.
On my second cup of coffee I turn on Facebook, and lo and behold, I read about a blast that could be heard from miles in Dodge City. Later a picture pops up, showing the house totally destroyed. Facebook users are surmising is it a gas blast, or did meth cooking gone bad cause it? Of course, we found out later it was caused by a propane tank and thank God, the homeowners were downstate, thus no one got hurt.
A few minutes later I get an email from the Sheriff’s Department. Runaways from Roscommon County, were found over the weekend in Clare County. The two teens were found in a home in Hamilton Township, apprehended and returned to Roscommon jurisdiction.
I agree this is an atypical Monday, but here I wasn’t even out the door headed to the office, and three significant breaking news stories were being reported. I betcha not too many small town newspaper editors have experienced that on a regular basis.
But as I think, for whatever reason, we in Mid-Michigan are never lacking for interesting news. There are always drama unfolding in one community or another, and it makes my job very fun and exciting. As I began to relate this to the production executive he was rather surprised.
Community newspapers are not like they use to be. Carol Cope, at the Marion Press, writes a column, that reports what past editors wrote about. In those bygone years the newspaper wrote about birthdays, and house parties, and who had the best recipes. I’ll admit there is still a little of that, but we have graduated in our coverage. Partly because of the competition- television, other newspapers, and God forbid the internet, including Facebook, are all providing news to readers. We have had to step up, hire reporters, and provide better, comprehensive coverage of schools, local government and crime.
Community newspapers, at least this one, are no longer one man shows. We are not the goofy looking dude with the wide-brimmed hat, the ugly spectacles and reporter notebook in hand and the 35m camera wrapped around the opposite shoulder.
I think this came as a surprise to the New York production executive. But I also could imagine his wheels turning as he asked question after question about our staff and how organized we were (not at all). At the end of the conversation he asked, “Do you know what skyping is?”
I laughed hysterically. “We’re not a third world country here,” I said. “Of course we know how to Skype.”
He then said, “pick out three or four characters from your staff and lets arrange to Skype sometime next week. I need interesting, funny people to make this work.”
That shouldn’t be a problem. To do this job you have to be offbeat. You have to be on the edge. One day you might be pulling your hair out because a fast approaching deadline will probably be missed. The next day you are celebrating euphorically because that elusive full page ad you have been seeking soundly appears on your email.
Ah, the life of a small town newspaper staff. And to think someone might think we are interesting enough to put on television. They must be crazier than us.