Your local newspaper is a foundation of the community
The first time I was in a small town local newspaper, I was less than one year old. My baby picture won a cute baby contest and was published in the paper. Sadly, in terms of looks, I peaked in the first few months of my life and it has been downhill ever since.
Since then, I was in a local newspaper a few times over the years, sometimes for sports, sometimes for business and sometimes for non-profit work. In the last couple of years, I have thought a lot about small-town local newspapers. Though the newspaper business has and continues to struggle with many closing down, there are also numerous examples of small-town newspapers not only being stable but, in some cases, thriving. One reason is studies have shown residents of a community consider their locally owned and operated newspaper to be a more reliable source of information then national media outlets.
After having a place in Big Sky since 2004, my wife and I became residents of Montana a couple of years ago. I have never figured out if Big Sky is a big little town or a little big town. But in many ways, it reminds me of the small town in which I grew up.
It seems to me, it takes several things for a small town to thrive and prosper. In my estimation, three of the most important are a school system, locally owned and operated businesses, and a locally owned and operated newspaper.
I would even suggest that locally-owned newspapers are part of the foundation of the community. There are many reasons. One, most of us like to know what is going on in our community. Two, local newspapers cover major issues that affect the community.
Three, and perhaps most important, living in the world which often focuses on the negative and all the problems we face, many of the stories in locally owned newspapers remind of us that most of us are good people trying to do the right thing, striving to live a good life and hope to make the world a little better by our presence.
I am fortunate enough to have had some commentaries published in the Lone Peak Lookout. They have told me they are looking for a thoughtful intelligent commentator, but until they find that person they will continue to publish mine. When I read the Lookout, I am always impressed with the local coverage, the human-interest stories and the connection the Lookout makes for the community.
Coverage of local issues, committees, public and private groups is extremely important because it provides a public record and encourages transparency. It is had been documented nationally when city and business leaders operate in the dark, bad things often happen. Local newspapers cannot stop this but can make it more difficult and help provide exposure and transparency on a community basis.
Local newspapers relate national issues to the community it serves. Consider the recent and very timely articles in the LPL regarding COVID-19, unemployment, and the U.S. census. Each article provided a local perspective on national issues. An important part of this is to put a local face to a national problem. It is much easier for an individual to comment on an issue from distance than when the person being affected is across the street.
Local newspapers also provide information on community development, issues, and activities. For example, in LPL a recent article updated and detailed the Master Trail's plan. A different article discussed the Arts Council plan for virtual concerts. There were several articles regarding hiking in bear country. In a different manner, each of these articles was about developing and improving the quality of life in our community.
Local newspapers like LPL regularly highlight local artists, athletes, professionals and community volunteers. Big Sky is blessed with a lot of local talent which may go unnoticed if not covered in the newspaper. In addition, I particularly enjoy the "Not So Average..." articles which have recently featured Ken Morton, Brian Wheeler, Michele Clark-Conley, and Brandon Kelly. It is individuals like this who make a small town a community and LPL gives us their story. I would enjoy visiting with all of these individuals but probably will not happen. Most of the people who have met me said the liked me more before they met me.
I did ask the editor if I was on the "Not So Average" list and she said I was 4,230. She then said, wait for a second, and finally said a baby was just born so I was now 4,231.
Small town newspapers like Lone Peak Lookout are part of the foundation of any thriving community. But they are use it or lose it endeavors. Support your local newspaper, by reading it and advertising in it if applicable to your circumstances. I prefer the print, but nice to have digital as an option. I truly believe locally owned and operated small-town newspapers are essential to the quality and prosperity of a community.