Newspaper served as vital link for area residents
This is a requiem for a newspaper, column and an important part of local life.
As you probably know, The Chieftain is ceasing publication after nearly 120 years of dedicated service to the Lower Kaw Valley. This, in all probability, is the final Notes column, which has been with me for over 40 years and in three communities.
In 1896, Ed Mathews moved The Chieftain to Bonner Springs and through the decades it has recorded the history of a growing, vibrant and proud community. It was later expanded to cover Edwardsville and had a sister publication in Basehor. Sadly these cities have lost a vital link that recorded both community and personal history. The newspaper kept the public informed on government, important area events, local happenings and personal milestones. Its voice will be missed.
I have spent almost my entire life in the newspaper business, and I loved almost every minute of it. I never complained about going to work. In fact, I relished the weekly challenge of putting together a good newspaper. Our goal was to inform and entertain area residents.
Over the years, The Chieftain has recorded thousands or births, deaths, engagements, weddings and personal achievements. These happenings will now go unrecorded and unheralded. The residents have lost something that probably won’t return.
To me, news was what was happening in the communities. I wanted to know the high school, junior high and recreation scores, and I loved seeing the names of youngsters who achieved success. Honor rolls and other academic victories were important. I’ll miss pictures of graduates and knowing who the class leaders are. There will be no publicity for courtwarming or homecoming candidates. Of course, these are small things, but they are part of the fabric of small town life.
I wanted to inform the community about upcoming events and what happened at governmental meetings. That will all be gone now – there won’t be a reporter at council or school board meetings. Yes, you can go to websites, but I wonder how many will do that.
A newspaper is a vital part of any community. One of the important duties of a newspaper is to promote the community and be part of its progressive growth. In small towns, the rumor mill is rampant, and the newspaper presents the true facts and debunks myths. A good letter to the editor page allows readers to express opinions and weigh in on issues.
I know I will miss writing this column and researching the files for “Remember When.” In the latter case, I believe we need to understand how life was in other eras. We also need to know the mistakes that were made so we don’t repeat them.
I have been writing a weekly column since the 1960’s when I was an industrial editor at the Board of Public Utilities and in charge of the employee newspaper, “The Kilowatt.” When we bought the Mulvane News, my mentor and former boss Ed Schowalter urged me to write a column. He was right; “Notes” became a part of all the newspapers I have published.
When it comes to the column, I am proud of two facts. The column won first place in the Kansas Newspaper Association completion twice and placed numerous times. I am also pleased that I never missed a week. The week that I was hospitalized with a stroke, I used a column that I had written ahead. After that, I dictated the column to Jean or daughter Jill.
Now times have changed, and The Chieftain was a victim to many factors, including technology. I guess the end was inevitable. I’ll miss the paper; its loss is a blow to communication and future of our communities.
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