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I'm betting my future on students' futures

Publisher editorial —

The road to buying the La Conner Weekly News went through Vermont, with my summer 2016 contest entries to win the Hardwick Gazette. I shaped my third entry as a future editorial, my last before retiring. I imagined selling the paper to a co-op comprised of its staff and readers, they having organized to purchase it.

This is a fable near impossibly hard to make true in real life.

This was published in the July 12, 2017 La Conner Weekly News, my second issue as ­publisher.

It’s my paper now, but I am only borrowing it. Franklin said “A Republic, if you can keep it” as the Constitutional Convention closed. A Republic is not enough. Vermonters experience direct democracy in their town meetings. Anyone reading a weekly paper knows daily actions build community. We have obligations, as well as rights, as citizens. Reading the Gazette begins qualifying. We must build, define, and refine democracy, at least weekly.

I shape – borrow – the Gazette for maybe 10 years. Then? It must be “pass-it-on-able”: relevant for the next generation of readers. Will it be a paper newspaper with 2,200 subscribers? Or 4,400? Or 44? Will they be reading on paper, or via their Google glasses or having it beamed into their brain?

Around 2027 I will retire. Like Ross, I will run an award-­winning paper while positioning it for the next generation. So I expand – or initiate – schools’ participation: students writing, taking pictures and selling ads, my exhorting teachers and administrators to let loose cub reporters. Student reporters expand the Gazette’s reach – and are future readers.

My chips are on our kids. My commitment: supporting their growth into adulthood. Parents, do you bring them to the annual town meeting? They can cover it for the Gazette. It’s a reporter’s beat – and citizenship training.

Students covering communities creates critical citizens. Cub reporters attending town meetings are more likely to return as adults.

Newspapers work magic: A catalyst, they convert willing strangers into citizens. They transform teens into adults. They are essential for a healthy, thriving democracy. Publishing the Gazette channels my passion for democracy and – like magic – hard toil by willing hands creates community.

And, there is a business to run. My success requires Ross’s, the staff’s and community leaders’ support. The staff – fulltime and stringers – are essential. Staff are the key to the paper’s thriving – its future. I will need community mentors, too.

My competencies: journalism minor, Antioch College; reporter, editor (feature, layout) Antioch Record; co-op: Harrisburg Independent Press; freelancer (occasional) 30+ years; book reviewer, St. Paul Pioneer Press; theatre reviewer, Cincinnati, 2015–2017; owner, We’re All Nuts, farm market business and engaged citizen: for peace, justice, politics, church.

You don’t need a great writer; you need a committed citizen insisting on the future of the Gazette. This is my last stand, my legacy. It will be my cause and finish my career.

 

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