The Bucket Brigade at mid-point:
Young journalists find that Small is Beautiful in Spring Hope
By Jock Lauterer
Galloping across the back of my favorite old T-shirt, a cigar-chomping cartoon black crow charges an unseen foe, armed only with a giant pencil that Sir Crow carries like a Knight of the Round Table wielding a jousting lance.
The cartoon crow, drawn so artfully by the late Jeff MacNelly, is a caricature of my mentor, the legendary Chapel Hill News editor and UNC J-School professor, James T. âShuâ? Shumaker, who, by his example, taught me and legions of other young reporters that concerned community journalists had a moral imperative to stand up on their hind legs and fight for what they thought was right and worth saving.
So Iâm sure Shu would approve of the âBucket Brigade,â? our rapid-response emergency community journalism team to the Spring Hope Enterprise this fall while long-time pal and veteran editor-publisher Ken Ripley UNC-JOMC â72) is undergoing double hip replacement.
For the last six weeks, the dozen students from the JOMC 459 Community Journalism class at the J-School have been cranking out stories and photos from southern Nash County to help fill the pages of the Spring Hope Enterprise.
The welfare of one of the stateâs 192 small newspapers matters because all-local newspapers like the Enterprise (circ. 2,500) are what I call the heartbeat of American journalism. And itâs important to realize that 97 percent of all American newspapers are classified as âsmall.â? So thereâs nothing small about helping out at a small paper.
Along the way my kids have discovered the truth of the old expression âSmall is beautifulâ? â and that a lot of good stories can be found in very small places. A sampling of their work:
Kendal Walters, a senior journalism major from Charlotte, did a story on the Ag Education program at Southern Nash High School. With 400-plus kids involved, itâs the largest one of its kind in the state.
Sam Giffin, a sophomore from the DC suburbs, reported on the rebuilding efforts of a local church gutted by fire two years ago. The preacher told Sam that before the final walls and floors went in, parishioners used Sharpies to write their favorite Bible verses on the beams and joists.
Senior Emily Burns, a senior from (in her words: âwell, nowhereâ?) interviewed elderly residents of Bailey for a piece on the town’s centennial, (and found her way home after getting lost at night on one of her runs to Spring Hope).
Cameron Weaver, a junior from Winston-Salem, wrote a story about two Mexican sisters who have started a beauty salon in Spring Hope that caters especially to the local Latina population.
Jon Sullivan, a junior from Sarasota, Fla., lucked out when he was assigned to cover the semi-annual Momeyer Ruritan Club chicken barbecue. I ordered take-out for everyone, and back at the Enterprise office, we got down and greasy.
Cody Braun, a Durham senior and our Spanish-speaking writer, used his talents when reporting on the ESL classes in Spring Hope.
Gregg Found, a senior from Iowa, wrote a commentary for the editorial page describing his first impressions of little (pop. 1,281) Spring Hope.
Laura Davenport, a junior from Fayetteville, found out that in spite of the Iraq war, the immensely popular ROTC program at the local high school has a large enrollment. Kids say they join for character-building, fellowship and camaraderie, and that few go on and actually enlist in the armed forces. Go figure.
Marianna King, a junior from Greenville, did a wonderful personality profile featuring the four women firefighters serving with the Spring Hope Volunteer Fire Department.
Kate Newnam, a senior from Lexington, Ky., did a story on a local migrant labor child daycare center where the local postmaster made a presentation about a new stamp which commemorates Latinosâ role in the civil rights battle for equal rights and school integration.
Elyse Archer, a senior from Raleigh, interviewed the new Pumpkin Queen (from the annual Pumpkin Festival) and
discovered that new queenâs MOM was the Pumpkin Queen 23 years ago â back in 1984. Talk about the acorn not falling far from the tree.
And one of my real heroes of the Bucket Brigade, Robert Matteson a Durham senior, isnât even a member of the class.
Rob, a co-editor of the Carrboro Commons last spring, has volunteered as a photographer on every roadtrip to Spring Hope this fall. Not for class credit, but simply because he wants to do journalism that makes a difference.
Talk about the moral imperative.
I bet Shu would be applauding.