Editor’s Note: Writing about home while afar brings a ring of truth to the narrative. Truth be told, I am writing this while seated at an outdoor café in Old Town, Vilnius, Lithuania, with the poignant strains of the Beatle’s “Yesterday” play hauntingly on accordion by a street busker.
In this, the 14th year of the Johnny Appleseed Community Journalism Roadshow, we are repainting the Golden Gate Bridge.
Let me explain. I’ve been told that at San Francisco’s most famous bridge, there’s a painting crew with a permanent work order.
But it’s such a tall order (pun intended) that by the time the crew gets done going one direction, they must turn around and start painting back toward the opposite shore.
So even though I may have done a workshop previously at a specific newspaper, after 10 or more years, many in the staff may have turned over. Or certainly there are new green cub reporters who have never participated in a free, on-site workshop from Mr. Joke at the J-School.
Which brings me to Greenville and the Daily Reflector. Or I should say, brings me back. Recapping the Roadshow visit two weeks ago: This time around I get to meet reporters, editors and photographers serving the Cooke Communications-owned weekly newspapers in Ayden, Grifton, Fountain, Snow Hill, Winterville, Kenansville — places that perhaps you’ve never heard of. Places one might call the “middle of nowhere.”
But, as any good community journalist knows, “The middle of nowhere is the center of someone else’s universe.” (Please forgive, dear reader, I am quoting myself.)
I come here not so much to teach as to reinforce and to authenticate what these good people are doing, day in and day out.
My take is that these community newspapers are the heartbeat of American journalism.
For though the story about the annual Collard Festival may not stir your juices, to the folks in Ayden, it’s a really big deal, affecting thousands of lives and fortunes, and thus noble and worth a lot of ink, in its own right.
And in return, I am taught. The lessons come in narrative form, of course, for these people are born storytellers.
Like the Hurricane Floyd story one reporter told: how a priceless Steinway piano was saved from the rising flood waters when parishioners rallied around and winched the musical treasure up through a hole cut in the ceiling to dry safety above.
Or the newly transplanted New York City reporter who admitted wearing “four-inch heels into the blueberry patch” on her first interview with a local farmer.
And thanks to Editor Al Clark for hosting the Roadshow in Greenville. What a pleasure it was also to re-connect with recent JOMC grads Sarah Cowell and Abby Bennett, both working at the Daily Reflector.
On to Ocracoke, Sanford, Lake Lure, Spring Hope, Mebane, Fayetteville and Cherokee.
The Roadshow carries on.