News At My (And On My) Fingertips

by Kevin Burton

   On the next-to-last night of our Upper Midwest vacation we found ourselves watching the clothes go round.

   We were in Norfolk, Nebraska, boyhood hometown of Johnny Carson, when we gathered our quarters and the Tide Pods Jeannette had bought for the occasion, and took advantage of the Hampton Inn’s coin laundry. 

   Jeannette started the first load. I came downstairs soon after, to protect her and to share in the boredom.  I brought along a newspaper.

   As the washer whirred and the dryer droned, wedevoured the Norfolk Daily News.

   “It seems so strange to be reading a newspaper,” Jeannette said. She wasn’t wrong.

   Oh mighty beloved newspaper. How far your fortunes have fallen.  What used to be the fabric of life is almost a museum worthy relic from the past.

   I grew up at a time when Americans looked to newspapers, and Walter Cronkite, for their news.  The big boys, and big girls, in the big cities broke the big stories. The small daily and weekly newspapers kept rural Americans informed, letting them know how their tax dollars were spent and what was going on with 4-H.

   My love of newspapers started in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where my father always had the Dayton Daily News delivered.  I read the sports pages first and most thoroughly, but I did get to the other sections.  And what I read was the truth.

   I loved all the media for bringing the sports world, the Watergate world and all the rest, to my doorstep.

   Midway through my senior year in high school it dawned on me that I would have to make a living someday.  After turning these thoughts over in my mind, I settled on the media. 

   My friends and I started an underground newspaper at the Ohio State School for the Blind. We called it The Western Sky and we called ourselves skywriters. 

   See, I just italicized it to grant it its full dignity.  Though it was an underground paper, Mrs. Kessler allowed us to display it in what had recently been renamed from the library to the media center.

   Also, I recall Mrs. Bishel allowing me a few minutes out of Business class to go and do research for a Sky story.

   I picked my college based on the fact that it had a newspaper and a television station and I hadn’t decided between print and broadcast media. I participated in both in college, but I was born a newsman, a print newsman. It’s surprising it took so long to distinguish.

   Whoever came up with the term “ink-stained wretches” created a club I could join for sure.

   In those early days I wanted to tell the truth and help people. I wanted people to know their rights. I considered myself an unblinking champion of the truth.

   I never quite lost that, although once I (finally) broke into the business and saw how the sausage was made so to speak, I settled into a more realistic groove.

   I left the newspaper business in the 90s and the newspaper habit sometime after that. But the feel of news print in, and eventually on, my hands takes me back to where I live.

  That’s why reading out-of-town newspapers is one of my favorite road-trip pleasures. I got to do some of that during our vacation, spent mostly in Nebraska and South Dakota.

   We’d stop in a small town needing gas, or cheese popcorn and Gatorade, from Love’s or some other highway convenience store. I would look around for a newspaper. Soon enough we’d be miles away, out of that local paper’s coverage area. But I still cared about what was going on there and what went into “doing the news,” as I used to put it.

   I could briefly put myself in their place.

   What did I learn? 

   The Fairbury (Neb.) Journal-News reports that the Thayer Central Titans football team fell behind 14-6 but then scored the next forty points unanswered for a 46-14 sin.  The reporter who did not get a byline reported the early deficit as being down 6-14, which is odd. The Titans moved to 6-0. The game marked the sixth straight time Jordan Mariska had rushed for 100 yards or more.

   The unnamed reporter gave due credit to his offensive line. Meanwhile Fairbury High School had pork tetrazzini with breadstick or hamburger and green beans for school lunch Oct. 13. 

   “Sacred Items in Mass. Museum to be Returned to Sioux” was a headline in the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader on Oct. 12.  It was an AP wire story with local importance.

  The Norfolk Daily News was my original source for the cow tax story I did on Page 7 (“New Zealand Tries To Tax Burping Cows” Sept. 16).

   To visit that world for a time was a treat.  It also made our laundry time go faster.

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