By Frank Wessling
Unsettling news is too common as we begin a new year. The collapse of confidence in financial institutions is affecting the entire world of business, and that in turn spreads fear that any of us can lose our jobs or see our little business go under.
Our sense of community is also affected. Few of us want to believe that this is a dog-eat-dog world in which the Golden Rule is forgotten in an every-man-for-himself scramble to survive. But at some level in our collective experience with this economic swoon, the virtue of hope is at risk. It is important for our spiritual health not to withdraw into our own anxiety but to maintain personal, human connections — neighborhood, family, church, friends, clubs. These networks, these names, faces and stories help keep us upright in stormy times.
This is why we’re saddened by a bit of news from Poweshiek and Iowa counties. The weekly newspaper in North English closed at the end of 2008, and the papers in Brooklyn and Montezuma merged. There is no longer a person or a physical place in North English and Brooklyn representing the news gathering and sharing function — or the proud historic names of the North English Record and Brooklyn Chronicle. A newspaper office in Montezuma will close at the end of January, erasing any presence there, also.
The Des Moines Register, which owns these publications, said the new business model will continue to cover each of those communities. No doubt it will. But two things are lost. First is the closer, more personal awareness of life and its moods in these communities. Second is the symbol of “our” paper with “our” name on it. While people at the Williamsburg Journal Tribune may continue to cover North English, it won’t be the same. The new Poweshiek County Chronicle Republican may still cover Brooklyn and Montezuma, but that coverage will be thinner, more spotty and impersonal.
Newspapers are in trouble almost everywhere. There is replacement media today, and alternatives for news. But there is still nothing as good as the traditional newspaper for gathering and sharing news in a comprehensive, responsible way. Continue to buy and read newspapers. They are symbols of our life together in community.