March 20, 2023

Rural Issues: Why a local newspaper is important

Sorting through the box of scrapbooks and newspaper clippings in my attic, the story of the first two decades of my involvement in community, 4-H, FFA, school activities and more was well documented in our local newspaper.

Every basketball and football game, every church event, the county fair, Chamber of Commerce meetings, County Farm Bureau, business ribbon cuttings, school plays — I could go on — was well documented in that newspaper that arrived weekly in our mailbox at Rural Route 2 and later in my mailbox on the ground floor of my college dormitory.

I learned last week that the man behind the camera and the printing press who lived on Main Street and published the Winchester Times died at the age of 92. As his obituary stated, he was one of the last old-time newspaper publishers.

He was a mentor to many young men and women from my community over the years who went on to be journalists and photographers. I was never employed by the Winchester Times, but like so many others in the community, submitted reports of 4-H club meetings, Chapter FFA events and school activities.

We learned who died in the past week; we learned who got married, what they wore and who stood up with them in “the paper.” We knew what was being served in the school cafeteria, what time Sunday service would be held at each of our local churches and what was on sale that week at the local IGA.

If someone grew a remarkable vegetable in their garden, received a scholarship, or celebrated an anniversary, you can bet their picture would show up in the Times.

Elmer Fedder was the publisher, editor and photographer for my hometown newspaper. The changes he must have seen in his 60 years in the newspaper business!

There were no computers in those days. Newspapers were printed using linotype machines, hand typesetting, or with a letterpress.

I remember the smell of newsprint that wafted out into the street from the Times office. I remember Elmer’s presence, or the presence of someone he employed, in nearly every memory from my childhood and teen years.

From homecoming parades to high school proms, band concerts to Santa’s arrival on the square, the newspaper covered them all.

I have recently begun to research my family history. I have discovered facts about ancestors from various resources, but the stories of those ancestors are best preserved in local newspapers.

Births, weddings, funerals and community involvement are documented through photographs and the written word.

In a time of consolidations, I have heard many people say if they lose their school, they lose their sense of community. I believe the same could be said about the local newspaper, or radio station if you were lucky enough to have one.

Rest in peace, Elmer Fedder. You made a positive difference in the community of my childhood, and I hold tight to the memories so well documented in the newspaper clippings in that box in my attic.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.