Every now and then, fate dishes up a surprise. The journalist scheduled to write about Oregon pioneer Louis Southworth and Oregon bronze sculptor Peter Helzer, had an unexpected family emergency and I was asked to step in and write the piece. It was a pleasure to meet Helzer, whose work graces many public spaces in Oregon. And it was an honor to be able to share Southworth’s story, all wrapped into one article.
A salute to those who make writers’ words come alive on paper. I’ve had the great privilege of working with award-winning page designers at various newspapers over the years, and they can make or break a reader’s first impression. My most recent project, a tribute to local women, has two completely different looks. The photo at left shows the printed page. The one below shows the electronic edition. Two completely different fonts and layouts. This is talented Todd Cooper’s work. I am delighted with both efforts. I bring this up because I know many writers these days self publish and I would advise not skimping on layout. Good page designers are worth the investment.
While all of the women I wrote about are inspiring, I’m deeply intrigued by Alice Hall Chapman. She was a physician and wife of the second president of the University of Oregon. I was unable to unearth much about her, but I will continue plugging away. I lost her trail in the 1930s. She would have been in her 60s by then. She was living in a Pasadena, CA, boarding house at that point, according to census records. I feel confident it’s her because how many Alice Hall Chapmans were physicians back then? (And how cool is it that census records noted professions.) Can’t find her in the census records after that, but I’ll be scoping out some of the online family history sites that our public library permits free access to.
I would love any advice from family history sleuths. I’d like to know when and where she died and was buried. I’d like to know if any universities besides the UO preserved her papers. I’d like to find articles published about her in local papers. Etc.
Think about this: Back in 2004, there were about 34 reporters working at The Register-Guard. Today there are nine. There is no question that Eugene’s hometown newspaper is not the publication it once was. People here shake their heads and talk about the last straw that made them cancel their subscriptions.
But that’s shortsighted.
Canceling a subscription to the local newspaper is kind of like refusing to repair the roof because it’s already leaking.
It’s like refusing to fix the bridge because it’s already got cracks in it.
It’s like refusing to help kids with homework because they are crappy students.
We need our local newspaper. Somebody has to go to the city council meeting, sit through it, cull the most important info and tell you what you missed. Somebody has to show up at the local schools, see what’s happening in classrooms and inspire you with the learning that’s going on. Somebody needs to read those 350-page environmental impact statements, and tell you what the government has planned for the public lands around you.
The nation’s flagship newspapers — New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal — they aren’t going to do it. Your local TV and public radio also lack the bandwidth to sufficiently deploy reporters.
Consider your local newspaper to be part of the community infrastructure. It might not be the paper it once was. But it can’t get better if the community doesn’t buy in.
Today there are news deserts, places that no longer have even a few reporters doing the grunt work of keeping communities informed. Let’s not be that place.