Drop-ins and run-downs

The 30th anniversary issue of the Seward Profile

Editors of community newspapers don’t have to wait for emails to arrive in their inbox to learn what readers think. Sometimes, they run you down with a bicycle to bend your ear. That’s what happened to me after writing an unflattering story about the Seward Neighborhood Group. While walking down Franklin Avenue on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning, a board member spotted me, screeched to a halt (OK, he didn’t actually “run me down”) and pointedly told me everything that was allegedly wrong with my story.

Other readers would stop by the office to personally deliver letters to the editor. A lecture often accompanied the letter. At first, this unsettled me. When producing stories for NPR, no one ever bothers to track me down. But here, in my neighborhood, in their neighborhood, it was personal. And that’s the best thing about community newspapers. They report news that people care deeply about.

— Todd Melby, Seward resident and former editor of the Seward Profile and Merriam Park Post

Tucked into my fuzzy memories of those long-ago Profile days is a sense of beloved craziness — the kind you get when you realize that something that drives you nuts about a person or a place is part and parcel of why you love them or it: People would just drop by all the time!

Didn’t matter if I was on deadline, how many times I asked people to email or call, nope. Residents would just drop on by to share story ideas, fill me in on back-stories we’d missed, offer impromptu editorials or just see how things were going.

Obviously, this was incredibly frustrating; people never seemed to realize exactly how much work it takes to run a newspaper — even, or perhaps especially, a smaller one. But it also amazed and heartened me; folks felt so comfortable with the idea that this was their newspaper that they just waltzed on in and claimed that space (even if it was only office space sometimes, rather than space on the page).

It’s difficult to imagine a reader walking into the office of the surviving, jumbo-sized dailies, or even finding the office of an online paper. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times — maybe we’ll use fewer trees? — but I do hope people embrace the online Bridge as a part of the community … and twitter or email frequently.

— sue rich, former editor of the Seward Profile

last revised: June 9, 2009