Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
When Jim Phillips of Lexington, Ky., started poring through microfilm copies of old newspapers to research his family history, he thought it would be "a legacy to be left for my family and others, documenting the world of my parents’ youth and their home Pulaski County, Indiana," as he writes in a research paper for an independent-study course I supervised at the University of Kentucky.
He also discovered a fundamental element of community newspapers that may also make them survive, in whatever form: the granular coverage of individual lives that weave together to form a community. That led him to expand his work to the independent-study course in journalism.
"When this project started, I was merely looking for items mentioning my family, but it soon expanded to other items that interested me," Phillips writes. "This occurred – as my journalism professor, Al Cross, aptly pointed out – because of the wide variety of information displayed on each newspaper page."
|Wikipedia maps, adapted|
|Click on image for larger version|
I like to say that every American has the First Amendment right to commit journalism. At a time when every American has the ability to publish, without understanding the responsibilities of journalism, it would serve us well to have a cadre of correspondents in every county, citizen journalists, serving as connectors to the local newspaper and helping their neighbors identify with it.