The local paper is a reflection of a community’s ongoing conversation.
That conversation – chaotically, raucously, gloriously – often feels like a large family at the Thanksgiving table, all trying to talk at once.
They need to fix our park. When’s the game? What’s the city up to this time? When is graduation? They need to fix our street. Who threw the winning touchdown? Things are just not the way they used to be. Somebody ought to tell the government to get it together. That guy’s a bum. They’re all bums. Hey, that bum got your park fixed. Who do we play next? Do you think we have a shot at state?
Staying on top of all that – gathering and reporting the news, providing a platform for opinions – is civic engagement on the newspaper’s part. Civil engagement also is the reader taking time to sit down with the paper or a smartphone app to know the community a little better. The Examiner has been doing that more than 120 years. The paper was founded in 1898, right at the time of the Spanish-American War.
The local conversation is our bread and butter, but national and world events are in our pages as well. In war and peace, struggle or prosperity, we have told those stories. When America stood triumphant in 1945 but was a little unsure about this new president, Harry Truman, we told that story too.
As with Truman, often the national or world story is also a local story. This pandemic is one of those stories – a worldwide crisis with effects on one person, one family, one community at a time.
This is not the first pandemic the community has experienced or that we’ve covered.
Examiner accounts of the Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919 remind us that Eastern Jackson County schools were closed for weeks at a time, and more than once. Quarantine cards – and quarantines were enforced – were in the front windows of homes throughout Independence. The mayor banned public gatherings, told people to stay off the streets unless they had business to deal with, and promised arrests and fines for spitting on the street. In 1968, local hospitals limited visitors to curb the spread of a less-remembered pandemic, the Hong Kong flu.
Today, it’s another pandemic, the end of which is not yet in sight. So our community, like others around the world, adapts. And we tell that story.
Many of those stories – from our staff and from Gannett journalists across the country – are in this special edition today. It’s a snapshot of America in the late spring of 2020. That snapshot shows determination and a measure of hope in the face of uncertainty and the need, again and again, to turn on a dime.
It’s today’s story in this community.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at email@example.com.