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My View: Newspapers add value to a community

By Suzanne Kashuba

It’s become a Sunday afternoon routine – reading the newspaper after dinner at mom’s. We do this the old-fashioned way – perusing those printed pages spread out on the kitchen table in her tidy, upstairs flat in Tonawanda.

While catching up on the past week and making family plans, we drink weak coffee and listen to oldies tunes on the radio. But mostly, we share and discuss whatever we find interesting in those printed pages.

“There’s a lot in here today,” mom will often say.  And I agree.

I am surprised at all we learn in a couple of hours. We bemoan the latest political scandal and laugh at the impractical new fashions. We discover how much that house down the street sold for or that an old acquaintance passed away. We barter over coupons and I attempt a crossword puzzle.

Newspapers were always around our house when I was growing up in Riverside. I remember giggling through the Sunday comics while my dad checked the horse race results. I was too young to see news as relevant to my own life or my corner of the world. It seemed to come from far away-sounding places like Vietnam, Washington, D.C., or Batavia.

Then, at my big sister’s high school, forced integration prompted turmoil and threatened violence. Suddenly, extensive news reports were about something happening in my own neighborhood. And I was glued to the page. This was personal. This was living history – or at least the version expressed by stakeholders quoted in the news.

Soon, following the news – especially of the Buffalo community – became second nature to me. I also loved reading the columns and admired how mere words could move a reader.

In the early 1980s, my then-brother-in-law was featured in a local-boy-makes-good news story. He won a national award for blind scholars presented at the White House by first lady Nancy Reagan.

Broadcast news covered the story, in fleeting mentions. But I kept The Buffalo Evening News and Courier-Express articles. I still have them, tucked in a worn, fading photo album.

Given such staying power, it’s sad that newspapers today seem almost quaint, bordering on extinct. More and more communities are losing their daily newspapers and many that survive lack robust, high-quality local coverage.

In 2014, Editor & Publisher’s DataBook listed 126 fewer daily papers compared to 10 years earlier.

Recently, I attended a “Meet the Storytellers” seminar at The Buffalo News. I was reminded how significant – and increasingly rare – a strong daily newspaper is to a community.

The small group of influential storytellers we met are accomplished, nationally recognized journalists. Notably, the vast majority are native Western New Yorkers.

I walked away knowing that their understanding of – and commitment to – our community is key to the work they produce every day.

I heard a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist describe the courage it takes to speak out.

I saw the passion of a gifted columnist who expressed his gratitude for a job that allows him to share the stories of his hometown.

I heard a sports reporter who had just nabbed a coveted interview emphasize the importance of building credibility with a source.

I learned how talented photojournalists use visual storytelling to bring events and places to life – from the funeral of a beloved police officer to a drone’s-eye view of the Buffalo skyline.

A half-century from now, will my niece and her now 1-year-old son share a newspaper at her kitchen table? I sure hope so. As one seminar participant said, “A city without a newspaper would be awful.”

Suzanne Kashuba of Amherst enjoys reading a daily newspaper.

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