Every morning, like a lot of people, I step out into the darkness of the predawn hours to fetch my newspaper – the Bristol Herald Courier. The last few days, I’ve had to brave arctic blasts, which frankly are as out of place in the south as a Big Ten football fan. But, the trip from the warmth of my home to the newspaper is brief and worth bundling up.
Oh, it isn’t because I get all my news from the paper; that’s impossible in the 21st century. There are news outlets everywhere and a local press really shouldn’t try to compete with that. For one thing, that’s not why newspapers are important. Newspapers are invaluable to a community because, in the end, they remind us that there is still some good and beauty in the world and they do it in ways that TV and internet news sites could never do.
For instance, the front page of the paper often runs headlines that show the dark underbelly of humanity. Tragedy, scandal, failure, murder, political intrigue and corruption often grab headlines. Truth is, for some reason, people can’t take their eyes off those sorts of things – much like the way people slow down to look at a car crash. We do need those sorts of stories; there are lessons to be learned from them. They have value but they are not the most important or the most useful parts of the paper.
You see all the garbage that goes on around us, all the stories that we read about judges abusing their power, lawsuits being filed in Washington, counties taking money from city schools, stories about murder, addictions, they can taint our view of our region and make us overly cynical.
If that was all that the paper reported on, or if that was all we read, we’d be a miserable lot. But those things don’t define us; they do not tell our story. TV and internet news sites tend to focus the lens on those things because they are sensational. But the local paper, well, it shines a light on the fuller story of our region and the truth is – in many respects, it is pretty amazing, if not beautiful.
Scan the paper sometime and see what I see. Don’t skip past obituaries. It is not ghoulish to read over the lives of those who have passed away, even those people you did not know. Read what their families wanted you to know about their loved ones. They took time to write their stories so that you’d know how much the person meant to them. Their stories mattered. You’ll discover marriages that have lasted decades and people who loved this community and served our country. You’ll discover some good things about the people of this region.
Turn to the next section and you’ll no doubt discover other stories about our region that will help you to see beyond the muck. Often those stories are found in the sports section. But I’d like to suggest that you poke around the section on regional arts and artists; you may not realize just how much we need the arts here, and how much they tell our stories.
Art, in whatever medium, reminds us that there is good here, and beauty, even as we deal with the awfulness that can sometimes breach our guarded lives. The arts can speak into the deeper places of our existence. They do that by reminding us that there are still people who devote themselves to bringing beauty to the world simply as an extension of themselves, not for fame or fortune.
This article was first published on January 7, 2018 by Bristol Herald Courier.