This column by Mona Weatherly was originally published in the Sept. 16, 2021 issue of the Custer County Chief.
In a matter of days, the Callaway Courier will be no more. The final issue will print Sept. 30, 2021.
While visiting the other day with Courier co-owner Mike Wendorff, I recalled my own days - long, long ago - at the Callaway paper.
I was a member of the journalism class at Callaway as a junior and senior. That meant I was part of the team that put together the yearbook and produced the weekly school newspaper page, “The Bear Facts” in the Courier. We were responsible for writing articles, taking photos, developing film and printing photos (yes, it was that long ago!) and layout. Layout was done in the old wax and paste method, something that was long gone, thankfully, by the time I came to the Chief in 2015.
It was at the Courier that I received my first true press pass to cover a trail ride for Pioneer Picnic. It was also the first place I got to walk the unique hallway of a dark room, it’s U-shape designed to keep all white light out! I can still recall the feeling of walking slowly, cautiously, keeping a hand on the wall and feeling the curve as I edged through and then out into the red light of the darkroom. That first walk seemed so long and mysterious yet it soon became routine. Now that walk is no more. We process digital images at the computer.
Some of the lessons I learned in that journalism class have been the most lasting – the basics of writing, the meeting of deadlines. And the Four Ws necessary for any news story – Who, What, Where and When. Depending upon the type of article, you might need the Fifth W - Why.
I was taught that the Why wasn’t up to me, not in a basic news article. The Why had to come from the Who to be authentic. We on the journalism team could have opinions but they belonged only in columns marked “opinion.”
This is on my mind because of what Mike and I talked about. Yes, we are sad that the Courier is moving into the history books. Yes, we are often frustrated by the challenges of small town journalism. However, more than that, we mourn the loss of truth.
The rise of social media has made everybody an expert, regardless of their extent or lack of knowledge about the subject they are posting on. The saddest part is the willingness of so many to accept some of the most outlandish of claims without any thought to its truthfulness.
Well, gosh, if it’s posted on the Internet it must be true, right?
Not unless that person has studied, took notes, did research, asked questions and verified information.
That’s what we do in some shape or form every time we put together an issue of the Chief. We chase down names, we ask questions, we look for quotes, we don’t assume anything. That’s what countless small town newspapers and radio stations across the country do every single day. There are places where truth still means something, where accuracy matters and accountability counts.
The Courier may be passing into history but the lessons learned there are not.
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I want to echo Donnis’s thanks to those who are helping us fill the sports pages as we look for a sports reporter. Your time, attention to detail and commitment is very much appreciated.
Also thank you to Christi Cooley, our office manager here. Lately she has been called upon to help out with many sports phrases and facts and it’s much appreciated.
I used to joke that on my business card, after what ever title I had, I needed the initials D.A.A. - Duties As Assigned. That’s me - Mona Weatherly, D.A.A.
Thank you to all the workers, business owners and managers who are working hard and are more than earning the honorific notation D.A.A. to their job title, business cards and resumes. You are stepping up. It is noticed and it is appreciated.
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