“A newspaper is the center of a community, it’s one of the tent poles of the community, and that’s not going to be replaced by Web sites and blogs.”
That quote by novelist Michael Connelly sums up the way I have always felt about newspapers. I have always described them as the mechanism that creates the tapestry of the community it serves. Since August 2012, I have felt that way about The Herald Independent and Fairfield County.
Now, on the last day that The Herald will publish a paper, I can’t help but wonder if I had tried harder, worked longer, yelled more, yelled less, slept less, wrote more, pushed harder, stood up taller, bucked the nay-sayers a little more forcefully …
I can’t help but wonder if it would have been enough. I have to let myself believe there would have been a moment in time when it would have been enough. But, honestly, I don’t know. But I am going to let myself believe that it could have come. One day.
I admit I am sad today. Knowing a newspaper is publishing its last edition is akin to knowing your favorite TV show is going off the air. Forever. It leaves an emptiness in the pit of your stomach that you just can’t put words to, much less accept. For a long time.
I have a feeling that will be me.
Despite not being from Winnsboro or Fairfield County, I came to love this county, especially when I got to spend more time here. It reminded me of my days as a green reporter at my hometown newspaper. Days back then weren’t full of exciting and breaking stories but there was enough news to fill up a paper every day.
We didn’t have the internet or cell phones. There was no YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram or Twitter. Google had not even crossed the brainwaves of its creator and Facebook was something a science fiction writer might come up with.
People read books by holding them in their hands. Families watched the news after supper to find out what had happened since the noon news. Parents stayed up late to see what had transpired between dinner and bed time. At breakfast, the cycle started again.
Newspapers were delivered in the afternoon. None of this morning stuff back then. I remember the thrill I used to get when my mother would send me to the mailbox to retrieve the paper that had just been delivered.
I remember how it felt in my hands, the way the paper crinkled when I grabbed it. The way the ink would make my fingers turn black. The way my daddy looked while he read the paper after supper. The way my mother could put it back together and it look like she had never touched it.
The invention of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle did no favors for the newspaper industry. Fast-forward to the introduction of cell phones, Facebook and Twitter and suddenly the president can’t trip while walking to Air Force One and it not show up somewhere almost instantly.
But I digress. I’m not blaming all of those things for the demise of newspapers like The Herald. In fact, they did papers like this one a favor: taking photos of potatoes that look like George Washington is what we loved to do and it’s what we embraced.
So was covering Christmas parades, Halloween, school board meetings and basketball games and football on Friday nights. We worked long hours to make sure readers got as much local news as possible.
We listened to readers when they wanted to talk to us, we took their suggestions to heart (I know I did) and tried to make the paper as much your baby as we thought it ours.
But when the sins of the past cannot be forgotten or forgiven, well, it hurts and it makes it nearly impossible to ever make amends. We’ll just leave it at that.
I can’t let this column end without giving James Inabinet a huge shout out for all he has done for The Herald for the better part of a year.
He is an awesome person and he will forever be one of my shining examples of someone dedicated to the craft of newspapers. He certainly dedicated himself to doing everything he could to help me over the last year. Thank you, Ricky Bobby, for the talks, for the lunches and for just being you. You are one hell of a writer and I am glad I got to be part of your discovery of that ability.
Virginia Schafer also gets a huge thank you from me as well. Without her working with James to help cover the goings-on in the community, The Herald Independent would have suffered. So, thank you, Virginia. I wish you the best.
As for The Herald Independent, I sincerely hope that everyone reading this column truly enjoyed the paper. I know we didn’t make everyone happy all the time but I also know we didn’t make them mad all the time either.
So, in parting, let me say thank you – for letting me be a somewhat honorary member of your community, for extending your good graces to me and my staff members and for supporting The Herald Independent for as long as you did.
We will forever be grateful to you all for letting us be one of the tent poles of your community.
Patricia M. Edwards is the group publisher and regional editor for Civitas Media’s properties in South Carolina, which includes The Herald Independent.