See the USA as a small-town journalist.

Sometimes I like to head for places I never been or never even heard of and see what’s making the news there. It’s not that I like to make fun of small-town news. As I have mentioned here before I was a small-town newsman. Some people might call all the papers at which I once worked small-town newspapers. Most were, although three were dailies and the last one I worked for on a full-time basis was a medium-sized newspaper. My first job, though was editor of a daily that had a circulation of about 1,200. I was chief cook and bottlewasher, as my Dad used to say.

Reporters and editors, sales people, printers, circulation managers, delivery folks, all those good salt o’ the Earth people who ply their trade for newspapers in small towns see news up close and personal. The people who are victims of car wrecks are their neighbors, people in their churches, the water rates raised by the town council affect the reporter and the editor, and of course, football ties the town together until a losing coach tears the town apart. So off we go to the hinterland and see what is happening among the salt o’ the Earth:

It’s probably not a mountain lion in Nebraska. Chris Dunker, staff writer of the “Beatrice Daily Sun” in Nebraska, gives a pretty extensive look at whether a big animal people have seen around those parts is a mountain lion, coyote or just your run-of-the-mill unidentified big-ass animal. (UBAA, I guess.)

It ain’t heavy, it’s our neighborhood moose calf. Another animal story. This you have to expect in Alaska, unless Sarah Palin is around. Then you have to expect a dead animal story. Some neighbors in Mud Bay got together to rescue a moose calf from a pond, according to the “Chilkat Valley News.” Their motto is: “Serving Haines and Klukwan since 1966.” And now the can add the lower Sabine-Neches Valley of Southeast Texas. Or not.

This might sound obscene but it’s not. You expect the quaint from Vermont. But somehow this headline from an article written by Stephanie M. Peters in the “Rutland Herald” (Oh stop it! We haven’t even made it to the headline yet,) which is: “County philatelists pull out of state fair.” Rutland was the only place I visited in Vermont. Nice place, but I wonder if the stamp enthusiasts will go to a place more hospitable to their philateling. Maybe Albany or Stockbridge.

Oh no! It’s a … it’s a … empty box. The Hoover (Alabama) police bomb squad was called to investigate a suspicious container that two men in an SUV dropped off in a Food World grocery store parking lot in Pelham, Ala. Food World employees thought the men’s activities were suspicious, as did the Pelham police chief, thus the bomb experts from the nearby bigger city (Hoover, about 70,000 people) were summoned. It turned out to be an empty storage box. There was no indication, according to the “Shelby County Reporter” in Columbiana, whether any littering charges are pending.

Finally, the police beat or blotter or whatever has long been a high-interest section of many newspapers. The little briefs vary from place-to-place. I wrote the briefs at several newspapers and I can attest to the fact they are well read. Some places, where they are still able to pull it off, have a rather humorous take on the police beat or at least a funny headline or two. People seem to get ticked off about the least little thing and since humor seems lost among the righteous bastards more and more funny will likely disappear. But as long as we can still enjoy it, have fun with the Cops brief headlines from one of my favorite newspapers (or at least with a few of my favorite newspaper folks) “The Daily Sentinel” in Nacogdoches, Texas. I will let you read the briefs your ownself.

“How is this my fault? I didn’t put the road here?”

“How I am I going to get extra mints on my pillow now?”

“Fine you can play through.”

Ah such fun. But I don’t miss counting headlines, hot wax, car wrecks at 2 p.m.  on the road next to the big oak by the Johnson’s in Podunk, writing 15 stories a week, election night pizza, school board executive sessions until 2 a.m., “Grip and Grin,” and finally, “Oh, I think I know a little about journalism. I took a journalism class in 1) high school 2) college 3) high school and college.”

But I tell you young whippah snappahs out there who aspire to greatness in journalism, think big by thinking little. If you want to learn about journalism, learn about people. If you want to learn about people, go get yourself down to Podunk, get a job as a reporter or editor of the weekly, and learn journalism. And don’t worry, you won’t starve, the Lion’s Club always got good food as does most Rotary Clubs. Conflict of Interest? Ethics violations? If you can be bought off with a chicken-fried steak, you certainly don’t need to be a journalist.