Several more white hairs appeared last week when I learned a teacher in Cuyahoga County — a friend of my wife — was using my old news articles in her middle school lessons.
Luckily, it turned out to be an English class, not history.
The Amherst News-Times issue in question dates back to August 2004 with stories on a Nordson Corporation evacuation due to a gas leak false alarm; the rescue of a one-year-old locked in a car; the reopening of Cooper Foster Park Road after eight months of construction; and local connections to the presidential election.
When that issue was published, I’d already been working for the Lorain County Community Newspapers two years. Seeing it again brought back old memories of using a darkroom (google it, kids), working sans-Internet, and pasting up pages on waxboard.
It also piqued my curiosity.
I went searching for the earliest possible issue after my hire in August 2002, at least the first one I could find saved in digital format without having to resort to microfilm. I didn’t find the very first local paper with my byline, but close.
I’ve included an image of that edition here, with articles on cafeteria fare, sewage plant repairs, new auxiliary police members, and council budget reviews.
The look of the newspaper has changed a lot in the past 14 years, and that is good.
Old papers were black and white only. Lines were crooked. Reproduction was horrific. Print type was small and crowded.
The worst part: The paper was thin… there just wasn’t a lot there.
Deciding to try to quantify the changes, I tallied 26 unique news items in that issue, meaning local coverage including articles, briefs, event listings, obituaries, police reports, columns, letters, and other submissions.
By comparison, I scanned last week’s editions using the same criteria:
• Amherst News-Times: 42
• Oberlin News-Tribune: 47
• Wellington Enterprise: 42
These numbers aren’t meant to earn any pats on my back, just to show that we’ve put more and more emphasis on giving more news.
The other major change is in the beefiness of the stories. I think we’ve tried to dig under the surface in recent years. Many of today’s stories start with “what if” questions: Would an Oberlin parking garage really be feasible, and how much would it cost? What are the arguments for and against state charter school funding? Can our students’ PARCC results be useful in any way?
We enjoy writing stories because we’re just as eager for answers as our readers.
Changes over the years, I feel, have been mostly good. I’m sure there are readers out there who disagree, and I’m sorry. We’re always trying to adapt and grow, and sometimes that can be difficult.
Now I anticipate making another small but significant change to our Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington newspapers starting next week. It’s an update that’s long overdue.
It will signal a commitment by our staff to bring you a type of coverage you like and need, but that all too often doesn’t get the attention in our pages it deserves.
What is it? Tune in next week.