April 2008 Issue
Forty years ago, I wrote a column forThe Scoop. Oh come on, you’ve never heard ofThe Scoop? Back in the day, the weekly newspaper was the hottest thing going in the Collinwood area of Cleveland.
Nearly 50 years ago, I was delivering the paper in our neighborhood near Euclid Beach Park. It was a big job. The route — which I inherited from an older brother and sister — covered every home and business on several streets.
It was a kick a few years later to have my ownScoop byline. I was tapped to write a column about my high school’s news of community interest.
Under the guidance of an editor, John Sheridan, with whom I would one day be a colleague atIndustryWeek magazine, I learned the fundamental nature of news. It’s not complicated: It is whatever people care about and has value for them to know.
That last part is especially important. At a time when “news” has deteriorated into a glorification of celebrity trivia and other superficial nonsense, it is good to recall that journalism once was considered a “public service” profession. Irving Leibowitz, legendary late editor of The Journal (nowThe Morning Journal) in Lorain, used to put each story to a simple test: “Is it worthy of us?” he would ask his staff.
Today, the answer at too many newspapers has to be an emphatic “no.”
Yet there are those newspapers — often small and perhaps not well known beyond their own communities — that have kept the faith. And one of those most certainly isThe Budget. Based in Sugarcreek,The Budget has served Holmes County and surrounding Amish Country since 1890.
Mike Harden, a veteran journalist who himself has kept the faith as the much-honored columnist atThe Columbus Dispatch, provides us with an endearing portrait ofThe Budget this month. (See “Fit to Print,” page 72.)
My friend Keith Rathbun, publisher ofThe Budget since 2000, says his work at the newspaper is a joy. “I’m having a great time being a community journalist in a community that really embraces its newspaper,” he says.
To those of us who knew Keith in his “previous life” as publisher of Cleveland’sScene weekly, he may seem an unlikely choice to head a newspaper about the Amish. For most of the time when he was atScene, the paper focused on popular music in Northeast Ohio and had something of what you would call an “edge.”
But Keith says his work is not so different now. “Community is community,” he says, and the successful newspaper is one that understands, appreciates and most of all cares about the community it covers. That pretty much definesThe Budget.
“This is being a community journalist in the purest sense,” he adds. “I couldn’t feel more satisfied or blessed with what I’m doing.”
And that is work that is worthy of anyone.