Arts & CultureFeature

Here’s to another 50 years of the Community Reporter

Greetings. Most readers do not know me, so allow me to introduce myself. I am Casey Ek, the editor of the Community Reporter. I joined the paper last summer, and I live in downtown St. Paul. I got my start as a journalist in local newspapers, and I hope to end my career in the same segment of the industry. When I learned of the Community Reporter’s mission to be by neighbors for neighbors, I knew I wanted to contribute my efforts. That’s why I want to talk a bit about why it’s important to keep that mission going. 
We’ve all brought work home with us. Maybe a project has captured your attention so wholly that it’s difficult to get your mind off it when eating dinner with your family. Now imagine what might happen to your close relationships if you were to become so hyper-focused on that project that it defined most of the choices you make in your daily life. If we expand the metaphor, I feel this is exactly what is happening to the American public as financial pressures and conglomeration shutter local, independent news outlets, leaving citizens with only major—and often intentionally toxic—news sources to consume. We the American public are bringing work home with us, leaving what’s happening in our neighborhoods out of our thoughts.
The Belle Plaine Herald, which covered rural communities south of the metro for nearly 140 years, recently closed its doors for good. The Herald, where I got my start as a reporter, was the oldest family-owned newspaper in Minnesota. Like countless communities before it, the Belle Plaine area is now left without a local paper of record to document its history and hold its leaders accountable. What results is a collective turn to national and international affairs, the likes of which cannot be holistically delivered through one-minute sound bites. 
Where some might have become invested in a local charity or sports team would they have read about them in their local paper, they might now turn their support to a bad-faith politician who has captured the airwaves. Where one might have been inspired to eat at a new nearby restaurant because of a neighborhood feature story, they might nowadays instead be compelled to skirmish in the comments section of a story about the energy industry with a stranger from New Mexico. 
Is the public’s staying on the pulse of national and international news important? Yes. In fact, it’s the lifeblood of any healthy democracy. But staying on the pulse of local affairs is the lifeblood of any healthy community. And few could argue against the fact that our world is lacking community at this moment. That’s in large part because we are bringing work home with us.
The Community Reporter is celebrating 50 years of telling the stories of the West End and St. Paul. As Paul Bard and Margaret Kinney have been writing in their retrospective pieces on the matter, in that time our paper has been with you through the highs and lows of successive generations, and we hope to continue to do so for another 50 years.
So, what will the story of the Community Reporter be? That’s for you to decide, quite literally. On page 3 of this issue, you will find my email address and cell phone number. You can use either to tell me what’s going on in your neighborhood. Further, you also have the chance to financially sustain this paper using the information below this article. I, for one, would be grateful if you did so. Such donations are tax-deductible and will allow our paper to continue contributing to the history of St. Paul and beyond. Our staff continues to develop ways for our readers to get the most out of their contributions, so stay tuned. 
Local papers like ours do not have the power to save the world, but they can shrink it, and that might be all we need right now.
Lastly, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to our readers, advertisers and, yes, our dissenters who make what we do possible. 

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