Stop, look and listen
I’ll never forget the time a fellow reporter confided she could never work in a small town because there just wasn’t enough to write about. Absolutely wrong.
Small towns do have their limitations when it comes to drama. In a one-traffic-light town where everyone knows everyone, or at least someone’s relative, you don’t get the front-page crime I used to see in the Miami Herald – murder, high-speed police chases, drug cartels and major governmental investigations. In the years I spent as managing editor of the Crossroads Chronicle in the mountains of North Carolina, we had big, big news just a handful of times: once when Eric Rudolph was found nearby; once when a child died after being locked in a car all day; once when the high school sex scandal headed to court. Our headlines were more along the lines of “Town Gets Second Traffic Light” or “Wreck Claims Local Man.”
But there were stories everywhere – and I mean everywhere. Hard news and fluffy features aside, there was plenty to choose from when I needed to sink my teeth into something. With building on mountain ridgetops all around me, I couldn’t help but think about erosion and other environmental concerns. So I asked questions, and articles were born. When the local daycare started to struggle, a place countless working parents relied upon, I started asking questions – and so did the county, and people decided to do something. And we all helped save that daycare.
Small towns aren’t so different from big cities when it comes right down to it. There’s drama. There’s human struggle. There’s death and life and celebration and misery. There are tales of woe and mischief among elected officials, and amazing moments of humanity when people surprise you, step up and do the right thing – even when it hurts their pocketbooks.
Look around you. What stories do you see today? What slices of life, big or small, can help tell the tale of life in your neighborhood or network?