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We Need Newspapers

We Need Newspapers

Why any group would want to have me as a speaker is a mystery. As I’ve mentioned before, I have paralyzing stage fright and I’m not good with a microphone. Yesterday I found myself in front of yet another Rotary club. This one in Chesapeake.

My topic? The only one I know much about.


I pointed out, as always, how critical newspapers are even as they shrink.

Take the shenanigans we see in local politics, I like to say. Now, try to imagine what these scoundrels would be up to without a local paper keeping an eye on them.

Of course there are a multitude of reasons to support your local newspaper. When I got home Wednesday afternoon and caught up on the news I smacked into one: News features. Those stories that - when done right - can breathe life into sterile just-the-facts news.

Like this piece in yesterday’s New York Times: “They Aren’t Coming Home: Mourning 4 Daughters Lost in Limo Crash.”

Most of us heard about the ghastly limousine crash earlier this month that killed 20 people in upstate New York. We quickly learned that the vehicle had failed multiple inspections and was unsafe. Some of us followed the story until the owner of the limo company was arrested and charged with negligent homicide.

And then we moved on.

But, 11 days after the crash, The Times came back with a feature that made your heart ache.

It was 6:28 p.m. when the phone rang that Saturday, shattering the nervous quiet that had cloaked Tom and Linda King’s home in upstate New York after word of a terrible crash hit Facebook.

The woman on the line was frantic. There had been a limousine accident, she said, before passing the phone to a State Police trooper.

The trooper told Mr. King that the limo carrying his four youngest daughters had crashed near an intersection in rural Schoharie, N.Y.

“Are there any survivors?” Mr. King recalled asking.

“And he said, ‘No, they were all killed.”

Four of the Kings’ seven children — Amy, Allison, Abigail and Mary — were among the dead. Three of their sons-in-law were also killed in the Oct. 6 crash that claimed a total of 20 lives.

From there, the facts settled in more slowly: They were now grandparents to three orphans, a 16-month-old, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old.

That’s powerful storytelling, newspaper-style. And there’s nothing in the world quite like it.

The Times reporters, Kristi Berner and Luis Ferre-Sadurni, told a tale filled with sorrow and did it gracefully and respectfully, with details that made the young people who died and the families they left behind more than just names and ages buried in a news story. The deceased were parents, newlyweds, engineers, gardeners, Army vets and teachers. They loved each other, they loved their kids and they loved the New York Yankees. They hired a limo so they could celebrate one sister’s birthday at a popular brewery and return home safely.

They did everything right. And still they died.

I read every word of this piece and hope you will too. Remember it the next time you think about canceling your newspaper subscription.

If newspapers go away, so will features like this. And we’ll all be the poorer for it.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Connections and Conflicts. Part II

SPECIAL FEATURE: Connections and Conflicts. Part II

No, The Kids Aren’t Alright

No, The Kids Aren’t Alright