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Slow traveling news always gets there

Published 6:57pm Friday, April 6, 2012

The power of a newspaper is far reaching and it’s practically timeless. The things the written word can accomplish are impressive.

The written word has exposed governmental corruption. It’s brought countless crooked politicians to justice and, in some cases, vindicated the “little guy” who otherwise had no tangible voice.

Still, as professional scribes, some of our greatest victories are not the ones that will win awards.

They probably will go unnoticed by most and will be appreciated by only a few.

I’m all for righting wrongs and exposing injustice and corruption where it lies, but in reality the opportunity to make the big splash doesn’t exist as frequently as the chance to make a small contribution.

I wrote a column nearly five years ago for a newspaper in another town. A good friend of mine was a retired bank executive and, as a child, had purchased several old store ledgers at an auction because he thought they were interesting.

The ledgers were easily 100 years old.

Inside one, he found an old photo.

A man’s name was written on the ledgers and he brought those books and picture to me hoping I – through the newspaper – could help him find the family. Now, he’d had these books for 60-plus years, and they were ancient when he got them.

I figured it was a long shot but the story was interesting enough that I thought even if you didn’t know the man, the story was well worth the read.

After the column published, I never heard another word about it.

Like I said, it was a long shot.

Lo and behold, last month – more than five years after that column was published – the wheels began to turn.

The family, who now lives in Virginia, found that old column through an Internet search for the man’s name. Last month, they made the trip to Russellville, Ala. – the town where I used to live and work – to see the books and a photo of a long lost relative that date back to the late 1800s.

Their trip to retrieve the books included a visit to the man’s grave sight, which is something I doubt they even hoped for in their wildest dreams.

To me, that’s a good story. It took nearly 150 years to write, but it’s a great story.

There’s a place for the hard hitting news and the Watergate-like tales. Those are needed and are an important function of a newspaper.

However, the stories that reunite families with lost artifacts, the pictures of tee-ballers that wind up on refrigerators and the wedding announcements and birthdays that share celebrations with our friends and neighbors are just as important in their own rights.

Those stories leave you with a good feeling when they’re done, even if it’s five years later and finished by someone else.

Jason Cannon is the Publisher of The Demopolis Times.

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