Friday, August 27, 2010

On Hometown Papers

My first actual job in journalism was at my hometown newspaper, The Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania. I worked on the Metro desk, making phone calls about the local calendar and rewording press releases about gypsy moth spraying. The CDT (or Seedy T, because every newspaper has a derogatory alternate title utilized by the locals*) is a small paper, focused largely on Penn State and the surrounding communities, and its overall quality has waxed and waned over the years, but it is my hometown paper, and for that reason alone, I will defend it to the death.

I grew up reading the CDT. I still have the layout of the comics page memorized (oh, Family Circus, how you marred that upper left-hand corner). In the fall, I cut out the entry for the weekly football picks contest and mailed it in**. I wrote one of my first published pieces for the paper's community page, which (for some reason) ran stories written by high-school students. I discovered Dave Barry on the opinion page. 

I don't know if kids still care about their hometown papers anymore. I presume they don't read them, except maybe a stray article that slips into their social network feed. Newspapers are losing their connection with their communities, for reasons that often have little or nothing to do with quality. In truth, the CDT is a much better newspaper than it was a generation ago. It doesn't have many resources--what newspaper does in 2010?--but it's a prime starting spot for young talent, like Heather Dinich (now at ESPN), and Jeff Rice, who's covered Penn State football for the past few years.

Today, Jeff wrote some nice things about Bigger Than the Game, and it still felt weirdly cool to see my name in the pages of my hometown paper. I suppose, for better or worse, mine will be the last generation to feel that connection.

*My paper in Akron, the Beacon Journal, was sometimes referred to as the Akron Leaking Urinal.
**I did not win. Not once.


Paul W. said...

Pretty cool to show up alongside PSU football updates in the CDT.

Eric Porvaznik said...

Moving around a lot, I've for better and worse never had the chance to latch onto a hometown paper, Toledo Blade and Orange County Register being the only two which ever resonated even a little.

However, being a Pennsylvanian no matter where I'll be, and a Penn Stater at that, I fortunately subscribe to the CDT. Very glad it led me to Jeff's article and now this ode from you, Michael. Really looking forward to your book, as well as having you on Radio Free Threedonia in a couple weeks!