Inspired in part by The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, my friend Michael Reneau, a young writer and journalist, is leaving his job at Summit, a Colorado-based ministry, to return to community journalism, and to his native Tennessee, where he and his wife will raise their young sons closer to their families. Excerpt:
I wish I had taken as much time to think on the importance of our small communities when I was actually living in one for a few years. But I’ve spent the last two years learning why I never should have discounted small-town America in the first place. And now this opportunity has fallen in my lap to go and live in a small community. And not just live in one — to become a vital part of an institution crucial to the health of small communities: the local newspaper.
Not only does the Greeneville opportunity present a new opportunity for learning and participating in a small community; it presents an opportunity to be on the front lines of culture creation. Summit is about equipping and educating. While most of our ministry focuses on teaching via classroom and curriculum, I’ve gotten to focus on teaching via media and content creation, and I’ve loved doing that. But for the most part, I’ve been part of equipping and educating people about important cultural, theological, political, economic, and social issues. I’ve not necessarily been on the front lines. In doing that, I’ve come to realize I am made for a front-line life. When I think back to the times I’ve thrived most, it’s been in those pressure situations of consequence. Most examples that come to mind are from my days at the Dayton newspaper, though I can think of others too. Local journalism is an integral part of local culture. Local journalists have the responsibility to steer conversations about local public policy, arts, and the economy. This creates an intimacy with their readers unlike the intimacy of other types of writing. I linked to this the other day, but I again commend to you this piece from Gracy Olmstead of The American Conservative on community journalism in which she says:
While writing for a local Idaho paper, I grew close to my readers and community. The work transcended mere reporting and writing: every article was intimately tied to the daily lives of my neighbors. Obituaries and high school senior profiles, while not glamorous, were incredibly important. Stories on a hot local topic meant hours on the phone with concerned or interested readers the next day. Though I did not fully realize it at the time, it was deeply meaningful work.
For a writer fascinated by conservatism and the life of communities, this is the front line.
Like I said the other day, this guy is worth watching. Read his blog here.
I know that Gracy’s piece about community journalism came at just the right time for Michael. When he visited us a couple of weeks back, when the journalism job in Tennessee was only a possibility, he was talking about Gracy’s essay. So, Gracy, know that you and your writing helped change the direction of a writer’s life.