I was recently advising a new newspaper publisher about the world of small town news. I realized, halfway through my ranting that I was angry, bitter, and cynical.
It wasn’t always like that.
* * *
Several times in my young life, I was fortunate enough to visit Disney World — The Magic Kingdom itself. And it was magic. Even into my teen years, the magic caught hold, and fun was the inevitable result.
In my adult years however, I returned to The Magic Kingdom with a friend who had an administrative job there, and I got to see behind the magic…
… And the magic was gone.
Sure, I still love cartoons, Mickey, Goofy – the whole crew. But for me, the Magic Kingdom is magic no more.
Being a small town reporter was a similar experience for me.
You see, I believed the magic. I believed in the system, and how it should work. I believe in strong, local, principled government, and how it should work. I believe in the goodness of good people, and that most people are mostly good.
And for the most part — much of that lies true.
Who would have imagined that an officer would take advantage of his power? That a council would cheat? That commissioners steal spam and the justice system fails and that people want to get angry about a problem, but they don’t want to fix it? Embezzlers, fraud, hidden agendas, prejudice, lies….
I didn’t want to know these things. Though some folks may never believe it, I didn’t SEEK this knowledge out. I simply PAID ATTENTION.
And bit by bit — everything lost it’s magic.
Of course it doesn’t help when you’re also harassed on the internet, stalked by a psychopath, embraced by other psychopaths — in addition to the complications of the knowledge you process, what to tell, what not to tell – what really of all the mess is the public’s best interest to know.
It was a burden, and the magic was lost.
I was disillusioned, and now I’m cynical. And even after more than two years has passed, I maintain my cynicism, but not because I want to. See, on a regular basis, I give the “establishment” a chance to magically work as it should. I give the “system” a new opportunity to regain my faith.
It hasn’t yet, but I doubt if I ever stop trying. I don’t WANT to be cynical. I just have my doubts now. I can’t help it.
So, I let the world do whatever it does, and I do my thing. Many in this world think I’m a member of CalPatty Press. I’m not. Many in this world think I’m a good for nothing loser. I’m not. Many think I’m a mature, responsible adult. I think that gives me wayyyy too much credit. Many think I’ve got it all together. I don’t. My mother thinks I’m the smartest kid in school – sometimes I’m prone to agree with her, but I can’t seem to convince any one else.
Some folks think I’m odd – - and, maybe so. But I’ve come to find that most people are odd in some strange way.
I just don’t want to know the details.
I want the magic back.
That’s why we launched Two-Lane Livin’. That’s why we turned our focus on self-reliance, good feelings, healthy lifestyles. Anyone who plants a seed in spring and bites into a resulting tomato in fall knows — it’s magic. Anyone who has chickens knows that more eggs appear each day — like magic. Bread rises, garlic heals, and the knowledge that you can sustain yourself is liberating – renewing – uplifting. It’s magic.
Talk to me about gardens, chickens, herbs, vegetables, bees, worms, or the weather — and I’m happy go lucky. Ask me about media, government, justice, politics and I’ll swing to the cynical side. It’s simply the world now, as I see it.
I’m a work in progress, like anyone else. And right now, my focus is finding that magic. Until then, I might appear a little cynical. That’s the downfall of being a realist. It’s easy to spy the cracks in the system, and hard to find the magic.
But I keep looking.
I do not enjoy telling people “no.” I take no pleasure in saying, “We don’t do that.” However, when people approach us to cover news and current events, I have no choice.
You see, we’re NOT a newspaper. There are no reporters, there is no staff.
When folks call to say, “you should send someone to cover ____,” we have no one to send.
Our columnists are volunteers, who have made a personal commitment to write on a specific topic — nature, nutrition, frugal living, homeschooling, etc. We do not give them assignments, we don’t tell them what to write, we simply give them the room to explore and explain their topic of choice according to their knowledge of the subject.
We’re more of a co-op than a staff, and we don’t do NEWS.
Now, all across the world, there are marketing and public relations gurus who tell businesses that newspapers and magazines are desperate for content. I understand why people call and want their story to be told in the region’s farthest-reaching, most popular magazine.
I don’t blame them for calling us, it’s just that — that’s not what we do.
Very often, I hear that we should.
But there are many other wonderful newspapers and magazines that already do that. Other publications with paid writers and numerous staff members and hefty budgets for travel. They have those things at hand, because that’s what they do.
Our mission isn’t to inform people of current news and developments. Our mission is to teach people to lead healthier, more self-reliant, enjoyable lives in Central West Virginia. In many ways, this is CONTRARY to local news. We try to maintain that line.
Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine — We’re NOT the news.
Two-Lane Livin’ sponsors two monthly contests, the most well-recognized is The Cover Contest for which the readers submit their own photos to be featured on the magazine’s cover and win a Two-Lane Livin’ T-shirt. The other contest, the Find the Hidden Graphic Contest, challenges readers to find the hidden signpost graphic in the pages and send it in to be entered in a drawing for a Two-Lane Livin’ bumper sticker.
Neither of these are exotic prizes, I know. But most interesting are the entries we get.
Gina (not her real name) discovered Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine about a year-and-a-half ago. She has entered the Find the Graphic Contest every single month since. She has won… Twice. Her tiny clipped-out entry form is always accompanied by a hand-written letter with a copied poem of some sort, and some version of “I love Two-Lane Livin’ it’s the greatest!”
Now, about four months ago, Gina must have introduced Two-Lane Livin’ to her neighbor, Nicole (not her real name). That’s when we started receiving Find the Graphic entries from her with, “My neighbor introduced me to Two-Lane Livin’. I really like it,” letters included. Gina and Nicole live on the same road, their house numbers in their return addresses are less than five numbers apart.
Over the months, these two ladies have sent in their entries with notes and submissions for our Reader’s Page. Gina sends poems likely copied from the internet, and until this month, Nicole simply sent variations of, “I really like Two-Lane Livin’. I read it when I can.”
But this month, Nicole wrote an essay:
“When I was a Lettle Grial, this old man put me to sleep. He told this story about Running Bears and cats and his father Saw me playing whith the cats can Hurt you Bad. A Bad A Bear can hurt you too as Bad. then the man ask me what did I whant for Christmas and I Saide I what a puppie. Im not so good writeing this too Two-Lane Livin I Really Like it and I Love it I hope you Like this Lettle. I can’t write Like I whant to.”
What is especially interesting is that the essay has nine places where Nicole covered mistakes with white-out and made corrections. She, knowing she could not write well, put forth every effort she had to send something that was to her very best ability. This was not a quick note. Not an easy task for her. The white out shows that this was a project that she spent time on. Imagine the time alone in letting the white out dry.
She worked at it, and I appreciate her efforts.
Nicole, I know, will write us every month – just as her friend Gina does. Gina’s writing is a little more legible but includes more scribbled out places, but Nicole dots her i’s with little circles, and troubles herself with white out, no scribbles. For as long as our magazine exists, for as long as they are able, both of these ladies will take the time and effort each month to find the graphic… cut it out… tape it to the form… write the accompanying letter, poem or essay… address the envelope (each came this month with decorative Christmas stickers added)… and place it all in the mail.
Nicole and Gina are reading. They are writing. They are Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine’s most responsive and dedicated fans.
I picture them, Gina bringing Nicole her copy, and the two of them sitting down together to search the pages for the hidden graphic. I see them passing the scissors to each other to cut out the graphic and the entry form. I see them sitting at the kitchen table, addressing their envelopes, choosing which Christmas sticker they want to use from a pile that’s been gathered from junk mail “gifts for you” over the years.
And then Gina drops them in the mailbox along the side of the road on her way home when they are finished.
It touches my heart. The picture in my mind may not be accurate. It matters not.
Our mail would not be the same without them.
magazine: a periodical paperback publication, released at regular intervals, containing articles, fiction, columns, photographs, etc.
newspaper: a weekly or daily publication with current news, editorials, features and reviews.
Perhaps it’s my newspaper background that some of our readers are familiar with, perhaps it’s the fact that Two-Lane Livin’ is printed on 50-pound and 30-pound newsprint — but so many people familiar with Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine refer to it as a “newspaper.”
When people say “magazine,” we get the image of a glossy publication, 8 1/2 x 11 inches, filled with full color photos arriving in the mail box, or reflecting flourescent light at the news stands. When people say “newspaper,” we get an image of a tall and skinny publication on greyish paper, with community and world news printed in black ink that smears.
Two-Lane Livin’ doesn’t fit either image, really. A tabloid size publication that only dreams of glossy paper, Two-Lane Livin’ includes only two pages of news — pulled from newspapers and media outlets in the region. Granted, it’s a popular section of the magazine, but it does not define the publication itself.
We are NOT the news. I believe this is exactly why readers enjoy Two-Lane Livin’ so much – we’re not the news. So, why then refer to it as a newspaper?
I suppose it matters not what people call it as long as they are talking about it, and the difference between a magazine and a newspaper is subtle, I admit. But it’s that subtle difference between the two that led me to leave the newspaper business and start a magazine.
It’s the difference between going out every day to supposedly hold officials accountable and report keep the community informed of newsworthy developments (newspaper), and teaching the community about topics of themed importance and keeping them entertained (magazine).
It’s taken me two years to slough off the newspaper reporter mentality. Two years to surround my life with positive instead of negative. As an investigating reporter, I often felt… Sneaky and slimy. As editor and publisher of a healthy living guide for the Central West Virginia region, I feel… Cuddly and warm.
The difference between a newspaper and a magazine, to me, is the difference between tattling / telling – and teaching. And although it may also seem subtle, there is a huge difference between telling and teaching.
People will call Two-Lane Livin’ what they want. A rag, a paper, a newspaper, a hippie mag, a magazine. As long as they are reading and learning, that’s all that really matters. But, if I am now a teacher, a philosopher… A columnist and not a reporter… Then I hope I also teach the difference…
…between a magazine and a newspaper.
Two-Lane Livin’ – We’re not the news.
Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine was one of the fortunate publications in W.Va. to be selected to participate this year in the WVUncovered Program at West Virginia University. The program is led by the university’s School of Journalism, designed to introduce papers to new media.
Our first workshop session was this past week; two days spent learning about digital photography.
Of course, Frank and I both already have digital cameras, but neither of us use them to their full capacity. We spent two days on campus in Morgantown, Thursday evening and nearly all day Friday, learning about digital cameras, photo composition and lighting, photo cataloging and indexing, and photo editing.
This is just the first of many workshops to come.
Visiting Morgantown and WVU campus was an experience. I haven’t been to Morgantown in more than 20 years, and I haven’t been to a metropolitan city in — years.
Traffic was intimidating. It too an hour and twenty minutes to travel 3 miles from the hotel to campus and find a parking space. If I had not had Frank with me, I never would have made it.
Seem lame? Well, there were three other participants who never did make it there on Thursday evening. One never made it on campus, and two others made it to campus, but never found the right building.
I was taken aback by several things.
First, to a lady who is used to parking meters that don’t take quarters, I thought 75 cents per hour for a parking meter was a little stiff. Luckily, we found a meter that didn’t work right, and got more than three hours for $1.50.
I was also a bit surprised at today’s campus fashion. I didn’t know that mini skirts had gotten so “mini.” Now, I’m no prude but, if you sit down and your entire back side comes in contact with the classroom chair — I believe your skirt is too short.
The other thing I found interesting is how every, and I mean EVERY student walked around with a cell phone or ipod ear plugs in their ears. When lost on campus, we considered asking one of the many students walking around for directions. There weren’t any that weren’t ear plugged or in the middle of some phone conversation.
City life is very different from country life. I didn’t realize it had changed so much since I left the city. For one, I’m rather accustomed to greeting the people I pass on the sidewalk. I at least make eye contact and smile, and was prepared to do so as I walked around campus. But, whenever a student came near, they immediately avoided eye contact.
Inside the classroom however, and inside the buildings, folks became friendlier. If greeted, they responded. If you smiled, they smiled back.
All those involved with the WVUncovered program were very friendly. They were genuinely happy to have us there. We felt extremely welcome in the School of Journalism, and look forward to visiting again.