Playwright Arthur Miller once said that a good newspaper is a nation talking to itself. More so in America, newspapers have really been about smaller communities like ours speaking to themselves.
I’ve always loved newspapers, whether it was reading the comics section as a young kid, reading sports as I grew older or even delivering two newspapers – The Bridgewater Courier-News as a middle schooler in New Jersey and helping my father stuff and deliver about 200 copies of the Newark Star-Ledger early Sunday mornings. At the time I did not know that my grandfather, Gus, also worked as a pressman for the New York Times decades earlier.
So it was no shocker that I eventually started covering sports for weekly, and then daily, newspapers in Florida as a teen and into my adult life. I did not regularly stop working for newspapers until I moved to Charleston, where I have taught journalism at EIU since 2002. During my tenure, I have continued to work journalistically as a writer and editor and advised student-run media. Journalism has been my life.
And, I bet, it has been part of your own life as well – reading about actions taken by our city councils, county board, school boards, enjoying feature stories on people in our community, learning about fun events, hearing about fundraisers and charitable outreaches, or embracing stories about our kids, our friends and our neighbors. That’s, in part, why we created ColesCountySports.com three weeks ago – to tell stories about the youth who play sports in our town and about the coaches who devote their otherwise free time to help develop these young men and women both personally and athletically. It appears many people are pleased. We’ve received more than 4,000 hits on our website in 21 days and are nearing 1,000 followers on Facebook at @ColesCountySports. We’re truly humbled.
The stories have been provided by students who are learning to be sports journalists, by Jeff Owens, the interim general manager for WEIU’s TV and radio stations and by myself. Hit Mix’s Rob Calhoun also contributed a terrific story last week on CHS football, NewsWatch reporters have created video recaps, and numerous coaches in the area have sent us information about their team’s performances.
We have covered varsity football, fresh/soph football, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and middle school baseball. But we have not been able to go everywhere. We’d love to cover even more local sports, expanding to non-school events as well. But we do not yet have those resources. We are looking to recruit more writers via our high schools, colleges and community, and to secure some financial backing in order to pay a small stipend for travel, time, etc., to those who devote their time to reporting on local sports events. If you are interested, please send us a note through our Facebook page or via email at ColesCountySports@gmail.com. If your team has not been included, request that a coach from the team contact us. We’d love to write about you all.
We are in the midst of creating our non-profit status in order to accept money from sponsors and donors in the future that would be used to continue our mission of both educating those who wish to write and serving our community. We’d also like to eventually develop a community advisory board that meets with us to suggest ways to improve coverage. Through our website, in other words, we want to be the newspaper – in digital format – that helps its community talk to itself.
Thanks for reading – and for being patient if we have not covered sports that are most important to you. We promise that we are working on ways to better serve you all.