When people ask me what I am doing in my retirement, one of the first answers I give–proudly–is that I occasionally write for my town’s local newspaper, The Suffield Observer. I do it because I enjoy writing, and also because the very concept of a local volunteer newspaper pleases me. I love the fact that well over 100 of our friends and neighbors in Suffield give generously of their time to this paper. There is only one “regular” paid employee, and she is part time; she is assisted by a webmaster and a graphic designer who are even less part-time. All the rest of us are amateurs who enjoy being part of our community in this way.
If you walked into the Observer office between about the 10th and the 23rd of a given month, you would find many people hard at work. And what exactly are they doing? Some are downloading the submissions that have come in; some are reading submissions for content; some are logging material into the records; some are prepping everything into columns as they will appear on the pages of the paper; some are in charge of layout, and some are editing for grammatical errors. And that doesn’t include those of us who do nothing but write an article every now and then–the easy part. It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to get the Observer out each month.
The Suffield residents who do this work are a committed, reliable group of people. Month after month they show up for all sorts of tasks, most of them clerical and unexciting, not the sort of thing you would do for fun. But none of them would think of sloughing off on their assignments, or performing tasks carelessly, or leaving the paper in the lurch because they have thought of something better to do. Where does this compelling sense of devotion come from? From a sense of the importance of community, and a recognition of the need to step up for a good cause.
Suffield is a town that couldn’t survive without its many volunteer groups. The Observer is not alone in this regard. But surely among small newspapers it is unique– unique in the number of people who are happily involved in its monthly publications.
While many small town papers are struggling to survive, or are unable to survive, The Observer has a wonderful problem: we have almost more ads than we can accommodate! And the reason for that success is the number of subscribers who read those ads and respond to them. The Observer has a loyal readership as well as a loyal volunteer staff.
So let’s tip our hats to a town whose residents not only produce a paper like The Observer, but also to all of you who support the paper by reading it. Our quality of life is enhanced by both groups, and for that we should be most grateful.