Local news matters; always has, always will

A sketch of Florence Delano Brown, a reporter with The Amityville (L.I.) Record, ~1940. (From Brown family collection).

DOWN THE ROAD A PIECE

By Jane Delano Brown
Columnist

I write for The Local Reporter because I think it matters that we know what is going on in our community. The demise of the daily local and regional newspapers makes it even more imperative that we have news outlets like The Local Reporter.

This column I write isn’t very newsy, but I try to write about things that are of interest locally. I’m following in the footsteps of my mother, Florence Delano Brown, who wrote a column of the same name for her father’s newspaper, The Amityville (Long Island) Record. She was a reporter for the Record before she married my father and became a farmer’s wife in Maryland. Her weekly “Down the Road A Piece” column described what is was like to be a city girl raising three children on a dairy farm in the 1950s.

As I was sorting some of my mother’s writing recently, I found this piece she wrote (in verse!) for the local Junior League about 80 years ago. I was intrigued to see that so much of what she says is as important today as it was then: 

When I peruse the headlines or stories tucked down under,
And then I turn to local news, the other loses thunder.
I do admit the worldwide stuff is vital to us all,
But so are village doings, come winter, spring or fall.

You take, for instance, hearings held by the village board,
When someone wants to change a zone where values might’ve soared.
A man comes in and says, “That site is just what we’ll be needing
For our new gas and service place – the heck with that new seeding.

Perhaps it’s residential there, so a hearing date is set,
And no one’s there to shout nay-nay, so the zone change he will get.
Weeks later, or perhaps a day, someone will say “That’s awful.
A service station on our street? I hardly think it’s lawful!”

You see? Right in our own back yard lawmakers go their way
Because no one seems interested or stands up to have their say.
A lot of folks who live right here don’t know the village leaders.
They skip that part of weekly news and are society readers.

Then, too, there’s news of school board meets and business they enact,
And how they spend your money – of that the news keeps track.
The Town Board, more unfamiliar, is busy all the time
Making rules and doing things which affect your every dime.

No, news is not all national, in fact no news at all
Is more important to each one than that which seems so small.
I do not speak impartially, I was born in the profession,
But I do urge your interest – and here I make a confession.

The meetings are not always fun, a lot of it’s routine,
So you are spared attending them – reporters there are seen.
We take down every word that’s said, if we think it has import,
And then we write it up for you, the good or bad report.

It’s up to you to read it well, and think it through each week.
The leaders look to you for help and your support they seek.
Don’t let it happen here, to us, and then start loud complaining
That Washington is all a mess and a victim of campaigning.

Our own backyard, and front yard, too, are of our first concern.
Let’s follow closely what goes on – amazing what we’ll learn!”

Original manuscript of poem promoting local news by Florence D. Brown ~1940. (From Brown family collection)

**
And there you have it from my mom
Her ode to local news,
From eighty years ago, indeed,
We still must pay our dues.

I’d love to hear just what you think
Of mom’s amazing verse
So I’ll be proudly waiting
If you’ll share, please don’t be terse. 

*A note from The Local Reporter: In keeping with Jane’s beautiful words, we hope this will inspire you to take an active role in our local news efforts. We rely on sustainers and donations to keep us in business. Once again we ask for your support.


Jane D. Brown taught in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media for 35 years and has lived in Chapel Hill since 1977.

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4 Comments on "Local news matters; always has, always will"

  1. Barbara Rimer | March 11, 2024 at 3:58 pm | Reply

    This is amazing! How prescient of Jane Brown’s mother and wonderful to see Jane so solidly rooted in local soil, whetever that may be!

    • So good to see that you’re reading the local news, Barbara. UNC was so lucky to have you at the helm of public health for many good years.

  2. Jane and Florence, thank you so much. Brilliant and inspiring. Community is different now, and it is the same. Joy

  3. A beautiful piece, Jane! Your mother would be touched and inspired by this. I remember loving to read the Cecil Whig whenever I visited my parents, having such an appreciation for the “closeness” of local news.

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