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As of yesterday, the top story on the Rawlins (Wyoming) Daily Times’ website was an obituary for a young man who was known for his “unforgettable laughter, loving manner, contagious smile, and willingness to always help others.” The fact that an obit lead the most read section will surprise no one who’s spent time in a small community. A community newspaper is not just a source of local news, it’s also a place where the community can honor the achievements, and lives, of its people. You’re just as likely to see a photo of a rosarian holding her blue-ribbon-winning bud or an account of a columnists’ granddaughter’s travels as a memorial. It depends on the luck of that week.
It’s these types of stories, hyper-local, personal, and unique, that make small town newspapers vital to the communities they serve. Photographer Peter Crabtree has captured those traits well in “Newsprint,” his portfolio of small town newsrooms from across the country. We’ve been running photos from this project for a couple weeks. This is the latest installment. Here’s what drew Peter to the picture we’re featuring this week:
I was attracted by the window grid and the symmetry of the owls and dictionaries, which were then disturbed by the placement of the scanner — you’ll find one in every newsroom — and the presence of the bison and action figure. The latter seemed like a bit of boyish, imaginative whimsy in a “just the facts” environment.
It’s easy to forget that journalists are people. Especially now, with the president of the United States all but declaring war on the media. Like seeing your teacher in the grocery store, it’s weird thinking about your local, neighborhood Op-Ed columnist going to church or eating at a restaurant. But they usually live in the tiny communities they report on. And they’re individuals, of course. That’s part of the charm of these pictures, seeing each newsroom or building façade, all similar but unique.
Rawlins is a small, but not tiny, town in Carbon County. 9,200-ish people in town, 15,500 in the county as of the 2010 census. The paper serves 3,600 according to the newspaper data service Cision.