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Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns Hardcover – July 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"[Emus Loose in Egnar is an] engaging account of local journalism outside the major urban hubs. Without the muscle of a big-city newspaper—or the benefit of working at arm's length from public officials and advertisers—the passionate lunatics who put out America's small-town weeklies labor to keep local politicians honest while coping with anger, threats, pleading, exhaustion, poverty and, often, instead of gratitude, cold shoulders from neighbors on the checkout line at the IGA."—Daniel Akst, Wall Street Journal
(Daniel Akst Wall Street Journal 20110719)

"Very occasionally under threat of violence, more often facing social isolation or financial pressure, these rural journalists' devotion to truth-telling keeps the First Amendment alive and communities connected in grassroots America."—Kirkus
(Kirkus 20110515)

"Created and maintained by a stalwart breed of writers, editors, and publishers who are committed to their craft and its purpose, local newspapers may be struggling more than their big-city counterparts, but that just makes their David/Goliath personae more appealing. Doggedly traversing the country from Montana to Martha's Vineyard to spotlight the best of this bucolic bunch, Muller insightfully reveals the stories both large and small that divide and unite their readers, and profiles the dedicated individuals who even risk their lives to bring controversial issues and facts to light."Carol Haggas, Booklist
(Carol Haggas Booklist 20110701)

"A read through this rather gentle, inquisitive look at small-town weekly newspapers could be beneficial to your health. It may even lower your big city blood pressure."—Jonathan Rickard, New York Journal of Books
(Jonathan Rickard New York Journal of Books 20110701)

"Spiced up with rich portraits of curmudgeons, quirky editors, and pugnacious reporters, Muller's compelling and endearing defense of small town journalism proves the value of thinking globally while writing locally."—Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord
(Elizabeth Millard ForeWord )

"Emus demonstrates that the best local journalism begins with community connection and knowledge—not just with a dateline—and is heavily dependent on those who lead it. No matter what the platform, journalism at this level can serve communities powerfully or fail them significantly. Muller makes us glad for the "hyperlocal" stalwarts who do things right."—Melanie Sill, Online Journalism Review
(Melanie Sill Online Journalism Review 20110829)

About the Author

Judy Muller is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and is the author of Now This: Radio, Television, and the Real World. She is also an NPR commentator and has worked as a correspondent for ABC, CBS, and PBS, winning numerous Emmy awards and, in 2010, the prestigious Peabody Award. She began her career at a weekly newspaper in Freehold, New Jersey. She now resides in Los Angeles, California, and Norwood, Colorado. She prefers Norwood.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803230168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803230163
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,212,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Ossiander on July 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This just in: journalism is not dead. This is how Judy Muller opens her new book about the newspaper business in small town America.
Muller, a Peabody Award winning reporter, had become weary of hearing - and even contributing to - discussions about the demise of print journalism. She wanted to see if there was a bright spot anywhere in an otherwise dismal landscape. The author, who lives part of her time in the small town of Norwood, Colorado, is a reader of the Norwood Post. She saw that the Post filled a vital need and played an important role in the life of her tiny community. It occurred to her that there may be other papers with similar roles out there in the hinterlands. She set on a journey to find out. The result is her engaging new book, Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns.
The quirky title is explained in the course of her discovery that print journalism is, indeed, alive and well, even thriving in places like Boonville California, Huntington West Virginia, Dutch Harbor Alaska, Concrete Washington and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Muller spent time getting to know reporters, photographers, cartoonists, editorial writers, publishers, readers and even advertisers to uncover a rich tapestry of journalism in rural America. She focused on newspapers with circulations much smaller than the overruns of big city publications. A few of the more evocative mastheads include the Telluride Daily Planet, West Virginian Hillbilly, Canyon County Zephyr, Dutch Harbor Fisherman, Tundra Drums and my favorite, Original Briefs, from Hardin, Montana.
The lead story in Emus Loose in Egnar, is that, along with bread and butter accounts of births and deaths, marriages and high school sports, are stories as convoluted, complex and compelling as any on the nightly news.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Parrish on October 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judy Muller's fine book is a witty and colorful reminder of my own family's history of producing local weekly newspapers. It is with great interest for me to learn how vibrant and useful local newspapers remain and, more important, thrive. Muller's delightful yarns play against the smugly adopted concept that traditional journalism is on the ropes. Telling people the news will never be out of fashion, nor will it be supplanted by personal blogs and opinions tossed off on a whim. Muller has not only detailed the struggles and triumphs of an extraordinary bunch of journalists, but she has, in the process, reminded us of what journalism is all about--why it matters to real people, and why it will be supported over the long run. People want to know what's going on. And journalists, whether reporting for a big newspaper, or working late at night to cover a story for the local paper, seem by all measures to be driven by an impulse that benefits us all. This is a great and heartwarming read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
How big is your town? Big enough to support it's own weekly newspaper? If not, you're missing out. As witness, from the Concrete Herald (Washington state) police blotter:

January 9 (2010): People caused a traffic hazard on State Route 20 near Marblemount because they were standing in the road, taking pictures of eagles. (That's right: IN the road). A deputy checked the area and also notified the Washington State Patrol and Darwin Award Officials.

It's a hundred entertaining pages more before we even get to the loose emus and where the name "Egnar" came from. This is one of the more delightful books I've read lately, a thorough accounting of the present state of weekly newspapers from Tennessee to Alabama to Colorado and California, written by someone who does and teaches, a professor at the Annenberg School as well as a correspondent for ABC, CBS, PBS and NPR. She knows whereof she writes, and she's a pretty good writer, too.

The conflict central to publishing a hometown newspaper is that you live next door to the people you're writing about.

One night in 1961, in the small town of Canadian, Texas, nine-year-old Laurie Ezzell awoke to the sound of a rock crashing through her bedroom window. It left a hole in the screen and shattered the glass. She was startled but not surprised. "Dad's written another editorial," she thought.

And he had, and Laurie, now succeeded to her father's job, is writing editorials of her own.

...while the mainstream media may have to worry about libel suits, they do not have to worry about living next door to the folks they cover. "I take some comfort," says Laurie, "that I have to live with the consequences of my stories. I have to look this person in the eye.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One newspaper owner mentioned in here is a friend, so we can now toss right out the window all hopes of this being an impartial review! But, really, though, the book does shed light on what running a news business is - it is life, real life, up, down, dark, light, life, death - real things in the real world to real people. And in small towns the news business is as much the humanity business as it is an information business. Things matter. Happenings matter. People matter. What we are. What we have. Where we are from. Where we want to go. What we gain. What we lose. Who we hate. Who we love. It all matters: if not everything to everyone, and it would be unrealistic to expect everything to matter to everyone, then some large or small portion of any given bit of it will matter to someone, somewhere, in some large or small way relative to their life and times.
Think it pretty safe to say publishing small town news is something you do because you have to or you would deny your own soul: it sure as hell ain't gonna be because you are going to live plush and easy and get rich quick! It does display that if you are going to be serious in the small town news business you would do well to have brass balls, a titanium backbone, a wise old soul, and a compassionate heart.
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