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Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns Hardcover – July 1, 2011
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About the Author
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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. In fact, some of the stories on the nightly news originated from these blue highway dots on the map.
Muller also discovered that it often takes courage to publish the news in places where readers know the people being written about- in fact, may be the people being written about. They also know who did the writing. It's not easy reporting political intrigue, police blotter incidents and hot button issues when the reporter has breakfast at the same coffee counter as his subjects. To make matters worse, the owner of the coffee counter is likely to be an advertiser.
It all makes for great reading. And it is good to hear that journalism is alive and well.
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.