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COLUMN Explore 2024 with your local newspaper

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Explore 2024 with your local newspaper

Levi Hill/News-Sun

I miss Calvin and Hobbes. Hard to believe it has been 28 years since I would rush to grab the Sunday comics to see what hijinks Calvin was up to.

Was he Spaceman Spiff this week? Was Calvin a T-Rex terrorizing the neighborhood? Had he tried another dose of his transmogrifier and now his clones were running amok? Was he a germ trying to infect Susie Derkins with some incurable disease?

There was so much to love about the comic strip and somehow in just 10 short years of syndication Bill Watterson managed to completely capture the experience of childhood and all our hearts and imaginations.

In terms of tenure, Calvin and Hobbes was a short-lived marvel of the comic strip world. It’s 10-year run pales in comparison to some of the other greats. Beetle Bailey has been running since 1950. Little Orphan Annie ran from 1924 to 2010. Blondie is still going strong after debuting in 1930. Garfield launched its syndicated run in 1978.

But despite it’s short tenure C&H remains a mainstay of pop culture nearly three decades since Watterson ended it on Dec. 31, 1995 with a color Sunday strip espousing hope on the first day of a new year.

The strip finds Calvin and his not-so-imaginary friend Hobbes out on a bright morning following a generous snowfall the previous night. Calvin espouses the day being full of possibilities and with the new year comes “a fresh, clean start.”

As the duo boards their trusty sled, Calvin calls it a “magical world” and ends with “… Let’s go exploring” as they whoosh off down the hill into a clear, white world.

That was the thing about Watterson’s work. It was full of imagination, hope and a sense of wonder at the world that we all remember having as children but somehow lost in the drudge of adult responsibilities.

I miss Calvin. I miss Hobbes. I miss the Sunday comics. Even as an adult the Sunday “colored funnies,” as my parents called them, were the first thing I’d grab when picking up the Sunday edition to peruse while sipping my morning Dr. Pepper.

Even as a journalist, news came second to the color comic strips. They brought me an early morning dose of joy. A great way to start any day is with a laugh, a smile or just something light and fun before delving into murder, mayhem and mundane drudgery.

When the News-Sun announced it was cutting the Sunday comics because of cost-cutting measures, it hurt… a lot. A lot more than I think I ever expected.

Sunday mornings lost a lot of their magic when Calvin and Hobbes disappeared into that bright, white yonder and they lost even more when the Sunday strips went the way of the dodo.

The demise of the local newspaper has been an agonizing, lingering death spanning decades with the introduction of the Internet and hastened by the invent of social media.

Local news isn’t dead. It’s on life support and the state of society is trying really hard to pull the plug.

It’ll be a very sad day when local newspapers, like Calvin and Hobbes, disappear into that white yonder, but like Calvin, I have some hope that local news still has a world of possibilities before it.

Since returning to the News-Sun last year, the sheer number of people who have caught me on the street, in the grocery store, written me emails and Facebook messages extolling how much they love the stories I am writing and how glad they are I am writing them, has been humbling and astonishing.

It’s something I touched on not long ago in another column, but I feel like as we start off a new year I need to touch on it again – people are, I think, hungry for a good story.

I think the reception if Watterson were to return to Calvin and Hobbes would be earth-shattering by comparison to my own experience, but equally indicative of how much people crave good stories.

Whether they are imaginary and take us to a world of fantasy or real and ground us in our reality, good stories are food for the brain and Americans are starving.

The problem seems to be they don’t know they are starving and don’t realize that local newspapers are like the local grocery store – the more they spend there, the more food they get. A well-read mind is a well-fed mind.

We lost Calvin and Hobbes because Bill Watterson was ready to leave it behind. We lost the Sunday comics because readers, advertisers and the American people left newspapers behind.

It’s a sad commentary, but humans only preserve that which has value to them. The problem is we were all tricked into placing value on the deluge of pseudo-information and propaganda-fueled pontificating that sloshes through our social media feeds each day.

Nowhere in there will you find useful information about your local community. No ads for the mom and pop down the street struggling to survive in the big box world.

You won’t find a story about the local youth who did something outstanding or your neighbor, the policeman, who stopped a crime or saved a choking child.

Your local sports teams won’t show up there in your feed, except if someone posts about the score, but you won’t know who the star of the game was.

The concerts, open houses, fun runs and other community events you might want to attend might be found there, but you’ll wade through a bevy of BS, a lot of ads and no small amount of agenda-driven drivel before you find it.

You local paper averages a short 12-pages and the things you want won’t be hard to find. It might not be free, like your social media feed, but for less than 70 cents a day what you will find in your local newspaper is a bargain.

There may not be color funnies, but there’s still daily comic strips, the crossword, coupons, ads for local businesses that provide the services we all need, not to mention the local news of the day.

Your local newspaper is a lot like a good exercise regiment. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

The News-Sun has hired two new reporters and we are hard at work training them to cover the local news. Our ad reps are constantly scouring the community for ways to bring you coupons and notices that could save you money on everyday essentials.

I commonly hear complaints from community members that they saw something on Facebook and wanted to know more but couldn’t find it. I’ll admit we don’t always get what they want in the newspaper – more often than not because we don’t know about it – but image a world where you don’t have a local newspaper to turn to.

How much do you think will happen in the world around you that you’ll never find out about because there’s no one to do the work to bring the information to you… delivered right to your doorstep five days a week for a fraction of the cost of your morning coffee.

Join your local newspaper and let’s go exploring 2024 together!

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