As a member of newspaper-averse Generation Z – the demographic which reports getting most of their news from social media in comparison to traditional local or national sources – I feel an obligation to explain how I wound up gaining a deep appreciation and respect for the mission of LebTown.
In March of 2019, I interviewed with LebTown to become a reporter. I was then a college sophomore at HACC’s Lebanon campus and looking for work I could do in my spare time. When I met with LebTown’s founder and publisher Davis, I brought along a piece I had written on the 1972 flooding of the Cornwall iron mines. From reading some of the site’s existing articles, I knew he was intrigued by local history, and from early on as a reporter I began taking more pitches focusing on the rich past of Lebanon County.
In the years that followed, I tackled more and more stories from history that piqued my interest and (hopefully!) the interest of our readers. I wrote over a hundred weekly emails to members and met many of our supporters at events. I saw LebTown grow from a site with two regular writers to a paper that was able to cover events and topics that, as we well knew, were simply not going to be covered otherwise.
By the time I left for a new job in the summer of 2022, I was LebTown’s longest-standing reporter (aside from Davis himself). Four years after beginning my time here, I can take a step back and appreciate all that’s happened as a result.
Before working as a local reporter, my awareness of the area around me – the place I had lived for my whole life – could at best be described as “hazy.” Whether from a lack of a daily local newspaper growing up, my own incuriosity, or some combination of the two, I barely understood how my community operated. Local government, the business community, even the parks and trails that I now regularly visit – everything was unknown to me.
That has changed dramatically. As a reporter, you naturally must learn much about your subject, and when your subject is Lebanon County, you get to know Lebanon County.
Sometimes Lebanon is in the new business owners who are opening stores or restaurants and are proud of their presence here. Sometimes Lebanon is the officials and volunteers who create and maintain our parks and trails. Sometimes Lebanon is in the historians who are eager to share research they’ve amassed over years of work.
The most rewarding part of the process is then being able to introduce Lebanon to other people – you, our readers. Maybe you’re old friends who’ve fallen out of touch, or maybe you’ve just moved in and want to learn about your new home. Maybe, like me, Lebanon was an acquaintance you never had a chance to get to know better.
I won’t opine on the decline of local newspapers and traditional journalism – many others have already tracked that development – but I will simply say that, as someone who grew up in a time when this decline has been so sharply felt, LebTown has been an eye-opening opportunity. Not only have I gained wonderful career and writing experience, I have also felt an invaluable sense of integration with my community.
For someone who lacked a background in local journalism – not even an awareness of it, let alone professional experience – LebTown was gracious and giving. Why should I have been hired to begin with? I believe the answer is this: we are among the few news organizations that believes the solutions to the problems we face lie within the community we serve.
This belief entails risk-taking – hiring reporters without traditional backgrounds in journalism, hosting events and forums for interested citizens, and relying on support from within our community to cover things.
If, like me, you feel a connection to the people and places around you as a result of reading LebTown, please consider lending us your support. Becoming a regular member is the simplest way to contribute to the work we do, and it is never expected but always appreciated.
Alternatively, if you believe strongly in the value of municipal meeting coverage, you can donate to our nonprofit, tax-deductible fund which directly supports regular meeting coverage.
And, of course, reading and sharing our articles is one of the most meaningful ways to support our mission. Thanks to your actions, LebTown can continue to grow into a community institution for years to come.