Dear LebTown reader,

Over the last couple of months, you’ve gotten a chance to hear from LebTown’s journalists as they introduced themselves and explained why our work matters.

Today I wanted to introduce myself, and share with you how I became a journalist and why I started LebTown.

I grew up in Lebanon County; my parents were both from here and we moved back to the area before I started kindergarten. I attended Cornwall Elementary School in the Cedar Crest School District and fell in love with reading there – I owe that to the school’s incredible librarian, Sherry Kalbach (or Mrs. “Kalbook” as we knew her).

I had other great teachers growing up: Gail McFadden at Cornwall Elementary School, who instilled in me the confidence to explore my passions; Tracey Oblinsky at Cedar Crest Middle School, who brought me into digital media production through the yearbook; Harry Pennypacker at Cedar Crest Middle School, who taught me to consider whether history is “worth a warm bucket of spit” (it’s not if we don’t learn from it); John Gates at Cedar Crest High School, who gave me my first journalism training at The Talon; and the late Philip Shank at Cedar Crest, who inspired me to pursue writing seriously. You can see the ingredients for LebTown in these early experiences.

Coming of age at the dawn of the internet, I was online from the days of Nothing But Net and still associate the squeal of a modem with the infinite possibility of the web. But I was lucky to be born before the emergence of smartphones, and spent a childhood cycling through school, swim team, neighborhood play, and endless LEGO sessions.

I spent my high school summers at Coleman Memorial Park working as a lifeguard. I got my first paid journalism gig freelancing for the Lebanon Daily News in the summer before college, covering municipal meetings in Heidelberg, Millcreek, and North Cornwall townships.

I come from a family of physicians, and learned something from them about what it means to be part of a community. Going around town with my dad, Dr. Bob Shaver, or my grandfather, Dr. Sam Lape, it sometimes seemed like they knew everyone.

I got to pop into many a kaffeeklatsch with my grandpa and my stepfather’s dad, Dave Etter, a rare opportunity for a kid to learn from the collected wisdom (and healthy dose of gripes) of longtime county residents. I probably heard the same conversation about how Cumberland Street should go back to being two-ways more than a dozen times during those informal morning gatherings at the Downtown Lounge and other breakfast spots. (By the way, here’s why Cumberland Street is one-way, and why it’s unlikely to change.)

I drew a few lessons from those experiences, and developed the values I hold today thanks to growing up in Lebanon County.

One of the first and most basic: Everyone has a story worth knowing, and everyone deserves dignity and respect. I learned to be fascinated by the mundane. To keep asking “why” and seek full understanding. I also came to understand that Lebanon County was a special place. Those summer evenings driving across the county to cover municipal meetings, or getting a chance to go with my grandpa to any number of gun clubs in the county for trap shooting, or being in the thick of it at Gingrich Memorial Pool in its glory years. They gave me a sense of identity and place that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

The experience of growing up in Lebanon also emphasized to me the stakes of reputation in a small community. Like my mom, Kris Lape Etter, used to say, “You can think you can get away with something, but it is a small town and people know who you are… and I will hear about it!” That lesson is embedded in how I run LebTown. The trust we build over years can be lost in a moment, and for that reason, LebTown always optimizes for trust.

I eventually ended up at Penn State, where I created the news website Onward State, and wound up pursuing a career in software engineering, primarily for media companies. But I’ve always kept my interest and passion for Lebanon and local news.

After college, I actually got the chance to work for the company that owned the Daily News. It didn’t exactly leave the best impression on me – it’s no secret that consolidation, especially by private equity firms, has wreaked havoc on the industry. That experience caused me to think deeply about how I would judge my career.

When I began at Digital First Media, I thought my core metric could be: The cumulative number of years our newsrooms have been serving their communities. I estimated this figure to be in the thousands. The New Haven Register had been doing business for 205 years; The Denver Post for 125; The Daily Freeman for 146. That’s just three papers! But as I saw these papers sucked of their lifeforce – layoff after layoff, and no real push to value the journalists in a way comparable to what they actually did for society – I had to change my metric. I made a conscious decision to change my metric to be: The total number of journalists earning living wages to cover their local communities.

That’s my goal with LebTown – to make sure that our community can pay for the journalism it needs. And I could use your help to do it.

Will you become a LebTown member today? For just $5 per month, you can make an impact for us, and help ensure that Lebanon County has access to journalism that makes our community better.

Free news isn’t cheap, and LebTown’s advertisers and members make our work possible. I have immense gratitude for everyone who’s already supported LebTown, whether that’s by being a member, donating to the Civic Impact Reporting Project, advertising with LebTown, or simply reading and sharing our articles.

LebTown is just scratching the surface on what our coverage could be. Thank you for reading, and please consider joining today to help us continue our work.



P.S. If you would prefer sending a check to signup as a member, you can mail it to: LebTown, 922 Cumberland Street, Lebanon, PA 17042.

Davis Shaver
(717) 260-3594
Editor/Publisher, LebTown

Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.