By Brandon LaChance
The definition of honor is high respect or great esteem.
Throughout my almost 17-year career in journalism I’ve been fortunate enough to not only receive respect, but dish it out like Magic Johnson in his prime feeding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
I’ve received awards for stories, met NBA Hall of Fame member Walt Frazier, was asked to speak in front of college students, threw a first pitch, led the National Anthem for Boy Scouts, selected and coached an Illinois Valley All-Star Game roster, was interviewed by a student writing a story on media, and other amazing opportunities.
All of them were fantastic, truly enjoyed, and I know I’m truly blessed to help others and be asked to advise. However, when Pastor Randy asked me to speak at the Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday, it found itself toward the top of my career highlights.
I was honored to speak in front of an established group of Dwight’s finest who have the community’s best interests on the forefront.
They were friendly, inviting and were legitimately excited to meet me and find out some of my background since I’m a guy who came out of nowhere, invaded Dwight on a whim, and am now telling every story the area has to offer.
Not only was it a sign of respect for Pastor Randy to invite me and for me to speak at the meeting, but it was amazing to bring the honor full circle with appreciation toward the Rotary Club and the reason why I was there, The Paper.
Since The Paper co-owner Mary Boma asked in April, ‘Would you like to write for us?,’ I’ve been honored.
In 2021 (Two weeks away from 2022), journalism is on a downward slope steepier than it has ever been as more and more people think Facebook and social media is the best route to go to tell a story, find information or connect with people.
Usually this is when I’d say, I may have a biased opinion but…this time I can’t.
I became a professional journalist and a member of Facebook during my freshman year at SIU as getting a job for the Carterville Courier, the Herrin Independent and the Johnson City Herald came two weeks before setting up a password and receiving a message from Tom (do you remember him, his bad haircut and white T-shirt?).
I have been both a newspaper guy and a FB user, for the exact same amount of time and have intertwined the two for 90 percent of everything I do, so I don’t have to have a biased opinion this time.
It’s simple, a small-town newspaper such as The Paper is an important part of our society and our community.
A newspaper links absolutely everything the area contains in one location. The feature stories with quotes from the actual person telling their story with two other sources who justify or prove the others correct are a page away from the obituaries where we show our respects to the fallen.
The crossword is surrounded by well-designed ads from businesses promoting their services and dedication for their product.
Sports stats from every school in The Paper’s 21-town circulation, letters of thanks, help wanted listings (get yourself a job), school board meeting information, new business assumed names, hard news stories such as crime, new laws, and current events are literally one turn away from photos by local photographers or us showcasing an individual succeeding, how the community celebrates national holidays, or honoring and showing proper respect for veterans and military.
All of this, and I’m sure I’m missing a few parts of the awesomeness, is all in one place.
A free place.
A place where everyone behind it is truly, faithfully dedicated to achieving what a newspaper is supposed to do…connect different towns, entertain, inform, never have a biased opinion and showcase everything.
Facebook is useful at times and does have a reason for existence, no doubt. At the same time, it doesn’t do what The Paper does.
How many times do you remember to check out your favorite restaurants, establishments or stores for deals? You may check one or two different FB pages as they scroll down your timeline, but what about the ones that don’t.
In The Paper, there is information and eye-catching designs for hundreds of businesses in 21 towns, every single week. Plus, The Paper has a circulation of 10,000 and has over 3,000 followers on Facebook — again, in different towns and locations.
A business with 70-100 followers isn’t going to bring in the traffic an ad with The Paper will.
Also, how many times have you seen a Facebook post that was a lie, or part of the rumor mill instead of factual information? How many times do you see someone posting out of spite to bring someone down?
You’ll never find any of this in The Paper. But, you’ll find credible journalists with true stories told by the real people who are living them.
I am honored to be part of the selfless work this staff does every week to help individuals tell their story and businesses get the word out.
Unfortunately, there is always a financial side. There is always a teamwork and a tag, it’s your turn to assist, aspect.
With The Paper being a free newspaper, all income driven for all of its expenses is based on advertisements. Without them, The Paper doesn’t exist. It is a business, just like your business, where you need customers to keep the lights on and pay your employees.
The crazy thing and what I respect the most about The Paper and newspapers is our business is to make your business stand out, be awesome and show it to everyone.
Why wouldn’t you want another business to be on your side, be partners, and help your business prosper?
Why wouldn’t you want to buy an ad with The Paper where all its resources are put forth to make your endeavors succeed?
In 2021 where the world seems to be on an end of a torch that could light at anytime, communities should be gelling, vibing and working together to keep each other’s businesses open.
Open stores and togetherness make small towns like Dwight exist and seem like more than a spot on the map.
Facebook doesn’t care about you, doesn’t care about the quality of your story, and doesn’t care if you’re in business or not.
The Paper does.
Brandon LaChance is a journalist for The Paper. Contact LaChance at (815) 876-7941, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.