Newspapers and literature go hand-in-hand.
Saying this might cause a few literature buffs to experience elevated blood pressure, but when I think of newspapers and magazines of the past, I not only think about how they recorded history, but were also the jumping off point for many famous authors. Hemingway, Dickens, King, Poe and, of course, Hunter Thompson all were reporters, wrote for newspapers or magazines or had their work published in newspapers or magazines. And this was the case for many other authors throughout history.
Published poetry and fiction stories in a newspaper became rare or extinct, as newspapers across the country all tried to be like USA Today, with snippets of news for readers with short attention spans.
And now with the rise of the Internet, short stories are being pushed even harder. Reporters are urged to write bullet points, lists and briefs to meet the reading habits of an online audience that has a tendency to stop reading anything that makes them scroll down on the website that appears on their computer.
In many ways I understand this. Readers are more distracted than ever, and reporters must fight for their time. Many items must be factual and short in both print and online. It’s just a sign of the times.
But, I am noticing a different habit with readers in Northern Michigan. Many people are getting their quick, tidbits of news online at petoskeynews.com, but still reading the printed newspaper, and reading all of it. They are taking time to enjoy the newspaper. To sit back and read it from cover to cover when they get home at night, as a way to unwind from the day.
Many times, these people are contacting me to tell me they want to see more in-depth stories in the Petoskey News-Review. More stories with context. Stories that really tell a reader everything about an issue.
We have tried to meet this request with more in-depth, enterprise stories in the Petoskey News-Review on topics such as the environment, local government, health issues and others. But, I still feel something is missing. I feel like we need to meet the artistic interests of the community.
When you look around Northern Michigan, you not only see a beautiful landscape, filled with interesting people, you also see a great tradition of arts and literature. Poets and story tellers are in great numbers in the north woods — a land that inspired Hemingway as a youth. But, there are few places where people can enjoy the talent of these local wordsmiths.
So, I am taking a page from newspapers of old and going to start giving these people a place to have their work highlighted with the return of poetry pages and serials in the community newspaper.
Starting in late August — depending on the number of submissions — we will expand the printed Petoskey News-Review by two pages on Monday and Tuesday each week. On these pages we will publish poetry, short stories and photos submitted by area readers. Monday will be poetry day, combined with collections of old photographs from our archives and those submitted by area historical organizations. Tuesday will be short story day — the story may run for several editions like the serials of old — and a collection of photos submitted by our readers of anything they choose — family, scenery, wildlife and others.
We will reject submitted items that are obscene — this means no curse words or nudity.
I am sure there will be people within the media industry that will criticize us for this experiment. They will say, “No one will read those; you are wasting space; that is not the future; you need to be only online; you need to be writing lists and taking pictures of cats; blah, blah, blah.”
But I don’t really care what the people in the media industry think is the future. All I care about are the readers of the Petoskey News-Review and their interests.
Short news stories that quickly tell you about an issue and why it is important will still be abundant in the pages of the Petoskey News-Review and in our online and mobile editions. But we want to add a little something more to our print edition. Something with a little flavor and designed to meet the needs of a readership that enjoys something unique and of high quality.
This experiment may fail. We could discover the days of the long story and published poetry are over. Although, I doubt that way of thinking enough that I am willing to give it a shot in our publication. Maybe we will give the next Hemingway, Dickens or Poe their launching pad.
Until we kick off these new expanded pages in August in the Petoskey News-Review, I am inviting all readers to send me their poetry, their short stories and their pictures. I want to have a large collection of items to publish before the start date. Email them to email@example.com or mail them to 319 State St., Petoskey, Mich. 49770.
Jeremy McBain is the executive editor of the Petoskey News-Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (231) 439-9316.