The Coronavirus and The Smoky Mountain News
No book review today.
But please read this column.
First, you need some pertinent facts.
I ran a bed-and-breakfast and a bookstore in Waynesville for 20 years, and with some overlap, taught literature, history, and Latin in Asheville for another 20 years. I am now a freelance writer.
For the last 20 years, I have written book reviews for The Smoky Mountain News, but I am not on staff at the paper.
In other words, I have only a small stake in what I am asking here.
Now to the subject literally at hand, namely the newspaper you are reading.
Community is a word often misused, but when we live in a community, sooner or later we recognize that fact. We build communities when we face common problems or share similar interests. We hit the soccer field at 8 on a Saturday morning, coffee in hand, and visit with other parents while our kids run around chasing a ball on the dew-sprinkled grass. That’s community. We shop in our local stores on Main Street instead of online, wanting to help our neighbors and keep our tax dollars local. That’s community. That guy who gets up before dawn after a major snowstorm to plow his neighborhood’s streets without pay: Yep, that’s community.
The tighter the bonds between us, the stronger we are as a community.
And one of those bonds linking us together for 20 years has been The Smoky Mountain News, the paper you hold in your fingers as you read these words.
Every week The Smoky Mountain News reports on local politics, touts regional events and entertainment, and introduces us to our talented neighbors. Just last week alone the paper brought us stories about our local schools coping with the coronavirus, the debate over the construction of a pool in Jackson County, the enormous economic damage done to Main Street businesses by the virus, the Cold Mountain Music Festival, an art exhibit at Western Carolina University, a cleanup of trash at Lake Junaluska, and much more.
Think of the good done by such a paper as The Smoky Mountain News. Locals and tourists in our area snatch up these papers from a rack outside a bakery, have a bagel and tea, and plan their day based on what they find in these pages. In communities lacking a local newspaper — and there are more and more such communities across the country — these events often go unnoticed, issues like swimming pools and business health are ignored, and local taxes tend to go up because of the lack of a watchdog press.
For 20 years, The Smoky Mountain News has brought our community closer together, letting us become better acquainted, alerting us to the major issues of the day in our mountains, giving us reviews of music, arts, literature, and performances, and providing a calendar of upcoming events.
And all free of charge.
Unless you are a subscriber, you don’t pay for this paper. Our advertisers do. They pay for the advertisements, and you get the paper free.
But now advertising, which was already down, has plummeted because of the coronavirus and because so many closures related to the epidemic have rightfully panicked our advertisers.
If things don’t turn around, you won’t get the paper free anymore. You won’t get the paper at all. Because the doors are swinging shut and the lights are going off.
To keep those doors open and the lights burning, we need your help.
To keep the paper alive, for the first time in our history we are also asking readers to send contributions to the paper. No amount is too small. Please endorse your checks to Smoky Mountain News and mail them to this address: Smoky Mountain News/P.O. Box 629/Waynesville NC 28786.
If you prefer to use PayPal or a credit card, you can go to smokymountainnews.com. On the right side of the “Home Page” you will find a box labeled “Support The Smoky Mountain News.” Click there and follow the directions.
Many of you have seen the film “It’s A Wonderful Life.” At the end of that film, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) realizes the importance of family, friends, and neighbors, but still faces financial ruin. Those same friends and neighbors, led by George’s wife Mary (Donna Reed), come to his rescue with their donations.
I never thought a guy my age and with my decrepit looks would play Mary in It’s A Wonderful Life, but here I am asking for your help.
I know that many in these mountains are struggling to make ends meet right now with the coronavirus and the shutdowns we’ve faced. I know that many of you may be hard-pressed to keep your businesses open or to pay your mortgages. As a former small business owner always one foot shy of going down the tubes, I understand.
But most of us surely hope to come out of this crisis with our community as intact as possible. This newspaper, our newspaper, is a part of that community.
If you are able to do so, please send a contribution to The Smoky Mountain News.