Features section editor Jodee Taylor asked me last week what people would learn if they came to the Record-Eagle's exhibit celebrating its 150-year history in Traverse City. It opens today at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center and will run through July.
I stood speechless as 15 decades of life in Traverse City reported by the Record-Eagle and its forerunners scrolled through my head.
"What are your favorite parts?" she tried again.
Where to begin?
The maps and old photos loaned by the Traverse Area Historical Society? The "Germany Licked: War Over" page 1 headlines: "Autocratic Dynasties Crash to Doom." "Kultur Krushed," "City Shouts for Joy"? The printer tools, the two small presses, the ancient typewriters, cameras, photos, historic front pages? The timelines?
I love it all: The history of the paper, its owners, Traverse City and the Grand Traverse region. The history of American journalism, photojournalism, newspaper technology? The wonderful job museum curator Dick Teubert has done putting the exhibit together?
Over the past year, I have fallen in love all over again with the newspaper and community where I have worked and lived more than half my life. I cherish journalism, newspapers, Traverse City and this region.
A strong community newspaper is so many things. It keeps a community informed about its schools, its people, its businesses and important issues. It entertains. It's a community cheerleader. It's a marketplace for readers and a strong advertising vehicle for businesses. It's a watchdog of government. It probes and asks difficult questions. It's a friend, the kind who will tell the truth fairly and as accurately it can with the information it has. It's a forum and part of a community's conscience. It's brave, compassionate and sensitive but can be a bulldog when it comes to protecting public information and free speech rights.
The newspaper also is an important historical daily or weekly record of community life, crucial to local historians and history writers who dig through them, old documents, letters, diaries and pictures to preserve our local story and keep it alive.
After a year of doing that myself for the Record-Eagle's 150-Year History Project, I appreciate more deeply the role of libraries, historical societies, local history museums and heritage centers and their members across our region. They keep us connected today to place, to community, to each other.
Strong communities always have needed that. History is a vibrant living thing. It enriches. It explains. Past events and people do affect the present, just as what we do now affects the future and generations that follow us.
Check out the museum exhibit. I think you'll like it.
Loraine Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-933-1468.