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Newspaper, community go hand in hand... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 08 October 2015 16:46

By Lori Pankonin

Johnson Publications, Inc.


This week marks 75 years of celebrating National Newspaper Week, a specific week set aside to recognize the importance a newspaper plays in the community. Yet it marks centuries of existence of a news medium welcomed into homes and hearts, informing people of life’s happenings.

Freedom of the press marks one of the first amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution, protecting the public’s right to know.

I was born with ink in my blood, so to speak, which started a generation prior. My father’s personal fascination for newspapering began at age nine when he worked in the back shop of the Grover, Colo., news office. His love grew for the printed word as well as for the community happenings it documented. Current events became history.

His love for the industry found him getting involved in other newspapers wherever my grandfather’s school superintendent job took the family.

Sixty-three years ago, opportunity landed Dad in southwest Nebraska at the Imperial Republican. His love for newspapers accompanied him, and his love for Imperial quickly developed. They truly went hand in hand.

Community is what newspapers are all about, especially in rural America. The newspaper shares personal stories, promotes business and economic achievement, records school happenings and shares emotion both exciting and sad. It’s like a letter from home. It serves as that watchdog to keep government officials honest, maintaining that commitment of seeking the truth in order to inform.

I’ve witnessed countless journalism award presentations through the decades and never is the story about what was in it for the honoree. Time and time again, it’s about what that journalist did for his or her community. They cover the news but they go above and beyond in getting involved and making a difference.

Community involvement expanded for Dad and Mom when they formed Johnson Publications, Inc. and one-by-one invested in neighboring newspapers in Holyoke, Grant and Wauneta. My sister would eventually put her heart and soul into Holyoke where she found her sweetheart and they raised two children.

My sweetheart, born and raised in Grant, will forever have roots there. Russ and I called Wauneta home for 15 years, where we started our newspaper life together, where our two daughters started their life experiences and where we formed forever friendships.

We care about our newspaper communities. Our staff cares and we get involved not only in documenting and spreading news but volunteering to help make a difference.

Through the years, threats bring speculation that newspapers are dying. Denver’s Rocky Mountain News hit economic crisis which brought it to a close after 150 years of successful publication. Financial reality stopped home delivery of the Omaha World Herald to our area.

Instant access to news through a multitude of mediums threatens the metro newspapers more than that of rural communities, but change, efficiency and diversity are essential to survival.

Although we believe in progress and the importance of an online presence, the majority of our readers still want to hold their newspaper, to sit at the table with the paper and a cup of coffee or have it close at hand by their favorite rocker or recliner. Our goal is to continue to make that happen.

Research shows that community newspapers play a vital role in the strength of rural communities. As we celebrate the National Newspaper Week’s theme, “Power of the Press,” we truly celebrate the vitality of each of the communities that our newspapers serve.

LORI PANKONIN is co-publisher of Johnson Publications newspapers in Imperial, Wauneta and Grant, and part-owner of the Holyoke Enterprise in Holyoke, Colo. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it