August 17, 2018
Fifteen years ago this summer, I began writing weekly in this space for the South County Times. That's about 786 weeks ago — a long time in the newspaper business.
That's what it was called then, the newspaper business. Back in 2003, newspapers meant something, even weeklies wrapped in red sleeves and delivered in a five-ZIP-code region of south St. Louis County.
Fifteen years later — even as we consume our news on TVs, phones, computers and social networks — newspapers still mean something. Journalism matters, and it matters most especially on the local level.
So when the editors of this newspaper were looking for someone who lived in South County to write for the South County Times, I jumped at the opportunity. At the time, I was a minivan-driving, stay-at-home mom of two boys, ages 9 and 6, on hiatus from a sports writing career. I thought I might be able to keep up.
Besides, I remembered the words of one of my colleagues at The Sporting News, as I tried to soak up every bit of writing advice I could along the way during my time there. In writing a column, he said, it wasn't necessary to hit a home run every week. "Sometimes, a double to the gap is just as effective."
So I dove right in. From the beginning, I sought to tell stories in and around my South County neighborhood, from Affton to Crestwood to Fenton, and everywhere in between. And yes, many of those stories were right in front of me with our two boys.
But the stories of community engagement, courage or just plain grace are the ones that have resonated the most, such as the soccer goalie from Lindbergh High, Wil Ohler, who is about to suit up for his senior season after battling leukemia. The young woman who has turned property on Sappington Road into the Grown & Gathered Heirloom Farm. The community theater stage builders, and the Scouts who organize food and personal product drives. Marching bands on the move, and bands of neighbors getting together for cookie exchanges or neighborhood nights out. These things matter.
Telling these stories matters, too, especially in times of great change. A grass lot now sits at the corner of Sappington and Watson where there was once a mall; the local bookstores are distant memories, as are restaurants and other businesses we thought would be around forever.
It's easy to shake your head at some of these local changes and bemoan some of these crazy, contentious political times in which we live in 2018. But I think the way out is through our stories, ones that we'll keep telling.
"If you want a happy ending," Orson Welles once said, "that depends, of course, on where you stop your story."
We're not stopping yet.