Through the looking glass: ‘Til it’s Gone …

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There’s a popular 80’s power ballad from Cinderella titled “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).”  This song has been playing over and over again in my head since I heard that we were losing our beloved Carthage Press.   

The Carthage Press had a long legacy of local news and even had the distinguished title of Southwest Missouri’s Oldest Newspaper.  This is not something that our community takes lightly when losing.  For the citizens of Carthage, The Press wasn’t just a place to check obituaries to make sure you were still alive or see who was getting married or divorced, it was the heartbeat of our community.   

It was how we knew what was happening around town, where we celebrated achievements of our local sports teams, and how we watched the elementary students grow up through spotlights on the character kids each month.   

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The thing that made our Carthage Press something special was that the staff at the Press was a part of us. From veteran reporters and editors such as Marvin VanGilder, Randy Turner, Stewart Johnson, and Randee Kaiser, to the most recent staff of Rebecca Haines and John Hacker, they were more than just employees, they were members of our community.   

They were not just covering stories, they were celebrating the things that make Carthage great right there with us. They were fixtures around town and knew the people of Carthage on a first name basis.  They were our friends and family.

When The Carthage Press essentially ran its own obituary, it was a shock to the community. Many people were outraged that we would no longer have our own local paper. 

They didn’t trust anyone else to cover Carthage news with the same integrity and enthusiasm we had taken for granted for all these years with The Press. Like the Cinderella ballad playing in my head, many people wondered what could have been done differently. Did we not support this wonderful resource enough?  Was it mismanaged by the corporate powers that be from wherever the big decisions were made? Did they not understand how vital having a newspaper was to our community?   

The Press had not been locally owned for decades and I wondered if being owned by someone halfway across the nation meant that it was only a matter of time before it failed. Then there is social media…  Did that kill our Press?   

Luckily, we didn’t have to wonder what went wrong, or feel guilt and regret that we let Southwest Missouri’s Oldest Newspaper down, for long. 

As soon as the announcement was made that The Press was closing, discussions were started between concerned citizens as to how to keep local news local. You see, that’s what is great about the people of Carthage. We are a family, we are a community. We see a need and we work hard to fill that need with whatever resources we have available.   

The Rush and Hoover families immediately recognized the need to keep our local news. They saw that they had the resources to not only help our community, but to take something great and make it innovative and modern. It didn’t happen overnight, there’s legal red tape that goes with forming a company to run a newspaper, but it happened very quickly.   

Matt and David voted against my idea to rename the paper The Revitalized Carthage Press, but that is essentially what it is. 

They have taken our Carthage Press and revitalized it, building on the staff that made the paper such a treasure, but adding innovative ideas discovered through research efforts to bring it into modern times.  They have saved our local newspaper, but they will need our support to sustain The Press.   

They need advertisers, online subscribers, and news tips to help stay on top of what is happening in our community. Sustaining The Carthage Press is the responsibility of the whole community. This is our chance to do things differently, and to make it even better, because we didn’t fully appreciate what we had until it was gone.

Brandi Ensor is a lifelong Carthage resident. She is adamantly single, spoils her nieces and nephews as much as possible, and loves camping and boating with her 16-year-old son, Johnathan.   

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