I have always enjoyed local newspapers (I read the Western Gazette, the local paper for the Langport area of Somerset on the internet). Local papers are the world at my level; they have stories about the sort of people I might know. In my years in Northern Ireland, our local paper was compulsive reading every week in the parishes where I worked – the Newtownards Chronicle, the Down Recorder and then the Larne Times. As a local cleric I even made the odd appearance, when there was some special event in the parish or community I could sneak into the back of a photograph.
Living in the suburbs of Dublin, I miss that local community dimension. There is no community here to sustain the sort of newspaper we would have read every week in times past. The Irish Times is fine, but it tells me national and international news, I can read about Chancellor Schroeder or President Chirac or Prime Minister Blair, but I can’t read about the man down the road whose funeral took place after ten o’clock mass at the local Catholic church.
When I get a chance to read a local paper, wherever it might be from, I take it. So it was this afternoon that I spent the best part of an hour reading the Midland Courier. It’s an excellent paper – all human life is there. It has news about ordinary people; stories about the local council and businesses; official and family notices; advertisements of the sort that you only find in local papers. The copy was a couple of weeks old, but no matter, the good thing about local news is that it keeps fresh for much longer than the daily national news that is here today and in the recycling bin tomorrow.
I think I would enjoy reading the Midland Courier on a regular basis; it has a feisty, free-speaking quality about it. Unfortunately, that is not a possibility. The Midland Courier is the local newspaper for Baguio, a city in Luzon in the Northern Philippines; a friend gave the copy to us. As I read the paper this afternoon, two things struck me, human beings are the same all around the world and the world is an extremely small place.