News, Opinion

OPINION: Mountain Musings — The ties that bind us

by Kate Evans

We’re celebrating the 130th anniversary of The Morgan Messenger and I was asked to share some thoughts on that. I’ve been writing for The Morgan Messenger for 23 years now, since the end of January, 2000, along with periodic stories for The Hancock News over the years.

Both newspapers are small community newspapers owned by the Buzzerd family. As local newspapers they are part of the glue that binds us as a community from the wealth of information that they share.

Each newspaper brings readers local government news, articles on traffic accidents and fires, health features and stories about local schools, students and athletes.  There are also articles and columns on science, wildlife, area history, art, music,  gardening,  healthy eating,  agency programs, safety, emergency preparedness, local people and their interests and memories and so much more.

Writers have become experts on various topics to continue to bring information to readers that will enhance their lives, health and well-being and keep them and their families safe.

As the area reeled from the COVID pandemic, community newspapers were the lifeline that kept people informed as to whether the virus was increasing or decreasing and how to best stay healthy.

Besides all that, people send in ads and briefs to tell everyone about events they’re having. Weddings, births, birthdays, anniversaries, obituaries and family and school reunions are noted.  Concerts, fundraisers, plays, grand openings and other happenings are publicized.  Government officials share progress and local folks write their thoughts and concerns in letters to the editor.

As a staff writer for The Morgan Messenger, I’ve helped cover many events.  From the long list of memories from over 23 years, many things come to mind.

There’s the building of the new War Memorial Hospital, the fire that claimed the old Morgan County Courthouse, construction of the new courthouse, the closing of Greenwood Elementary, Paw Paw High School’s Josh Delawder breaking the all-time West Virginia boys basketball scoring record in 2000, the creation of the Greenwood School Community Center and the community coming together to build the Morgan County Observatory.

We’ve reported on fires where families lost everything and the community rushed to collect clothing, furniture, food and money to help them go on.

Staff has provided step by step progress on many local projects including the US 522 bypass, bridge reconstructions, road repair, state park and school facility renovations and more to keep the public updated.

I’ve met many fascinating people over the years whose stories I was asked to tell.  Their openness, trust and belief that I would tell their story with accuracy, objectivity and compassion has always been inspiring.

In an age where the press is vilified continually for its coverage of national and world events, community journalism is important for its ability to make a difference in people’s lives with the wide variety of news and facts it reports and its portrayal of local people’s lives and community history.

History stories have included articles on the railroads, the C & O Canal, the orchards, communities like Magnolia, Paw Paw, Cherry Run and Great Cacapon, the Civil War and memories of the 1936 flood and town origins.

History helps us remember the past and the richness of our heritage.  Community is who we are and is the foundation of what binds us together. I’m proud to have been a part of the legacy of both The Morgan Messenger and The Hancock News that have served and supported our local communities for generations.