40 Years of the Camden Community News

 

It began with a single page.

A vision of Edyth Scheideger was actually born The Sun News. Forty years—and continual transformation—have led to the 12-page publication of the Camden Community News you read today.

Nothing extraordinary, perhaps, qualified Edyth to capture voices from across the Camden Community. She simply had a vision to bring together residents from its seven neighborhoods.

Since that first issue, not only the paper, but the community has changed. Once-thriving business districts have seen stores shuttered. A sub-prime mortgage crisis decimated the housing market. And a tornado left one person dead, dozens of people homeless, and hundreds of other residents scrambling to make repairs.

Of course, it has not been doom and gloom in the Camden Community over the past 40 years, and recovering from these and other calamities has in part helped to shape the character of the place we call home today.

Over the past four decades, the Camden Community News has been there at every turn—good and bad—to not only report area news but also to get people involved in their neighborhoods. By building bridges, connecting residents, and publishing community voices, the paper has helped people take on challenges together while celebrating all of the things that make this area home.

It has not been without starts and stops: From one page the paper was able to organize resources and grow to an eight-page publication. Edyth and the board, headed by chairperson Ione Nettum Greene Woodford, were able to secure advertising so that the paper would not lose money. Still, incorporating the fledgling paper took several years of challenging work.

More adversity struck when dissenting members from the board parted ways, one even using funds from the paper’s treasury to start up a competing publication. That paper soon folded, but the Camden Community News continued on, propelled by the dedication of its volunteer contributors.

This dedication was certainly embodied in Ione, who says, “I wanted to help do what I could for the community.” Ione owned a gift shop in Camden, and she notes, “People had come into my store and supported it. I just felt it important to do anything I could to give back.”

This ethic of service to the community has also been represented in the work of past editors of the paper.

In the first issue, published on June 28, 1976, editor Bob Ylvisaker wrote, “Above all, we want you to feel this is your newspaper.”

Twenty years later, then-editor Wally Erickson wrote that “the Camden News remains unique compared with other papers in that it has survived from the dedication of its volunteers.” (You can see the full editorial on page 6.)

“We have faced stiff competition for advertising dollars,” Wally continued, “have had controversy amongst board members and the community, were nearly bankrupt and considered folding yet we still remain and will remain for another 20 years.”

Those last words have proven true. The Camden Community News has reached40—an age that often causes anxiety and trepidation among people who reach it. The paper, too, will face challenge and uncertainty in the times ahead as newspapers around the country fail due to decreased advertising revenue.

The hope of current editor Laurel Parrott is that the dedication of current volunteers—partnered with support from area businesses and individuals—will allow the Camden Community News to continue in paper form as long as there is a need.

And that need is certainly there now.

In a letter (published on page 12), members of the board note that “the Camden Community has a disproportionate amount of seniors and low-income residents who still don’t have a computer or Internet access.”

If the Camden Community News cannot continue to meet printing and design costs, large demographics of people may be unable to access neighborhood news, learn about local events, or have a say in community issues.

This is not to say that the Camden Community News does not intend to transform with the times. That, after all, is what the paper has always done to best reflect the character and concerns of the community.

In 2016, that means improving the paper’s digital presence with an updated website (camdennews.org). Readers can see stories by topic area, learn about neighborhood meetings and activities, and learn more about area issues.

Additional plans for the future direction of the paper will be up to you and other readers. We’ll have a survey in the next issue — to get your feedback on how to make sure the paper remains relevant and enriches the community for another 40 years.

Because, of course, the board members, editors, writers, designers and other contributors have made the Camden Community News possible over these past four decades. But it is the community who has been its heart and soul.