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JIM recalls outlook of editor Charles S. Harris

'The local paper, rightly directed, is a power for good. It takes time, talent and determination to build a local paper of merit and broad influence.' -Charles S. Harris.

By "Jim"

Whether the cause du jour was good roads, more bridges, increased commerce, modern conveniences, or advanced educational opportunities, the News stood foursquare for it, sometimes in the voice of a wise uncle, sometimes in that of a stern parent, sometimes--ofttimes--in that of the shrewd businessman pointing out the monetary advantages, sometimes cajoling and sometimes shaming, but always, always, in favor of progress. (From Hope to Hilltop, p iii; used with permission.)

Around the middle of the 1880s, Charles S. Harris, a native of the Old Dominion, removed to Adair County. Not long afterwards, he met, wooed and wed young Miss Maggie Murrell, and they were made as one in the late summer of 1887. Almost exactly a decade later, he started the Adair County News with a handful of subscribers and a heart brimming with optimism.

As mentioned in another recent article, Harris sold the paper in late 1917 and April, 1919, he, Maggie, and a number of their seven children removed to West Point, Mississippi. For years afterwards, however, his letters, on a variety of topics, graced the pages of the News. The following passages, excerpted from a lengthy letter in the December 29, 1920 edition, outlines his sentiments regarding Adair and surrounding counties as well as the goals -- and frustrations -- of an Editor of a rural weekly.

(I sometimes puzzle over how many of the newsmen and -women of today feel as Mr. Harris did.)

Wrote Mr. Harris, in a letter addressed to the Editor of the Edmondton News:

Adair, Casey, Russell, Cumberland, Metcalfe, Green and Taylor counties comprised the territory in which I felt a deep and abiding interest for in reality it was this radius that The News received its major part of support. Aside from this, these counties, save Green and Taylor, were hid away from the advantages and stimulating effects of railroad facilities and were dubbed backwoods counties. It was a pleasure for me to defend my home and surroundings against every insinuation of inferiority and to extol their virtues.

True, they are interior counties, away from the great avenues of commerce and distant from the large markets, and in a sense, handicapped in many ways, but aside from these disadvantages it is a splendid group of counties peopled by a big-hearted, noble and upright people with laudable ambition and intellectual attainments the equal of any part of the entire country. Valuable agricultural lands, timber and other natural resources [are] within this territory while no better people exist anywhere.

It was my purpose while in your line of work to arouse the people to the great possibilities in Southern Kentucky, and to aid in its development, but it seemed to me that the procession moved too slow; that too many were indifferent, but the fact remains that every one of these counties are moving in the right direction and some day, some time, I know not when, a wonderful change for the better will be realized.

While my interest, my efforts, my very existence, for many years were wrapped up in the welfare of these counties, but more especially my home county, Adair, and while I espoused every movement to better public conditions, yet I accomplished but little, having met many Waterloos, but...I still love the old home land and rejoice in its successes and feel a deep interest in every movement for its betterment. Its hills and hollows, its sparkling streams, its good people are precious to me. My broad acquaintance was pleasant and my many close friends can never pass from my memory and love.

You [referring to the Editor of the Edmonton News] occupy a responsible position--capable of doing much good and your efforts and aspirations for advancement of your section are indeed highly commendable, and worthy of unstinted support. The local paper, rightly directed, is a power for good. It takes time, talent and determination to build a local paper of merit and broad influence.

This story was posted on 2010-12-30 15:31:41
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