Newspapering Was So Much Fun

 

            Who would have ever thought that a fiesta celebrating the arrival of explorer and conquistador Don Juan de Onate could spark such controversy?

            And who might imagine that story reminded me of the once fun days of community journalism?

            You know the story. Espanola’s fiesta queen was peeved when someone stole her scepter and crown, both later recovered.

            Angelina Vigil, 24, took to Facebook to vent her anger, believing, as many young people do, they are somehow invisible when posting on that public billboard website.

            Her views were printed in newspapers across the land. “I (expletive) hate this town,” she blasted. “I seriously hate coming to this (expletive) town,” declared another keyboard zinger. We can only speculate about the expletive. The guess here is it was a cousin of “freakin.”

            For more than a week or so, Espanola was torn with controversy over what to do with its reigning queen. Send her to Land of Banished Royalty or cut her a break?  In the end, Ms. Vigil rules no longer. There will be no queen this year.

            It is of no consequence of how I think the town should have reacted, but I will tell you anyway. I think anyone 25 years or younger should get at least one Mulligan for doing stupid stuff that is not criminal.

            What is of consequence is this story is a shining example of the era, and it wasn’t long ago, when community journalism was fun. Look at is basics. It is an attention-grabbing conflict where no one gets seriously hurt. The festival will proceed just fine. Ms. Vigil is an attractive young lady and, judging from her well-considered comments as she tried to justify her dumb Facebook remarks, an intelligent one.

            The town had something harmless to buzz about for a few days and its newspaper, the Rio Grande Sun, will no doubt weigh in with editorial comment. Editor Robert Trapp, as was true with his late father who founded the newspaper and nurtured its reputation as a beacon of what community newspapering should look like, always has something to say about what is going on in his town. I doubt this will be the exception.

            (I wasn’t in Carlsbad a month when two transients working a Jaycee-sponsored carnival got drunk and pushed a city truck into the Pecos River. The Jaycees were appalled the new editor would front page headline such trash.)

            Initial paragraphs above used the word “fun” to describe Queensgate. Speaking loosely, am I? Perhaps it can be so argued, but there is not only a difference in community journalism in the current era, there is a difference in society itself.

            In “the day,” stories similar to the Espanola drama, plus ongoing local political intrigue, who is after whom, petty and the occasional horrendous crime, engagement and wedding stories, club stories so mundane as to announce last week’s bridge club tournament winners, complete little league results, and free obituaries, were the stuff of community journalism. You could count on editors to join the fray. Joining the fray was my favorite part of newspapering.

            One has to wonder how much “fun” it is to edit newspapers today, their routine content all too often glaring headlines of the latest nut-job shooting which took out 13 people at a school, 9 innocent worshippers at a church, buildings being blown up, or some other senseless mayhem.

            The folks walking the tightrope of community journalism have it a lot tougher than did those of us whose only competition was radio and yellow pages. The news they cover is more brutal and the competitive jungle for revenue is a steep uphill climb.

            I know the “good old days” refrain grows tiresome. But that tune still has a pleasant ring to it.

            This is the home of New Mexico nonsense and the occasional memory meanderings of its author.