"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fire in the Belly in Medford, Oklahoma

One of the best papers in Oklahoma has been one you've probably not heard of...The North Central Reporter, in Medford, Oklahoma, published by Korina Dove Schneider.

She recently announced she was shutting the paper down, an agonizing personal decision, based on putting her family first. I regret losing that paper, because it is the kind of journalism we all need. It is an affirmation of what journalism can be, and should be. But the cost community journalism extracts from its journalists is huge when you have a family.

Check the website:


Here's part of my column for "The Oklahoma Publisher" this month, including part of her eloquent closing column.

"I received a shocking message on Facebook the other day. Korina Dove Schneider sent me her column announcing the death of the North Central Reporter.  Oklahoma has a lot of bright stars in journalism and she and her paper have been part of that constellation. Then I read her comments and understood, as would anyone who has worked in weekly journalism.

"This is different than just executing the Midwest City Sun. She’s worked hard. She’s built the kind of paper that will survive technology by adapting it, and is a model for community journalism’s vibrant future. But she’s also young, 37. She has a family. She has goals, wanting to go back to college and eventually teach in journalism.  Her readers and her communities will be poorer with the decision, but I applaud her decision to move on. I know first hand the high cost of journalism on personal life.  In the long run, I believe the state will be richer, as will her family. Final wake-up call was when her daughter identified her as 'The North Central Reporter.'

"With her permission, here are excerpts from her eloquent and agonizing final column, 'Closing Time.'"

       'We've decided to close the paper. It's been a tough decision. I spent most of yesterday afternoon with our pastor and his wife talking and praying and crying. It was a long afternoon, but I am looking forward to the future. I know I will never stop writing, and I know I will never stop loving journalism and what it stands for, provides and has endured….
     'Although I can’t imagine my life as something other than a newspaper person, I do envision my future as something different than a newspaper publisher….
     'I admit I’ve always been proud to be associated with The North Central Reporter. I admit I’ve always been proud to publish The North Central Reporter. I admit that my pride has ruled my every move for almost four years. …
     'When I started this paper, I wanted to make a name for myself. I wanted to provide Grant and Kay counties with news. I wanted readers to be informed. I wanted to succeed.
    'I have a shelf full of back issues that tell me I’ve made a name for myself. I have a subscription list and a thriving Web site to show that we have provided news to readers from not just Grant and Kay counties but throughout the United States. I have a wall full of plaques and a drawer full of certificates to indicate success – if that is how success is measured. To me, that is not how success is measured (although, those plaques do make me smile).
     'Many will call me a failure. Some will say I’m a quitter. Others will just be disappointed. (A few will jump for joy!)….
     'This will be the last edition of The North Central Reporter. It’s time to move on. I have three children, a mission trip in March and who knows what else calling my name.
    'We came. We wrote. We published.
    'Now, we say goodbye and thank you….'

"Clark’s note: remember that I told you Jeff Mayo said he 'smelled opportunity' when the Midwest City paper closed? Two newspapers are vying to take its place in Choctaw and Midwest City, both packed with advertising.

"Korina and other journalists like her thought this state have something in common. Last month I tried to reduce journalism to essentials in a list of 101 items. Near the top? What she has is what we all call 'fire in the belly.'
"Here's my book entry for 'Fire in the Belly':

“Call of the wildest, it’s got the best of you
Fire in my heart, fire in my belly too
Got a heart and a mind and a fire inside….”

--Van Morrison --'Fire in the Belly'

   “When I write a reference letter for a student, or when some newspaper editor calls about a reference for a student seeking a job, the highest praise I can give is to say the student has ‘the fire in the belly.’ That phrase will almost guarantee employment, no matter the grades on the transcript.
   “Why? All older, experienced journalists have it or they would no longer be journalists. When I hear the phrase, I always think of people like John Greiner or Mick Hinton, Carter Bradley or Ralph Sewell. You have to love reporting and writing to do it, or you won’t last long as a journalist in a world of long hours and meager pay.  ‘Fire in the belly’ -- passion. We, like Van Morrison, have adopted an old political metaphor. 
    “Where does the phrase come from?  William Safire’s New Political Dictionary reports the source is not known, but perhaps the metaphor for ambition comes from stoking a potbellied stove.
    “Safire wrote it originally meant ‘an unquenchable thirst for power or glory, the burning drive to win a race of achieve a goal.’ He credited Robert Louis Stevenson for first using it in an 1882 essay, comparing two historians.”


  1. and sometimes i miss journalism ...

  2. And journalism misses you my friend and gift journal-ist

  3. It's good to see your comments about the loss of the NCR. It was pointed out to me as one of the best examples of a weekly paper in the state. I, too, understand Korina's need to move on, but I feel like there's a hole in the universe without her paper.

  4. Dee,

    You're right. The NCR wasn't very old, but I'm reminded of the words by Simon and Garfunel (jeez--they're always in my head these days), "Old friends."

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