Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns

Overview

At a time when mainstream news media are hemorrhaging and doomsayers are predicting the death of journalism, take heart: the First Amendment is alive and well in small towns across America. In Emus Loose in Egnar, award-winning journalist Judy Muller takes the reader on a grassroots tour of rural American newspapers, from an Indian reservation in Montana to the Alaska tundra to Martha?s Vineyard, and discovers that many weeklies are not just surviving, but thriving.

 

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Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns

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Overview

At a time when mainstream news media are hemorrhaging and doomsayers are predicting the death of journalism, take heart: the First Amendment is alive and well in small towns across America. In Emus Loose in Egnar, award-winning journalist Judy Muller takes the reader on a grassroots tour of rural American newspapers, from an Indian reservation in Montana to the Alaska tundra to Martha’s Vineyard, and discovers that many weeklies are not just surviving, but thriving.

 

In these small towns, stories can range from club news to Klan news, from broken treaties to broken hearts, from banned books to escaped emus; they document the births, deaths, crimes, sports, and local shenanigans that might seem to matter only to those who live there. And yet, as this book shows us, these “little” stories create a mosaic of American life that tells us a great deal about who we are—what moves us, angers us, amuses us.

 

Filled with characters both quirky and courageous, the book is a heartening reminder that there is a different kind of “bottom line” in the hearts of journalists who keep churning out good stories, week after week, for the corniest of reasons: that our freedoms depend on it. Not that they would put it that way, necessarily. In the words of one editor in Colorado, “If we found a political official misusing taxpayer funds, we wouldn’t hesitate to nail him to a stump.”

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

"Created and maintained by a stalwart breed of writers, editors, and publishers who are committed to their craft and its purpose, local newspapers may be struggling more than their big-city counterparts, but that just makes their David/Goliath personae more appealing. Doggedly traversing the country from Montana to Martha’s Vineyard to spotlight the best of this bucolic bunch, Muller insightfully reveals the stories both large and small that divide and unite their readers, and profiles the dedicated individuals who even risk their lives to bring controversial issues and facts to light."Carol Haggas, Booklist

— Carol Haggas

Anderson Valley Advertiser

"Emus Loose in Egnar brings encouraging news."—Bruce Anderson, Anderson Valley Advertiser

— Bruce Anderson

ForeWord

"Spiced up with rich portraits of curmudgeons, quirky editors, and pugnacious reporters, Muller''s compelling and endearing defense of small town journalism proves the value of thinking globally while writing locally."—Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord

— Elizabeth Millard

Online Journalism Review

"Emus demonstrates that the best local journalism begins with community connection and knowledge—not just with a dateline—and is heavily dependent on those who lead it. No matter what the platform, journalism at this level can serve communities powerfully or fail them significantly. Muller makes us glad for the "hyperlocal" stalwarts who do things right."—Melanie Sill, Online Journalism Review

— Melanie Sill

Wall Street Journal - Daniel Akst
"[Emus Loose in Egnar is an] engaging account of local journalism outside the major urban hubs. Without the muscle of a big-city newspaper—or the benefit of working at arm's length from public officials and advertisers—the passionate lunatics who put out America's small-town weeklies labor to keep local politicians honest while coping with anger, threats, pleading, exhaustion, poverty and, often, instead of gratitude, cold shoulders from neighbors on the checkout line at the IGA."—Daniel Akst, Wall Street Journal
ForeWord - Elizabeth Millard
"Spiced up with rich portraits of curmudgeons, quirky editors, and pugnacious reporters, Muller's compelling and endearing defense of small town journalism proves the value of thinking globally while writing locally."—Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord
Booklist - Carol Haggas
"Created and maintained by a stalwart breed of writers, editors, and publishers who are committed to their craft and its purpose, local newspapers may be struggling more than their big-city counterparts, but that just makes their David/Goliath personae more appealing. Doggedly traversing the country from Montana to Martha's Vineyard to spotlight the best of this bucolic bunch, Muller insightfully reveals the stories both large and small that divide and unite their readers, and profiles the dedicated individuals who even risk their lives to bring controversial issues and facts to light."Carol Haggas, Booklist
Online Journalism Review - Melanie Sill
"Emus demonstrates that the best local journalism begins with community connection and knowledge—not just with a dateline—and is heavily dependent on those who lead it. No matter what the platform, journalism at this level can serve communities powerfully or fail them significantly. Muller makes us glad for the "hyperlocal" stalwarts who do things right."—Melanie Sill, Online Journalism Review
Richard Reeves

Emus Loose in Egnar is what Mark Twain might have written if he had taken better care of himself and lived long enough to meet the collection of loners and lunatics in this book. I laughed until I cried, because I have been there.”—Richard Reeves, author of Daring Young Men and the founding editor of the Phillipsburg (NJ) Free Press

Bill Geist

“Readers of this book, which is a rare combination of important and entertaining, will be surprised to discover how much small-towners have to teach the rest of us about life, and how much their local weekly newspapers have to teach big-city news media about survival.”—Bill Geist, correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and best-selling author of Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small-Town America

Library Journal
Unlike in larger metropolitan areas, newspapers in small towns and rural America remain robust, quirky, central resources of information. With solid reporting and an engaging and humorous writing style, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist Muller (communication & journalism, Univ. of Southern California; Now This: Radio, Television…and the Real World) presents perspectives from publishers and editors of weekly newspapers from small towns across America, including Norwood, CO, where she currently resides. The interviews reveal how these hardworking editors provide a voice for the community, while at the same time often dealing with the isolation and social ostracism that come with covering news about their neighbors and friends. Muller also spent time with the townspeople to find out what their paper meant to them and their community. VERDICT These accounts of small-town journalism and small-town life will delight armchair travelers and give hope to journalism students and newspaper aficionados alike.—Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL
Kirkus Reviews

A Peabody and Emmy Award–winning correspondent reports on the indignities, difficulties, delights and occasional triumphs of small-town newspapering.

Newspapers may be dying, but don't tell that to Muller (Journalism/Univ. of Southern California;Now This: Radio, Television...and the Real World, 2000)—or to the editors of theGuadalupe County Communicator, theCanadian Record, theMountain Eagle, theAnderson Valley Advertiser, theCanyon CountryZephyr, theDove Creek Press, the Big Horn County News or the Norwood Post papers, among the many the author visits along her diverting, informative trip. In tough economic times, these newspapers still get by on ads and subscriptions, providing local news for tiny communities who can't get that information anywhere else. In small towns—there are over 8,000 weeklies in the United States—newspapers still matter. Sometimes the stories are serious: the school superintendent who unilaterally decides to censor books at the high school, the district-attorney candidate who hides a cocaine habit, the child beaten to death by a single mother's live-in boyfriend, the beloved local doctor arrested for stealing Indian artifacts from public land, or the elected school board that insists on doing business behind closed doors. Sometimes they are complex: the controversy over a newly built, never-occupied, multimillion-dollar detention facility in Montana that pits one town's paper against the nearby Crow Tribe's house organ and stirs up longstanding grievances in the land of Custer. More often, the news hole is filled by club doings, guest column or the three staples of local reporting for which Muller offers a delightful lesson in decoding the small-town style: school sports, where mythmaking and hyperbole rule, the obituaries, where euphemism reigns, and the police blotter, where the decision to name names underscores the special burden of small-town editors everywhere—"they have to live there, too." Very occasionally under threat of violence, more often facing social isolation or financial pressure, these rural journalists' devotion to truth-telling keeps the First Amendment alive and communities connected in grassroots America.

Told with deep affection and respect, a thoroughly engaging "journey down journalism's blue highways."

Bill Geist
“Readers of this book, which is a rare combination of important and entertaining, will be surprised to discover how much small-towners have to teach the rest of us about life, and how much their local weekly newspapers have to teach big-city news media about survival.”—Bill Geist, correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning and best-selling author of Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small-Town America
Richard Reeves
Emus Loose in Egnar is what Mark Twain might have written if he had taken better care of himself and lived long enough to meet the collection of loners and lunatics in this book. I laughed until I cried, because I have been there.”—Richard Reeves, author of Daring Young Men and the founding editor of the Phillipsburg (NJ) Free Press
New York Journal of Books

"A read through this rather gentle, inquisitive look at small-town weekly newspapers could be beneficial to your health. It may even lower your big city blood pressure."—Jonathan Rickard, New York Journal of Books

— Jonathan Rickard

New York Journal of Books - Jonathan Rickard
"A read through this rather gentle, inquisitive look at small-town weekly newspapers could be beneficial to your health. It may even lower your big city blood pressure."—Jonathan Rickard, New York Journal of Books
ForeWord Magazine

“Spiced up with rich portraits of curmudgeons, quirky editors, and pugnacious reporters, Muller’s compelling and endearing defense of small town journalism proves the value of thinking globally while writing locally.”—ForeWord Magazine

 

— Elizabeth Millard

Wall Street Journal

"[Emus Loose in Egnar is an] engaging account of local journalism outside the major urban hubs. Without the muscle of a big-city newspaper—or the benefit of working at arm's length from public officials and advertisers—the passionate lunatics who put out America's small-town weeklies labor to keep local politicians honest while coping with anger, threats, pleading, exhaustion, poverty and, often, instead of gratitude, cold shoulders from neighbors on the checkout line at the IGA."—Daniel Akst, Wall Street Journal

— Daniel Akst

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803230163
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2011
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Judy Muller is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and is the author of Now This: Radio, Television, and the Real World. She is also an NPR commentator and has worked as a correspondent for ABC, CBS, and PBS, winning numerous Emmy awards and, in 2010, the prestigious Peabody Award. She began her career at a weekly newspaper in Freehold, New Jersey. She now resides in Los Angeles, California, and Norwood, Colorado. She prefers Norwood.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Prologue 1

1 Everything Old Is New Again 11

2 Crusaders 31

3 Curmudgeons 61

4 Too Close for Comfort 91

5 This Town Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us 113

6 All the Names Unfit to Print 155

7 Never Speak Ill of the Dead 173

8 School Sports: Holy Hyperbole! 193

9 They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore 207

10 Coming Home 231

Bibliography 245

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