A charming personal history of a small-town newspaper.
In her debut memoir, Harter chronicles four years in the 1960s when her late husband, Gene, edited and published a local Campbellsville, Ky., newspaper called the News-Journal. Gene, a first-generation Brazilian immigrant and self-made newspaperman, effectively serves as his wife’s collaborator, as her book is shaped by his notes, journals and editorials during this time, when they “were living the American dream.” In 1962, the happy couple was excited to own and run their own paper, but the transition from suburban Chicago to a close-knit Southern community wasn’t without its challenges. Gene stirred up controversy, for example, when he became a staunch proponent of integration and the civil rights movement, running a profile on a black high school athlete (who would go on to play in the NBA) and penning editorials that condemned racist practices: “Segregation is as old as the human race, but it’s nothing for this species to be proud of. It’s immoral, un-Christian and un-American.” Although these disagreements, as well as the contemporary attitudes about communism, have broader historical significance, other conflicts here—over combining school systems, for example—will likely appeal more to regional historians or Campbellsville locals. Harter is a personable, confident writer, and her book is journalistic and memoiristic in turn, drawing on her family life and giving readers a vivid glimpse into the office operations of the News-Journal, where she was a part of the small staff. Unfortunately, the story lacks a true narrative arc, with chapters that are more episodic than interrelated. However, although this book may not be a page-turner, it’s still interesting to dip into, and it’s touching to see Harter finally use the title her husband suggested years ago.
A newspaper memoir with heart and history.