Lee and Patty Stubbs for 16 years published a heartfelt, vibrant, professional newspaper that has kept people connected with their community. They’ve kept us in the loop about important issues facing schools, cities and county governments. The pages held stories about people and the notice of births and deaths — life unfolding. We thank them. A stranger with big-city ways might move to town and pick up the paper and wonder why some news in print seems so quaint and unimportant compared to talking heads babbling on cable television news outlets or headlines blaring from banal publications like USA Today. But people living in a community they call home, knowing neighbors and their kids, getting involved in clubs or churches, participating in local politics and government, following school sports — those people find meaningful events and affirmations on the pages of The Citizen. Those who love Platte County owe many thanks to Lee and Patty. Because they’ve not only kept the county’s most successful weekly paper going amid changes in the journalism field, but they’ve gone the extra mile to publish with high journalism standards. Publishing a weekly community paper requires tremendous amount of time and energy, every week. You cannot realize how many details are checked, meetings attended, deadlines faced, surprises dealt with, unless you’ve worked on a newspaper that rolls across the press cycles with the certainty of a sun coming up. Plus now there are also website updates and various social media multiplying like June dandelions. I’ll admit a bias with personal and professional ties to the paper. My first newspaper job was in 1981 as reporter and ad salesman for The Citizen, working for Joe (Jody) and Glenna Keefhaver, who founded the paper in Edgerton. I also worked as editor briefly for their successors, Bill and Rosella Roberts. I’ve also been friends with other publishers who I respect and enjoy, such as Jim and Beth McPherson, who publish the venerable Weston Chronicle. So I know first-hand the skills and dedication it takes to make a paper appear without fail as a community heartbeat. The commitment Lee and Patty made and kept to Platte County is immense. Also, when my 25-year career at The Kansas City Star ended in that paper’s downsizing moves, Lee gave me new life and kept me connected to readers and community. He offered me the chance to write a weekly column on a freelance basis. My phone rang and he was on the other end asking, a call I’ll forever be thankful for. I’ve yet to meet the paper’s new publisher and editor, but I note that like Lee, he’s from Platte County and has a strong journalism background. I also have not met the new owners. But I’ll guarantee you that it’s a major plus that they have a long history of experience in community newspapers and strong ties to various aspects of the business. They will know how to keep the heart beat in the paper as well as the facts. Lee has laid a strong foundation to build upon. He’s been a fine columnist, especially when complicated and controversial issues arise. Ditto his reporting and editing of regular news coverage. Controversial stories or tragic events are difficult to present to readers. Lee and staff have chased down facts, sorted out the twists and given readers clear understanding of happenings. With every digital device you touch, information leaps out at you about pop culture figures, Hollywood stars, political ax grinders, trouble in the Middle East and general weirdness. But to know what’s going on with people you know in your town or in the school hallways, you need to spend time with the local paper. Need a pothole filled? Write a letter to the editor. American democracy is built on grassroots governance and economics. Local journalism is a key component for the health of both. Platte County is lucky the Stubbs family went the extra mile as journalists, citizens and friends.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.