America has a continent, Wisconsin a vast expanse, and Whitewater nine beautiful square miles. For Whitewater’s waning top-tier notables, however, there’s no more area than an arm’s length among a few dozen men and women.
When even one of them steps aside for the bathroom, the remaining universe for the others shrinks by a percent or two.
Over nearly eight years that I’ve been writing, local print news has declined, and its online versions have not been able to stem erosion in revenue and quality.
Although the quality’s poor – and it is – these local papers still offer a lingering value.
Now and again, they print the views of Whitewater’s town squires: paragraph after paragraph, all spilling out onto the page.
That’s invaluable, because if these papers did not publish how Whitewater’s few insiders saw themselves and their world, it would be hard for others to grasp how some of them actually think about things.
The Daily Union‘s Whitewater correspondents – there are now two of them – give others insight into the heaping self-congratulation, boosterism, and sycophancy of town figures. If these correspondents didn’t write about insiders’ views of Chancellor Telfer, for example, reasonable people would have no idea how a few men and women fawn over mediocre leadership, and fall over each other to utter absurd encomiums.
(There’s a nutty, cult-like quality in these meetings, each person striving to praise the Dear Leader more than the one before.)
These stories are also useful in the way a lexicographer’s recording of a rare and dying language is useful – one has to hurry before it’s gone forever.
For the future of the city, however, shaped as it is from market forces of thousands locally, and far greater numbers beyond, there’s a new language emerging, a language that’s destined to last far longer than the one now irreversibly fading.