Small town newspaper is historic, but still relevant

Dec 16, 2013

Editor of the Paw Paw Courier Leader Robin Griffin
Credit Nancy Camden

In small communities, people depend on the weekly newspaper for local news. The Paw Paw Courier-Leader carries on a long tradition that dates back to 1843. These days, obituaries are posted on their website as soon as they get them, but otherwise the pace is slow.

“We’re a weekly, a small-town weekly,” says Editor Robin Griffin. “And, this is as fast as we go.” 

Griffin’s father bought the paper in 1957.

“Everybody knew who he was,” says Griffin. “He was on the sidelines at every ball game. He was at the village council meetings. He was at the school board meetings.”

Every day at 10:00 a.m., Griffin’s father would go to coffee with local business men, coming back to the paper with a handful of ads written on napkins, menus, or whatever was handy. 

Griffin says his favorite day of the week was Thursday because that's when the presses were running. It was hard to hear anything over the presses, which had a rhythm. Griffin’s father would come out with the first stack and plop them on the counter, ready to be sold despite dampness from the fresh ink. 

“The whole office smelled like ink," says Griffin. “And I liked that smell.”

Now that printers are few and far between, the printing is done in Greenville. Griffin likes the feel of the paper in her hand. The layout for the paper is all done on computers now. There are usually 12 to 14 pages, which includes news from Lawton, Mattawan, Lawrence and Gobles. Robert “Butch” Hindenach is a high school sports writer for the Courier Leader.

“They always used to say that everyone knows what is going on in a small town,” Hindenach says. “But you read the paper to see if they got caught.”

Hindenach says he thinks small-town newspapers are important because home-town information isn’t available anywhere else and people discuss what they read in the paper.

“We’re a weekly,” says Griffin. “You are not going to scoop anybody. So, I don’t feel that we have to be first on the scene. But, we have to get it right when we put it out there because there is always a chance that you could hurt somebody with what you’ve said if you haven’t gone through all of your channels and made sure that everything is right.”

“People live in a small town because it has that little heartbeat,” Griffin says. “That pace that is different than even Kalamazoo. So, I think its okay that a newspaper has that ‘little’ feel.”