Coming from a small town out in Western Kansas, all I knew growing up were community papers. If you were apart of an organization within school or the community, you made the paper at least once a month. The front page story was always local and the sports page was often dedicated to the high schools.
I’ve always taken those community papers for granted, they were always just there, but nothing special. It wasn’t until this week that I truly found myself appreciating them for their coverage.
Early this week, grass fires burned through Kansas taking both property and livelihoods with them.
Here in Columbia, I am a full seven hour drive away from my home town of Ransom, one of the many small towns affected by the fires.
While the community news media were not breaking the news and I was stuck relying on Facebook posts to know where the fires were burning and the safety of my friends and family, the coverage following is what I have appreciated most.
In Depth and Personal Reporting
In the last week, more than 650,000 acres of land has been burned in 23 counties, according to reporting by the Garden City Telegram.
It is hard for people to conceptualize just how much the fires took. While many homes were taken, the majority of what the fires took was livelihoods. Cattle, pastures, crops…
The approach that many publications have taken to depict what was lost have been through personal profiles of individuals who have lost something, be it their home or livelihood to the fires.
This story from Kansas Ag Land profiles the Gardiner Family, who lost much of the Gardiner Angus Ranch, which is widely known throughout the cattle industry. The Wichita Eagle also did a story on Gardiner.
A common theme that I have seen in the profiles is that of resilience and gratitude for what they have left. There has also been a theme of community and caring for your neighbor. This isn’t a new concept to me by any means. Often when small towns and rural communities go through tragedies and disasters, you see people banding together and supporting one another like this.
Another story that stood out to me was from The Garden City Telegram which did a story on Max and Mary Prose from Lane County. A similar story came out of the Hays Daily News about my home town of Ransom and the Flax family.
These personal stories mean more to me than any breaking news story would. Maybe it’s because western Kansas is my home and I know these people, but seeing the hope that is present helps me to know that it will be okay.
Someone who has no connection to these stories may see them as mediocre profiles that could use some work, which is probably accurate, but I see them as a lifeline.
While these stories are helping to bring awareness to what has been happening, I believe that they will also be what help Kansans heal. They build up the supportive community that is needed in order to come out on the other side of things stronger than you were to begin with.