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Good News and Good People

A weekly column by Local Pulse Lifestyle Editor, Dana Hairston Hof.

The Sumpter News 

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I’ve about decided that what’s wrong with the whole dang earth is they aren’t worried about their name being printed in black and white in The Sumpter News. 

You see, my hometown has a newspaper called The Eagle Democrat. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, there were all sorts of wonderful goodies inside like reports on potholes, Friday night football statistics, who won the annual tomato eatin’ contest, and of course…The Sumpter News. 

The Sumpter News was a community column and we had several others like it: Lanark, Marsden, and Banks. It would be like Pensacola’s newspaper having a column for Navy Point, Cordova Park, and East Hill. 

Some would argue the items in those columns weren’t newsworthy. But ask a man just turned loose from the hospital if he ever went without a casserole and he’d tell you the worthiness of The Sumpter News. 

Ours was a small town with outlying rural communities of several hundred people each. These columns were a place for those in the community to hear about broken legs, visitors calling from towns as far away as an hour, and church cake walks. 

If your second cousin on your Mama’s side came for a spell, The Sumpter News would let you know if she left before attendin’ church by kindly reporting “We were sad we missed Marveleen at church Sunday morning.”

I’m sure there was a report or seven that shouldn’t have been printed in the paper, but that was before privacy laws arrived in our neck of the woods. 

Prayer and church attendance lists were multitasking operations for sincere missions of chicken and dumplin’ mercy, but mainly for tying up the party lines on rural routes. 

Sometimes you could follow a saga of misfortune from hurt to healing by staying abreast of the goings on in the weekly community columns. How else were you to find out if Jeff’s swole up foot had gone down or how many cows got loose and who rounded ‘em up?

Y’all, we were so invested in reports of squirrel suppers and brush fires that my friend’s mama had the newspaper delivered to us at college on the other side of the state. It became a weekly tradition to read The Sumpter News. Soon our college friends were also worried about Jeff’s swole up foot and needed reports and updates from the local folks back home.

Updates didn’t end in the community columns. One time, I ran into the newspaper editor, Mr. Newton, on the concourse at a college basketball game. I knew what was next – a report in the Editor’s Notebook on the hometown girl’s life at the University of Arkansas. He didn’t ask me for permission – you’d never heard of such a thing as asking permission on a good story to tell.

In the South, we reckon it’s open season on a good story. We may let you tell it first, but we’re gonna tell it, too. Neither story’s gonna be the same anyway.

All the reports were funny, endearing, embarrassing, and probably a violation on every level, but those were our people and we really did care about their health and well-being and what was going on in their life.

Somewhere along the way somebody probably got caught in a snare and ended the generations-old tradition of rural gossip reporting. At least in the paper anyway. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t know it, but ladies in the deep south invented the idea of Facebook long before the Internet.

It wasn’t all gossip, though. There was a lot of good news in those little columns. Because of the reports in those short updates, people loved on people, casseroles got delivered, missions were funded, and lifelong friends were made. We may have giggled a little, but along the way, we learned to care for one another and pay attention to the need. 

That’s what the biggest Good News is all about – loving one another well in a sacrificial way. 

And our good news? Well, we’ll let you keep your swole up foot to yourself, but we really do hope to do the same: love our community well and share the good news of our people. 

We want to help you with your events, brag about the good things y’all are doing, make friends along the way, and hopefully bring us all a little closer. 

It’s a Good Friday to bring y’all Good People some Good News. 

There’s a whole lot more of it out there than ya think: good people AND good news.