Making a difference

What a joy it is to point with pride to someone like 1995 Marion High School alumna Katrina Hancock.

“A” grades in the classroom and polished abilities on the court led her to a Division I scholarship, two bachelor’s degrees (one seemingly pre-med) and a lucrative career as a journalist in one of the nation’s biggest and most competitive television markets.

Still, she’s stayed true to her roots and proved herself a person of principle.

When 1975 alumna Carla Stovall spoke as state attorney general at Hancock’s commencement 18 years ago, she urged graduates to take time to appreciate life and the lessons learned from being part of our community.

Following Stovall’s model, Hancock is back in Marion this winter for a well-deserved sabbatical with the people and the town she loves. She even was spotted a few weeks ago — it’s hard to miss her striking height — volunteering to help overworked servers bus tables at a local café.

Whatever this community did, it clearly raised a winner. There may have been deep divisions in town when both Stovall and Hancock were growing up, but somehow those splits failed to get in the way of doing what was right. Positive experiences from the past should provide great lessons for the present and the future.

We hope a new chapter in community pride will begin this week as we welcome our newest staff member, Rachel Hunter, who joins the paper as a writer, editor and designer.

A long-term 4-H member from rural upstate New York and recent graduate of a church-related school in Michigan, she’s a proven leader who’s seen the big times (an internship at a major daily in Washington, D.C.) but prefers life in communities like Marion.

We can only hope that Marion will be for her the same welcoming home it was for Stovall and Hancock.

These days, everyone seems to be wanting to get into the journalism business. The school district is starting its own “nothing but what we think is positive” newsletter and is financially underwriting local cable TV, including potentially a local newscast.

Cable reaches only a tiny fraction of local households — rural residents, Dish and DirecTV subscribers, and over-the-air viewers can’t see it — but that doesn’t stop local operators and the out-of-county firm that owns the cable franchise from selling advertising that essentially competes with local businesses like ours.

We don’t mind competition, but we do wonder why government has to subsidize it. Even Centre schools seem to be getting into the act of endorsing out-of-town businesses. A fax this week urges local businesses not to advertise on any sports schedules except those Centre has contracted with an out-of-state firm to produce.

With printing and mailing costs rising and the local retail base shrinking, it’s hard enough for local companies — including our in-county competitors in the printing and publishing business — to stay afloat.

So far, we’ve been lucky enough to show a profit, which we’ve happily donated back to the community via such things as our True Meaning of Christmas grants. One wonders, however, how long such charity will be possible if government becomes another of our competitors.

— ERIC MEYER

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