Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Not sure what to think of social media's impact on the newspaper business. Gurus in this business strongly assert every newspaper must have a social media presence. I've chosen to maintain five Facebook pages including one for The Superior Express and one for the Jewell County Record. The Nuckolls County Locomotive-Gazette does not have a Facebook page and I can't see that newspaper's finances are any worse because of it.
I'm sorry to report that in spite of rate increases the gross revenue for the first nine months of the current fiscal year for two newspapers with Facebook pages is trailing the prior year's pace. The decline is so significant I have no hope of a fourth quarter recovery.
What the newspaper is experiencing parallels what is happening in our farm communities. With grain and livestock prices down, many of us are operating somewhere below break-even and we are keeping close watch on our billfolds, buying only what we have to have.
I devote several hours each week to reading social media posts and posting a few of my own. Occasionally, I find story leads while browsing the social media, but not often.
Adding the sites together, I have something like 4,000 friends or followers. Unlike this newspaper which goes to everyone with a subscription, merely liking someone on a social media doesn't mean you will see their posts. Somehow the computers who operate the sites evaluate the posts and decide who sees what.
A few weeks ago I posted what I thought was an important story and it was seen by fewer than 60 people. Other posts I consider of lesser importance have been known to top 2,000 viewers.
By posting to social media and trying to build an audience for this newspaper, I'm also building an audience for the owners of the social media. They, in turn, compete with this newspaper and sell advertising to our customers.
This week I finally got up courage and asked one of my social media friends why she was following me on Facebook. I don't believe I have ever personally spoken with her. I had checked her Facebook biography out and it didn't appear she had ever lived in Superior or married anyone from here. While we both attended the same university, she was a freshman when I was in graduate school. But we could have met. I remember being surprised several years out of college, when a woman I didn't recognize said, "Weren't we in the same freshman English class at Kansas State? After comparing notes, we decided we had been.
To my inquiry the Facebook friend replied her parents were once good friends of a Superior family. Though that family moved from here more than 50 years ago, she chose me as a Facebook friend with the hope I would help her keep informed about the goings on in Superior. I suspect regular reading of The Superior Express would do a better job of that as I am mostly a Facebook observer.
A friend recently emailed me the following story. It pretty well sums up how I feel about social media.
For those of my generation who do not and cannot comprehend why Facebook exists: I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles
  Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passers by what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later, and with whom.
  I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day.
  I also listen to their conversations, give them the "thumbs up" and tell them I like them.
  And it works just like Facebook. I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist.
Hopefully I am not being followed by any of the above but I did recently ask some of my Facebook friends if they remembered playing in the river as youngsters and if they still included the river in their recreational plans. Though today's river is not nearly as large as the one I remember from my childhood, apparently many people continue to enjoy the recreational opportunities it offers.
The comments included:
"My son and friends like to canoe down the river." - Shanel Rempe
"The young people in Guide Rock go floating down the river almost every weekend." - Becky Dessel
"We always went to the river in the evenings and on Sunday afternoons. We played on the sandbar. Our dads checked an area of the river to make sure we could safely play in it." - Joan Frum
"As youngsters at the cement plant village, we spent many hours at and in the river." - Craig Dominy
"After my parents bought land across the river from Keifers we swam in the river." - Teresa Moody
"I just took my family from Chicago there. Walked up and down the river and had a blast." - John Price Jr.
"Spent countless days and hours at the river when I was growing up. Would walk the railroad tracks like a highway. Start out fishing and end up swimming. Great memories." - Darren Tyler
"My boys basically live at the river. Every chance they get that's where they go." - Amy Morris
"I enjoyed the river as did all my friends. Had many great adventures there. Also enjoyed Lovewell Lake and the swimming pool." - Craig Hale
"I take people there for pictures!" - Jonnie Andersen
"Remember floating livestock tanks down the river, putting car inner tubes around the coolers to make great party barges on hot days." - Shawn Robinson
"Practically lived on the river in the spring, summer and fall." - Tom Laird
"My brothers and I lived on the Republican River." - Richard Kraus

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Every day, I make a concentrated effort to not talk about politics on the social networking sites on which I manage various pages. That would be Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. Since the beginning of the Republican National Convention, I have failed miserably in that effort. With exactly the same motivation in mind, every week, I make an effort to not talk about politics in the paragraphs that make up this personal column.
I'm about to fail here as well.
After one such recent post, I was accused of being somewhat shallow for "unfriending" or "unfollowing" people who had different political opinions that I do. I explained that I don't just toss people aside because of their party affiliation. That would be shallow, and just as bad as anyone else who lumps everyone into immutable categories as they see fit. I further explained that if one person thinks the Star Wars prequels are great, while another person thinks they're terrible, that's a good example of a difference of opinion. If one person is a racist (or homophobe or Xenophobe) and another is not, that's more than a difference of opinion. Those are ideological differences that are typically insurmountable for me when it comes to trying to establish common ground for a friendship, or even a casual acquaintanceship.
I have a great many friends who are Republicans. We have different opinions on many political issues: taxes, health care, even the death penalty. I relish an occasional rousing debate on such issues, though I have a much diminished appetite for debate, compared to when I was younger. Racism is not an opinion. It defines a person.
And people change. I remember reading during the last presidential election the Romney camp was telling young people to vote the conservative ticket, because as they got older, they'd naturally transition to being more conservative. That hasn't been my experience, or that of anyone I've ever met, for that matter. That's wishful thinking. I'm about three times the liberal I was at 20, and becoming more so every day. I pay little attention to a person's political party affiliation. I can tell you the names of two high profile Republicans I respected a great deal prior to the RNC, but no longer do: John McCain and Bob Dole. I never had much use for Jeb Bush, but after the RNC, he's looking a lot better to me. I suspect he's looking pretty good to a lot of moderate Republicans right now. Barbara Bush, on the other hand, remains one of my favorite first ladies ever; and she reacted to the Trump nomination exactly like I thought she would.
The reason I don't much like to debate nowadays is I truly don't care whether or not you change your mind, and if you do, I don't care whether or not I was involved. That makes for a weak debater. I don't plan to partake in political discussions with anyone, and I'm going to try hard to not do it here in the future as well.
Do me this favor: If you're capable as a human being of going into a booth and voting for Donald Trump as President of the United States, don't tell me. No good can come from me knowing that about you.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

For 25 years, I have been collecting angels of all shapes and sizes. I'm not claiming my house is filled with heavenly beings; these angels are ornamental. They sit on shelves, decorate a jacket as a pin, decorate the Christmas tree and are featured in wall hangings. They fill a three-tiered cabinet and sit among framed photos of our grandchildren. The urge to collect my angels came as one of the things that brought me comfort following the death of my youngest son. These angels came as gifts from friends and family members. Whenever I spotted one that captured my attention, I bought it.
There are angels made out of glass, metal, ceramics, wood and velvet cloth. There are praying angels, sleeping angels; angels playing baseball, singing, carrying a basket of flowers and holding a child. There are angels playing a piano, a harp and a trumpet. My favorite framed picture is of an angel guiding two children across a bridge.
One of the negative aspects of my angel collection is there has to be a tube of glue kept nearby. Unlike the angel in the famous movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," who earns his wings when a bell rings, my angels seem to lose their wings in an accident. Sometimes the angels fall off the shelves or are dropped while dusting, and their wings have to be carefully attached once again.
Songs have been written about angels: "Angels We Have Heard On High," "I Believe There Are Angels Among Us" and "My Angel Baby." There are angel food cakes, angelfish and angelic voices. Some people have angel faces; others make snow angels.
Angels should not be held higher than Jesus or God. As it is said in Psalm 103:2, "Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word. In the scriptures it says angels are our guardians. Psalm 91:11-12 says, "The Lord will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Angels are God's messengers; it was an angel who brought the news to Mary and later to Joseph, and when Jesus was born, it was angels who brought the news to the shepherds in the field. After Jesus' death, it was an angel who told of Jesus' resurrection.
My special collection continues to grow and when I place the newest angels on the shelves, I can't help but think of how scripture says we should watch how we welcome people. Hebrews 13:2 says, "Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it."