Time to Close Up Shop

Photo | Tracey McCabe

Photo | Tracey McCabe

The news seems to have spread quickly proving Urbana as the tight-knit community I have grown to love — and nothing makes me sadder than this news in the first place. A few weeks ago, I received the phone call: after 10 years of sharing community news, The Town Courier advertising revenue has declined to point that the paper is not sustainable. This is our last issue.

“I have been agonizing over the paper’s closing. As a resident of the area for 12 years, I have come to love and respect the Courier for its significant efforts in bringing our community closer,” said Jennifer Coppit, executive director of The Green Valley YMCA and regular Town Courier contributor. “I set a stack of copies down on our table [each month] and the next morning they are gone! People love the local news — they’re going to be lost. I will really miss being a part of something truly wonderful!”

I picked up my first copy of The Town Courier on Patsy Beckman’s kitchen table in summer 2011. Beckman was longtime writer/manager of The Town Courier who was moving to a new role. Newly married and having just moved to Frederick County, I jumped on the opportunity to apply myself to one of my favorite aspects of journalism — community writing, up close and personal profiles, school news, fundraisers and the conquests of daily life in Urbana. I was thrilled.

But it’s not so much the paper and ink portion of the paper I will truly miss. Instead, it’s engaging with the people behind the pages and printed folds. My best moments from the past five years came from interacting with the individuals wrapped up in the local community. I will genuinely miss putting those experiences on paper.

A highlight for me was interacting with young blood that runs through the paper and fostering in them a love for the written word. Susan Verdi, literary specialist at Centerville Elementary School, created several events where I was privileged to speak to 50 or so students at a time about being a journalist. Several of them were published in The Courier — their eyes sparkled as the saw their names in the paper.

In addition, I interacted with a fantastic group of high school students who had their first bylines published via The Courier. The student I worked with the longest was Madelyne Xiao. Xiao was just 14 when she asked me to meet her in the Urbana High School library, pitching the idea that she regularly contribute articles. She continued as part of The Town Courier staff through her UHS graduation and is now a Stanford University student and desk editor at the Stanford Daily.

“The Town Courier gave me a first glimpse of the rough-and-tumble world of journalism. It was with The Courier that I learned to extract an opinion from a stranger on the street, to probe an artist for details on his or her craft, and to describe community events ranging from incinerator protests to street art festivals,” said Xiao. “I’ve found that these skills have broad applications in my role as a desk editor for the Stanford Daily, my college newspaper. I’m grateful to Bethany and the Courier for this exposure — really, an incredible privilege — and will treasure it for years to come.”

I am grateful to Xiao and to all the student writers who worked for the Courier — it has been a privilege to work with each of you and watch you grow into strong writers, reporters.

Urbana is an extremely generous community. Each month more content came across my desk than we had room for, community members embodying the meaning of community with fundraisers for Dillon Papier and Cliff Hageman, needs being met through the Greater Urbana Area Food Bank and much more — people in this area truly take on their neighbor’s needs as their own. In addition, monthly contributors gave of their energy to provide fresh content for The Town Courier — Jo Ostby of the Greater Urbana Area Food Bank, Susan Hofstra at the Urbana Senior Center, Amy Whitney of the Urbana Regional Library, Jennifer Coppit at the Green Valley YMCA, Tim Mellott with the UHS Boosters and many more.

On the personal side of things, I experienced this generosity as with the loss of our son, Myles, this past year as well as Nate’s stay in the NICU, Myles’ twin. I received phone calls while I was in the hospital, warm and caring emails, handwritten notes in the mail, and numerous gifts — I am incredibly grateful. I agree with columnist Nora Caplan, who said in warm tones that the closing of the paper felt like losing a close chum.

“I feel as if I’ve lost a dear friend — both you and the Urbana Courier, which I really enjoyed reading,” Caplan said. “The Urbana Courier also kept me informed about current activities in Frederick County and western Montgomery County. I was proud to say that I wrote for a regional newspaper.”

Minda Metz, owner of The Buzz in Monrovia, summed up my mindset well: “We can’t give up on newspapers. Computers and tablets will never be substitutes for the rustle and scent of news paper, the routine of sitting down with coffee and perusing the news.”

I consider it a true privilege to have been Managing Editor of The Town Courier. Best wishes to each of you as you continue to live out life in a community that looks out for their neighbors, gives generously and creates local culture. God bless! As we close out the paper, I would love to hear from you at 240.409.6734 or bethany@towncourier.com.

Community Comments

As the paper closes down, residents, staff and contributors shared their feedback on The Town Courier.

“In the last five years, I have been fortunate to meet so many nice, interesting neighbors and I was so happy to help share others’ stories and achievements. The best part was probably the young ones — I was happy to make the scouts, students, athletes and musicians receive a little attention for their efforts.”

— Kristy Crawford, Villages of Urbana resident and Town Courier news writer

“The community will miss the Courier when it ceases publication this summer. As Urbana grew dramatically, The Courier was a unifying voice, bringing together old and new. In its pages, town met country and the history of a place was preserved as new days dawned. A wonderful aspect of living in Urbana today is that we have all of the conveniences of a suburban community like a public library, a grocery store, a drug store, restaurants, and a variety of educational opportunities for kids, as well as the benefits of country living with farm-raised produce, eggs and meats, a fishing lake, beautiful rural roads and ranches that offer horseback riding and boarding. The Courier played an important role in chronicling Urbana’s growth into this unique and diverse community.”

— Pam Schipper, Urbana resident

“Because of the Urbana Town Courier, I have been able to easily spread the word about the Greater Urbana Area Food Bank and the needs of the 189 needy families in our neighborhoods. The return has been great and the ripple effect of the generosity in this community never ceases to amaze me. The Urbana Town Courier has also allowed me to write about my passion for cooking and enjoy the recipes of local chefs. It has been an opportunity for me to stretch my wings and add a little balance to an often busy day. I will miss the Urbana Town Courier and all it has done.”

— Jo Ostby, founder of the Greater Urbana Food Bank

“I am truly saddened to hear The Town Courier is being discontinued. Your publication helped so many of our journalism students have a real life writing experience. From the moment I arrived as the new principal at Urbana High School, you have offered your friendship and journalistic service. I honestly believe that our professional relationship has been a wonderful model of community collaboration. Thank you for all that you have done to support Urbana High School!”

— Jay Berno, principal at Urbana High School

“The Courier gave us viability when so many people in Urbana were wired to head to Frederick or head down county. I loved reading about new businesses opening up, kids excelling and giving back to their community, opportunities for us to give back when ever a local needed support, farmer’s market, recipes and voting information. So much packed into that little newspaper — it will be missed!”

— Minda Metz, owner of The Buzz in Monrovia

“It has been an honor to write for the Town Courier and to interview members of the community. I have felt inspired by local residents’ stories and their accomplishments. Although I will miss working for the newspaper, I hope to stay connected with the Urbana community.”

— Sally Alt, Frederick resident and Town Courier staff writer

“The business model of using our local Urbana High School (UHS) writers including many of my former Urbana Middle School (UMS) students provided an incredible connection to the stories. The Courier was also instrumental in helping UMS get out the story of our wonderful students and their achievements. For example, one of our UMS teachers, Arun Pereira took his family to Haiti to establish a new school. Their western Haitian region was suffering from a drought. The school needed to build a cistern to have water for all of the students and their families. UMS raised over $3,000 to help build their cistern.”

— Ellen Georgi, social studies department chair at Urbana Middle School

“Over the 10 years of writing columns, I had a number of editors and enjoyed good relations with each. I advised a friend who has advertised regularly in The Town Courier about its closing. His reaction was to blame it on the difficulties faced by print media versus electronic. Notwithstanding the reasons, I send my best wishes and thanks to all Courier readers.”

— Rich Terselic, Villages of Urbana resident and longtime columnist

“I never had a view of mountains growing up in Montgomery County, so when I moved to Urbana in 2002, the views of Sugarloaf Mountain were always my favorite. When I moved in, there was no Giant shopping center, no library, no community centers or pools. There was a 7-11 and a video store and one gas station, The Turning Point Inn and of course what Urbana was always known for — Peter Pan at The Cracked Claw. Things have certainly changed a lot in the last 13 years with new businesses, new schools, new homes and the loss of some of my better views of Sugarloaf Mountain. But change isn’t always bad, it’s just different. Urbana has grown into an amazing community filled with people that have come together to support one another in good times and bad, to support our schools and businesses and along the way, building friendships that will last a lifetime from working together. While it is hard to say goodbye to The Courier, I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had working for the paper and I am looking forward to the next chapter that all these changes will bring.”

— Tracey McCabe, staff photographer for The Town Courier

“As a fledgling sophomore, I sent an article – my first! – to the Urbana Courier hoping to become a regular student writer. In a few months, I’ll be a senior and I’ll be declaring a path for my future. One thing’s for certain in the midst of the chaos of dozens of college applications: my passion for writing will remain steadfast. The level of community and the camaraderie between Urbana residents and writers at the Courier made me feel indebted enough to pursue a writing career in the near future.”

— Sirad Hassan, rising senior at Urbana High School and Town Courier student writer


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