Monday, August 6, 2012


News that’s hard to  come by    To put it mildly, the President of the city’s only black-owned bank was perturbed. “You must issue a retraction, at least a correction. I didn’t say what you wrote!”

That was decades ago, when the word digital meant something to do with one or more fingers. Writing letters meant using stationery. Almost everyone read newspapers. Journalists took notes on note pads, usually with a Bic pen.

In those bygone days, I was a reporter for my own newspaper.

Regarding the bank President, I’d saved my notes of that interview. “Would you like to see them?” I asked. “It was on my third page,” I continued.

I wasn’t bluffing. Since I’d known and respected the man for years, I wouldn’t have attributed to him anything he hadn’t said.

That’s why the paper I owned let the article stand.  

The Danville News and Observer had two employees and me, the unpaid publisher/editor. Calling it the Shoestring Times might have suited. What a gamble it was!

Nonetheless, the paper served a purpose: to cover all of Danville, including news of the black and other minority populations. So it did.

Controversy followed. When I prodded the local art museum, located in the building that served as the last capitol of the Confederacy, to explain why they hadn’t displayed African art, the director explained that the facilities weren’t adequate, that proper temperature and humidity controls weren’t in place. However, not long after that, there was a show of African-American art.

That came to mind when I read about Iran’s art collection, one of the world’s most important collections of modern art [Iran Guards Hidden Art Trove - Top modern art collection kept ...[Sep 20, 2007] …modern-day Iran owns the most important collection of Western art outside the West. -], modern as in Western rather than Islamic art.

Five years later, a similar article from told a similar, even more surprising story. Exclusive: Secret Iranian Art Collection Features Work from ... explains that many of the valuable works have not been displayed; they’ve gathered dust for 30 years.  Most of the art was purchased during the mid-seventies by the wife of the Shah of Iran. But that’s not all.

Some images were created by Jewish artists.  Included are “…up to ten works of Israel’s highest-selling and most iconic artist Yaacov Agam.”

Stories like that would have fit in my paper. But its article would have focused on this:

The Guardian notes that before the current exhibition, “the pieces have been stacked in the basement of Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art for more than 30 years, gathering dust in storage. Censors in Iran classed some as un-Islamic, pornographic or too gay, and they have never been shown in public. Others have been displayed only once or twice.” [my emphasis]

Unfortunately, my paper folded just before a shopping center in Greensboro called to inquire about advertising. Weeks later, my partner was stabbed to death, thus ending all hope of reviving it.

That said, I’m glad I did it. In fact, I feel that my experience afforded me an insight into the plight of Robert Dickson, owner of The Carrboro Citizen.

On the front page of his August 2, 2012 edition, his column states: “The Citizen is for sale.” His remarks reconnected me with my reasons for starting and ending a paper. “I have no interest in seeing this newspaper acquired by someone who would change its focus from nuanced, community focused journalism.”

As I had to do, he admitted, “The Citizen has been a financial burden.” However, had I been able to carry my Observer for another month…But I’m dreaming. It couldn’t have worked.

Dickson’s hopes, like mine were, are limited. “If a qualified successor isn’t soon found, The Citizen will cease publication sometime in the fall.”

Such sad news. He ends with this plea: “Your newspaper needs you.”

I can definitely relate.

                        B.Koplen 8/6/12

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