DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Community Building One Reader At A Time
A year ago, according to most pundits and predications, Hilary Clinton was skating on her way to becoming president. There are many alternate realities that would have evolved from that result. Instead, it has been a challenging 12 months for many Americans, and one defined by strife and strident tweets. Like a family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner, coming together can either mean soothing over the differences in personality and politics to become one loving community, or it can mean a moment to accentuate the differences to become an embittered room.
At the national level, with barbed tweets and singling out differences, America has been the later. Broadly, Donald Trump has redefined what community means in America, from drawing sharp lines in economic differences to spelling out who he believes is an American and who isn’t. Whole communities, like transgender persons who had been enjoying a dawning of acceptance in mainstream America, were once again derided, and environmentalists, who had believed that the arc of history was beginning to bend towards sustainability, are being cast aside. Choose your community or identity, and the jigsaw puzzle that is America has been broken back to its individual pieces.
It doesn’t need to be this way, and it has been heartening to watch countertrends in Southern Oregon. (Take, for example, this weekend’s Ashland Literary Arts Festival; see page 9.) For us at the Messenger, it also has been a call to action—and, this final weekend of October, our Board of Directors is hosting a retreat to re-draft the mission statement and intent for the Messenger. What won’t change is our commitment to profiling local civic leaders (see “Public Profile,” page 8) and local arts, food and events (see our entire newspaper!). But what will change is our commitment to building community in southern Oregon: That is, we are redoubling our efforts.
How exactly are we making that statement and commitment to community more than rhetoric? Primarily, we are looking to host more community events, to gather residents, our readers, in all of their diversity and differences and celebrate shared goals and values.
Example A: On Tuesday, November 28, the Messenger is hosting its second annual Giving Tuesday event. Part of an emerging national event, we are encouraging residents to support and to give (time, money, etc.) to local nonprofits. This year, the event is hosted at the newly remodeled Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. Much like speed dating, we will set up a dozen tables where you can visit a dozen organizations to learn more about their programs, and how you can support them. Portal and Standing Stone Breweries are bringing kegs. It is a fun, personal way to engage with local civic organizations.
Example B: Last year, the Messenger’s Music Editor Josh Gross bundled a dozen tracks from local bands and released the first-ever Southern Oregon Music Compilation. This year, he has pulled in 20 tracks from local musicians, and on Friday, December 8, we will release the CD and host a party at The Talent Club with some of the bands playing.
Underscoring both of these events is that the Messenger is asking you to become a member, to support us in our efforts. It is $5 a month to be a member. Much like public radio, we are relying on membership fees to help support our programming. The Messenger, though, is excited to take this community building even further—and to host these in-person events to bring community together.
Already our members receive coupons and special deals at local businesses that support us. Starting in December and carrying into the new year, we will broaden these opportunities, as we deepen our commitment to community building. Starting with our CD release party, we are making the event free for anyone who is a member. As well, we are excited to offer a limited number of free tickets (first come, first serve on a limited basis) to the Momix Dance performance at The Craterian on Wednesday, November 1. (See Culture, page 24)
We are excited about the coming year, and hope that our readers will join us in building an even stronger and more diverse and inclusive community here in southern Oregon.