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Palm Coast Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 4 months ago

A culture of 'little gifts': 10 years of you, your neighbors, your neighborhood

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The Palm Coast Observer first published 10 years ago this week, in February 2010.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Ten years ago this week, not long after the first edition of the Palm Coast Observer was delivered throughout the city, I received the first letter to the editor. Since then I have received more than 2,000 more, but that one is still the most memorable.

In the letter, titled "Bump in the night," Trina Parham explained that she was working as a night auditor at a hotel when she heard a bump. She went out to discover the Observer, complete with its photo of the Palm Coast USTA Futures Tournament, a story about the Census count in Flagler County, and one with the headline, "Doggie doo banned in public." She was used to seeing USA Today at the hotel but never a Palm Coast newspaper. She was delighted that on every page, she saw news about her community.

I thought it would be fun to talk to Parham 10 years later as we celebrated our anniversary, so I tracked her down through a mutual friend. Since she wrote that first letter, she has defeated cancer and seen her daughter graduate from high school.

Parham said she still reads the newspaper, so I asked her why.

“It’s nice to see your neighbors in the newspaper,” she said. “When you see people doing well, you’re proud of them, happy for them. It’s a way to keep in touch, almost like you’re getting a little gift. Sometimes it’s your gift, but sometimes it’s other people’s gift, and you know they’re going to cut that article out. It’s a good feeling when you see someone you haven’t thought of in a while.”

She added, “It’s a way to keep the community close.”

I have experienced the same things Parham described when I have discovered people I know in the newspaper.

As an experiment to see how often I had received "little gifts," I picked a Your Neighbors page at random from 2019. I selected Nov. 14 and found that it did include someone I knew. The story was headlined "Comedy rising," and the main photo was of Cristy Barrick. Although I had edited the page and perhaps thought she looked familiar, it wasn't until I saw the page in print on my kitchen table that I realized that I had seen her, briefly, every week when she picked up her son from basketball practice — I had coached her son in the Upward Basketball league. I had no idea she was a comedian! But I felt happy for her, and I felt more connected to my community as a result.

That's one reason I love working at the Observer. I love to see the connections made, the successes, the common causes, the way we mourn together and celebrate together. If you're frustrated with our polarized political climate, these pages are often a sigh of relief.

And yet we also know that we have an important mission in the community as a government watchdog. That's why we have had a reporter present at almost every Palm Coast City Council and Flagler County Commission meeting in the past 10 years, no matter how boring the agenda seemed to be. We also have published election guides with information about dozens of candidates every two years.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

And we couldn’t have done it without our advertisers and our readers. Thank you.

Have you been in the Observer? Have you found people you know on these pages? Send your experiences to [email protected].

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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