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February 9, 1995

I saw a note in this newspaper the other day about Bertha Busse celebrating her 90th birthday by having pizza with her niece, Carolyn Chopp. Several years ago, Miss Busse was The Journal's news correspondent for District 76, a community southeast of town where she lived at the time. One of the things I most remember about Miss Busse is her extremely neat handwriting. She had many other good qualities but that one was important because our typesetters worked directly from the written pages sent in by correspondents. Once in a while it was tough to make out items submitted by those dedicated ladies who covered their communities for us, but Miss Busse's news was never like that. Well-written, legible and newsy. We were always happy to see her envelopes arrive.

Back in those days, perhaps 25 or more years ago, The Journal had quite a corps of community correspondents. All of them were women and most of them really seemed to enjoy their work. They must have, because their compensation had to be very modest. They were called "stringers," a term derived from the fact that at the end of each month they would send in clippings of the items they had written, all fastened end to end in a sort of string. Their payment was based on the number of inches included.

Community news consisted largely of personal items about people visiting or being visited, plus reports of club meetings, school literaries, and other matters of general interest. Once in a while there would be a fire, a death, or some other spot news to report by telephone, and the ladies did a good job of rounding up the information they knew we needed.

Their items appeared in the newspaper as space allowed. The columns were headed only by the name of the community, like "District 76," "Fairview," "Orlando," "Antelope Valley," "Bressie," "Billings" and "Three Sands," to mention just a few. I don't remember the names of all of the reporters, but a few that come to mind are Mrs. A. A Wieland in Red Rock, Mrs. A. L. Herde in Billings, Mrs. Alfred Graves in Antelope Valley, Mrs. O. H. Clark in Mulhall, Mrs. Orrin Condit in Bressie and Mrs. Amy Snyder in Lucien. Of course there were many others. Sorry I've left some out, and I apologize to all of them for that, but perhaps they understand that it's just due to the passage of time.

The writers also were given bylines under the heading, and in some cases their telephone numbers were listed for the benefit of their readers who had news to turn in.

Every year or so The Journal would conduct a day-long school for our community correspondents to help them with their news-gathering techniques, but usually most of them had been on the job longer than those in charge of instructing them. But, it was a good excuse for getting together for lunch and small talk, and from such affairs a sense of family developed. All of those correspondents were dependable ladies who derived some personal satisfaction from their work, more than the monetary benefits.

When rural communities became less distinct and fewer families lived on the farms in Noble county, there was less need for that kind of reporting. Few newspapers have community stringers any more, and even the metropolitan dailies have eliminated local correspondents in favor of their own regional news bureau. It seems a shame somehow, but I guess we have to view it as changing times.

The photo of Miss Busse accompanying the item about her 90th birthday shows her to be about the same neat lady that I remember from those days a few decades ago, and I'll bet she could still fill a column of personals and news briefs if she wanted to do it. Anyway, happy belated birthday, Miss Busse.