DUDENVILLE, Mo. – In a time when small towns are seeing their newspapers close, a group of volunteers have stepped up to keep storytelling alive in their rural area.
Unless you live in the quiet countryside near southwestern Dade County, you’ve likely never heard of Dudenville.
“As I like to say, it is the middle of nowhere but it’s the middle of everywhere,” stated James McNary of Ozark Prairie Independent Media. “That is how so many towns in this part of the world are going, but they don’t really have to.”
Judging by the silence, it seems there’s not a lot happening in these parts south of Lockwood and Golden City where Dade, Barton, Lawrence, and Jasper Counties meet. But, for the folks who live here, there’s plenty to talk about and fill the pages of the Dudenville Gazette.
McNary explained, “I tell the folks over in Dudenville which is where I grew up, that if a little kid kicks over an anthill, let me know because chances are that’s big news there.”
“I think there is always something going on,” said Rachel Schnelle, a volunteer reporter with the paper. “There is always some story that needs to be told.”
This revived newspaper is coming at a time when small-town publications like these have consolidated or closed their doors, unable to make a profit. So, how does this group think they can make a go of it? Going in, they know there’s not a lot of money to be made- and run with that in mind.
The office and operations, tucked away in the old opera house in nearby Greenfield, are funded by subscriptions and other donations. Everyone you see here is a volunteer. Each week they hit the streets and dirt roads to track down the stories that are big in these small communities.
Schnelle said, “Small-town stories are the ones that are often the most important but often reported on the least.” She added, “It is cool to give back to a community that I really wanted to be a journalist.”
“I just like writing stuff. I call myself the redneck writer because my pronunciation and my wording is not going to be perfect…it’s pretty redneck,” Volunteer correspondent Carmen Baker laughed.
“People don’t have the internet, they can get a hold of the paper and read the paper and see what’s going on inside of our community,” Dave Engroff, Greenfield’s mayor, explained. He said his favorite part of reading the paper is “just seeing the people that I know in there and listening to their stories and looking at other communities and seeing what’s going on in their communities- something we can use in your community—I enjoy looking at it.”
They stay busy typing and printing away, hoping this new way of doing things will be the key to keeping little outlets like this alive.
“Newspapers survived the telegraph, they survived radio, they survived television…they will adapt, there will always be a for it,” McNary said.
“I think if we lose our newspaper, we have lost something very valuable. We need the newspaper,” Baker said.
The Dudenville Gazette covers portions of Dade, Barton, Lawrence, and Jasper Counties. The group has expanded and now operates the Pierce City Leader-Journal. You can find both publications on the Ozark Prairie Independent Media website.