Monday night, 68 World War II veterans returned home from a long and memorable day trip to Washington, according to komu.com.
The following veterans have been involved in the Honor Flight program:
Howard Kerstetter, Jr.
Bill McAnany, Jr.
Sgt. George Pitts
“A hero’s welcome,” the headline in the Columbia Daily Tribune declared.
And in the Missourian?
Nary a word.
The Central Missouri Honor Flight No. 9 took wing without coverage from your newspaper.
An inquiring Missourian reporter the next day asked this most reasonable question: Why not?
I understand the decision by Missourian editors.
I don’t completely agree with it.
The honor flights allow groups of World War II vets to travel, for free, to see the national memorial built in their honor.
They leave their homes in the pre-dawn hours, fly from St. Louis to Baltimore-Washington International, and clamber into a tour bus to visit the memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and other sites.
Along the way, random strangers smile, wave, cheer and occasionally shake hands. The Southwest Airlines pilot likely makes a special announcement in-flight.
In the last hours of a very long day, the veterans receive one last hurrah from friends, family and appreciative local residents.
It’s a special day.
It’s a great day for members of “the greatest generation” (an apt phrase and title of a book by Tom Brokaw).
It’s also a day to remember for anyone who comes in contact with this bunch of vets. Their excitement is infectious; their sacrifice is humbling.
It’s also a great story for a news organization.
So back to that reporter’s question.
At the morning Missourian critique session, the answers given were pretty simple:
- It’s the same story that was done last year.
- It’s a story that could be done last month or next.
The story isn’t literally the same. Last year’s vets aren’t this year’s vets.
But the trajectory of the story line is the same. The reactions and emotions are similar. The trip itinerary varies only in logistics.
Compare this week’s stories on komu.com and the Tribune to the narrative from Missourian reporter Christa Rooks a year ago. Rooks’ is perhaps more complete because she actually traveled with the group. But the same themes are there.
There was another Central Missouri Honor Flight in April. One is planned for June, according to the organization’s website.
So was this week's honor flight a story for the Missourian? Probably not.
Is it a significant event in the lives of some people in mid-Missouri?
The Missourian needs to find a way to acknowledge the flights, even when it doesn’t do full stories.
It needs to make it easy for you to find past news features. (Do each and every one of you remember that Rooks piece from a year ago? Thought not.)
It needs to provide basic information about the organization and function of the Central Missouri Honor Flight.
The press has grappled with how to cover recurring events, for probably as long as there has been a press.
The solutions will remain unsatisfying so long as it reports events in the same ways and by the same "is it new?" definition.