Do you remember a story in the Missourian last month about Preston Martin, a Gentry Middle School student who won a nationwide art contest?
A Missourian journalist didn't write that story. Preston's mom did.
How about Jeff Hockman's memories of Sterling Wyatt, a Columbia man who died serving in Afghanistan? Or an account from three exceptionally eloquent high school students on what it feels like to be left out of adult conversations while still being expected to behave like an adult?
None of those pieces were written by journalists, though they're all stories of importance to people in our community.
This weekend, the section of the Missourian where readers tell their own stories has its first birthday. The section is called From Readers, and you can find your neighbors' stories on the bottom left of our home page, and quite often in the print edition as well.
The Missourian has published stories straight from the community since 2004, originally on a separate website called MyMissourian.com. In February 2012, we brought those stories onto our main website in a more prominent way.
Since then, 202 people have contributed to the section — some more than once.
We've learned from Aline Kultgen about her family's history of political activism going back to World War II and how that past informs her political involvement today.
We've read Dr. T. Gale Thompson's autobiographical look at his life of travel and teaching. (He wrote that, at 77, he still jogs every morning, so we should probably all pay attention to his life lessons.)
We've learned from Travis Zimpfer what the Mizzou Quidditch team (yes, that Harry Potter game) is all about. We've seen photos of Rock Bridge High School's production of Urinetown: The Musical, shared by school secretary Katrina Tapp. And our most prolific contributor, John Hall, has routinely shared his photographic glimpses into Columbia's wildlife and scenery, along with an account of his relationship with Stan Musial.
The section includes essays, photos, works of fiction and personal perspectives. It often includes stories that contributors were happy to be able to tell themselves, without having to persuade an editor that what they had to say was news.
As the section's editor, I'm grateful to people who take the time to help us cover their community.
I'm grateful to Vanessa Martin, Preston's mom, who wrote about her son's art contest for us last month. If we lived in a smaller town, we might have assigned a journalist to write about Preston's accomplishment. For a small community newspaper, that's front page news.
In this case, we hadn't heard anything about Preston's win. Vanessa told someone she worked with about it, and he suggested she send it to us herself.
Her contribution, together with all the rest, helps us better reflect what's important to the people of Columbia.
So, keep telling us what you think we should cover, and don't be surprised if you also hear back from me asking if you'd like to help cover it yourself.
Thanks for reading, and for contributing.
With story ideas: Please email news@ColumbiaMissourian.com, or call 882-5720.
Birthday presents: We're going to celebrate the anniversary of the From Readers section by giving presents to some of our contributors. For four days next week (Monday through Thursday), we'll randomly select one person who has contributed to the section as a birthday winner. In our stash of gifts is a pool of tickets to the Blue Note and Ragtag Cinema, along with a $20 Shakespeare's gift certificate. (And if you want to be considered in the drawing, send in your own story between now and Wednesday!)
Joy Mayer is the Missourian's director of community outreach. Reach her at 882-8182 or email@example.com.