2017-09-07 / Views

Covering Leelanau grows complicated in 20 years

our opinion

Twenty years is far from an eternity, but nonetheless it’s a long time in the lives of one family.

It was on Sept. 1, 1997, that ye old editor — the guy behind typewriter or keyboard, take your pick — came to own the Leelanau Enterprise with my wife, Deb. My tenure with the Enterprise actually started in 1980, then was disrupted by a 14-year stay publishing a newspaper downstate.

We’ve all changed dramatically over the past two decades. At the risk of looking behind rather than forward, following are some thoughts on how covering the news in Leelanau has changed.

 The county is far busier than in 1997, and not just because we have more tourists. It’s fabric includes more layers, a change caused in part by a surge in civic organizations.

What a healthy thing to occur in a county.

Think about it. In 1997 there was no Leelanau League of Women Voters, no Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, no Leelanau Christian Neighbors. Northport did not have a concert venue. Organizations such as the Leelanau Conservancy, Friends of Sleeping Bear and Leelanau Community Cultural Center were shells of their present organizations.

Museums didn’t exist in Omena and Northport. County political parties were more like social clubs than activists in local government.

We can argue the good and bad about changes in the culture of Leelanau County, and certainly the benefits are many. But no one can deny that the definition of “Leelanau” is more complicated today than it was 20 years ago.

 Governments have grown layers as well. When we started, volunteers hopped out of bed to run to a fire station built by volunteers to drive an ambulance to an accident scene. Now we have 24-hour service and full-time employees and special millages to fund a relatively new name, “emergency services.”

Suttons Bay has a Downtown Development Authority that meets monthly. Northport has a sewer overseen largely by a utilities authority. Glen Arbor Township has a Parks and Recreation Commission that draws funds from a millage dedicated solely to its mission. The Grand Traverse Band, though still based in Peshawbestown, is more of a regional government with assets that include the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme and Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel in Whitewater Township.

At the Enterprise we continue to take seriously our mission of informing residents about what their public officials are doing. Just as covering civic organizations has grown in scope, so has keeping track of local governments.

 The county’s four public schools have always had distinct personalities, but there seems to be much more going on with each. Twenty years ago co-op sports teams were experiments yet to prove themselves. Funding was relatively straight forward. And school enrollment moved little from one year to the next. None of that is true today.

* * *

Perhaps ignorance was bliss back then, and we missed coverage that we didn’t know was needed. We don’t profess to be smarter today, but it seems there are far more stories out there than we can get our hands around.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the respectful relationship between the Enterprise and readers. Every year I tell our summer interns that they will not find a better place in America to practice community journalism.

Twenty years is but one-seventh of the lifetime of the Enterprise. Time will tell if the speed of change on the Peninsula will continue at such a hectic pace.

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This article sounds as if the

This article sounds as if the folks at the Enterprise are getting tired but I sincerly hope that is not the case. Reliable news requires energy and desire to serve the public. Please find the enery or resources to move forward.