“Ward Paper Woes,” Ensign, Apr. 1976, 38
“I just had the strangest dream,” I told my husband as he pulled a shirt from the closet. “I dreamed the bishop was asking me to do the ward paper.”
“Maybe he’s going to,” he answered.
“I don’t think this ward believes in ward newspapers,” I tried to convince myself. “At least, I haven’t seen one since the boundaries were changed a year ago.” I dismissed the dream as nonsense.
But two weeks later as I was sitting in the bishop’s office, the dream came back to me with a jolt. “We’d like to call you as director of the ward newspaper,” he said.
Incredulous, I began, “Bishop, you’re not going to believe this …” He believed it.
And that’s how I became reporter, typesetter, publisher, and editor of the monthly “Third Ward News.” (Original, huh?) Since that call, fast Sunday seems to come around every two weeks.
The first month all went well. But when the “News” was completed the next month without mishap, I began to grow uneasy—you know, like the calm before the storm. My fears were justified. The paper sat unnoticed and forgotten in the library, since the deacons who are supposed to double as paper boys made their fast offering rounds without it.
It seems as though some universal law has decreed that every day is April Fools Day for the ward newspaper editor. The third month, my overworked typewriter refused to print a straightforward e ; parts of it kept disappearing until at last it faded into oblivion and we decided to get the thing fixed. Two months and several borrowed typewriters later, we got it back. I was in the height of my glory when I was finally able to sit down in our den and do the entire paper on one machine!
But it turned out to be my typewriter’s final ward paper. The strain of my two-fingered typing over the years had been too much for it: The n gave out. Have you ever tried to write a sentence without an n? I most i sta ces it ca ’t be do e. So it was back to the ward clerk’s office for me, to wrestle with a typewriter that seemed to have several keys in the wrong place. But the paper got out.
The paper is supposed to contain news of things coming up during the new month, with every organization submitting information a week before fast Sunday. The amount of material actually turned in makes one wonder what goes on during the innumerable planning meetings regularly held. If I were to print only what has been given me, it would all fit in a four-inch square. Picture it—a mostly blank sheet with only two items: at the top, “Third Ward News,” and smack in the center, the sole item received for publication—“Cucumbers at a good price.” But I’ve never had the courage to do that.
So the paper consists largely of information about ward members—travels, new grandchildren, tonsillectomies, school or community honors, unusual jobs, engagements, and the like. There are no “official” sources, but after a day in Relief Society I generally go home and add another whole page of “people” news.
There are certain hazards inherent in this type of reporting. The paper once told of a couple’s new grandchild. What I didn’t know was that the father of the new baby was a son of another ward member. The proud grandma was insulted that she hadn’t been mentioned and told me so. Believe me, she was mentioned in the next issue!
The ward paper also carries ads, free of charge, and they apparently get results! Once a sister asked me to put in an ad for the return of a cooler they’d loaned to someone, since they couldn’t remember who’d borrowed it and hadn’t seen it in months. The paper was delivered immediately after priesthood meeting. As the woman stepped out of her door to go to Sunday School a half hour later, there was the cooler on the porch! To this day, she has no idea who brought it back.
Almost invariably, family, Church, and educational pressures descend on me the week I’m supposed to be doing the ward paper. I even considered letting it go one month, but promptly realized that if I didn’t do it, everyone would know.
Our ward news will never win any literary awards, but it’s read. And really, it’s suddenly all worth it when an inactive ward member stops me on a downtown sidewalk and says, “You sure put out a great paper. I don’t miss a word.”