Since 1990, The Chandlersville Courier has been bringing the local news to the people of Chandlersville, Ohio (pop. 85), as well as to former residents of the town. News about a woman who makes and sells hard rock candy, about a gray fox killed by a dog south of town, and about a local beekeeper who coaxed some troublesome bees from a farmer’s hay baler. These stories might not make it onto a 24-hour cable news network, but for the paper’s 325 subscribers and other readers, they matter just as much as national news.
"The town paper is something special," says Pam Nunley, the paper’s editor and publisher.
Nunley bought the Courier in 1997 for $1 from Rick Taylor, who published the newspaper by himself for seven years and needed help with the workload. Today, Taylor continues to be the paper’s primary reporter and historian, Nunley designs the monthly publication and her husband, Steve, sells advertising.
"Not many communities do this anymore," says Taylor, 57, a truck driver for a local communications company. "It just got in my blood."
For Nunley, who also is the town’s postmaster, taking over the paper seemed like the right thing to do, to keep alive something that had come to mean so much to Chandlersville. "I didn’t want to see the town lose its paper," she says. "I’m just trying to keep it together."
Since she purchased the Courier, Nunley has made a few changes with the paper’s format and fonts, but its spirit remains the same: it’s the voice of a community, the place to go to find out who’s been recently engaged and who has the best blackberry jam recipe in town. And despite its limited circulation, it remains a popular item among those in the know.
"A lot of our readers are older," Nunley says. "In the nursing homes they just about fight over it."
The paper, which Nunley designs on a computer, prints out and photocopies onto 11-by-17-inch paper on a small copier in her basement, sells for $1.50 an issue. She prints 425 copies each month, and in addition to mailing it to subscribers, she distributes it to four local businesses: O’Neal’s Diner in Chandlersville, and several businesses a few miles north of town, including Carlwick Stop-n-Shop, Zane’s Feed & Supply in Zanesville, and a gas station along Route 40 just east of Zanesville.
"The paper doesn’t make a lot of money," Nunley says. "It’s more like a community service."
Subscribers from as far away as Texas, New Mexico, Maryland and Georgia get their own copies by mail each month.
"It reminds them of home," Nunley says. "It gives them news from home."
When Nunley bought the Courier she had little experience as a writer or publisher, just a dream of becoming a storyteller. "When I was in elementary school, I always wanted to be a writer," she says. "I think I’ve learned a lot. I feel like it’s something I can give back to the community."
Nunley spends several evenings and weekends each month gathering material for the paper, printing it, and distributing it. She also enjoys researching and writing some of the articles, such as one about a Chandlersville gardener and the Chrisley bean, a pole bean that her family has grown for more than 300 years. Such articles give her—and readers of the Courier—an opportunity to get to know their friends and neighbors, and the sense that they belong to a vital community.
"People just love the paper," Nunley says.