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What This Town Needs Is A Really Shitty Community Newspaper

Here in Park Hills, we get The Duluth News-Tribune, just like people do all over the greater Duluth area. But while that major daily does a perfectly adequate job keeping the people of Park Hills in touch with the goings-on of the city at large, it doesn't speak directly to our own local community. It doesn't take into account the uniqueness of Park Hills, focusing on the people, places, and things that make our neighborhood so special. Yes, it's clear as day to me: What Park Hills needs is a really shitty community newspaper.

When the first issue of The Park Hills Beacon rolls off the presses next week, the people of Park Hills will finally have a mind-numbingly insipid newspaper to bind them together. Each week, the Beacon will offer the good people of Park Hills grammatically shaky, factual-error-packed articles on traffic problems, local taxpayer issues, and proposed public works projects. There will also be reports on the few trivial incidents of crime that occur in our neighborhood, but above all, we wish to highlight positive aspects of our community, no matter how grindingly dull they may be. From the Park Hills Senior Center production of South Pacific to the Park Hills Elementary School spelling bee, no event is too small or mundane for the Beacon to cover.

And how will the Beacon determine which local issues will be covered? That's simple: If someone in town writes an article about something they saw or heard about, that article will run.

When someone picks up a copy of The Park Hills Beacon from the stack in the Save-Rite entryway, they will be doing so in the spirit of building a better, more tightly knit community. What better way to foster community spirit, for example, than by scanning our ludicrously unreliable events listings? Many events occurring in the area will be included: the Oak Barrel Brew Pub's "Brew Ha-Ha" comedy night, a rummage sale at St. Mary's Episcopal church, and a two-piece band playing at the Down Under Jazz Café. I wouldn't advise showing up at any of these, though: Nine times out of ten, the day, time, or place will be listed incorrectly. Sometimes all three! That auction at the Park Hills Convalescence Center at 8 p.m. on Dec. 24? It's actually at the Park Hills Rec Center on the 23rd. Oops, sorry.

So what can you look forward to in the first issue? Well, the Gallery Players theater is putting on a sub-amateur production of a play called Locomotive, and we're going to run a cover story with two large, blurry photos. The story will include a sidebar biography of the director, a woman we have all known for years, but her name will still be misspelled. Along the side of the page, we'll print ads for China Wok restaurant and Visions Eyewear Center, as well as a semi-pleading reminder to pick up The Park Hills Beacon every Thursday.

Speaking of restaurants, Beacon readers will enjoy puffy, unexacting reviews of the handful of restaurants that everyone already knows about here in town. And each new restaurant that opens will receive a glowing review, praised either as "absolutely delicious" or "an experience not to be missed." Fat Jack's Barbeque? Absolutely delicious! Pat's Supper Club? An experience not to be missed! I think you get the idea.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. There will also be reviews of the two or three movies someone on staff happens to see, stories about sales on outdoor furniture at garden shops if anyone on the staff should happen to be shopping for items for their garden, a "youth view" column by my daughter Kim, and trivia quizzes, soap-opera updates, and other such syndicated filler from King Features. Oh, and clip art. Plenty of clip art.

Who will write for the Beacon, you ask? Anyone! New stay-at-home moms whose careers are suddenly on hold. Kids from the local college looking to impress their journalism professors. Old cranks. The band teacher at the local high school. Undiscovered "writers." There is a place for everyone and everything in this paper: trite opinion columns, boring letters to the editor, painfully unfunny humor pieces, even poems. We will actually print poems!

Granted, we are not the first weekly in the Duluth area to offer an alternative, more localized viewpoint. Other papers have blazed a path: The South Duluth Journal Of Arts & Urban Affairs (December 1999 to September 2001), Minnesota Mother (September 2001 to February 2002), Natural Foods & Life (February 2002 to April 2002). Right here in Park Hills, the years have witnessed a host of long-forgotten newspapers: Out-N-About, What's Around Town?, Go! Park Hills, and The Park Hills Courier, which was this neighborhood's journal of record for several months in late 1991. The Park Hills Beacon, however, will be different—slightly different, though not actually any better.

Who knows what fate will hold for the Beacon? Perhaps we will last just a few months. Perhaps we will last a full year. Either way, we will have made our mark. By the time we fold, hundreds of community members will have absentmindedly skimmed our unprofessional, visually unappealing rag while waiting in line for the ATM. Some may even go so far as to carry an issue back to their car, only to find it crumpled and wet under the floor mat a few months later. But when our shitty newspaper inevitably goes under, it will have been worth it, for The Park Hills Beacon will have made a tiny difference in the lives of some of the people who worked on one of the issues.

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