Coronavirus Storytelling Project, some back story

Thank you Inasmuch Foundation

Bison Blinds

For almost 1,300 stories I’ve written for Luther Register News, my editors have been you. And occasionally my husband who I might have to elbow to wake up when I’m late night writing by the light of my laptop screen. When a story is little hard-hitting or might ruffle feathers, I need his eyes for content, and for typos. He always catches a few of those. Thank you Stan. A lot of my words have been released to the wild, unchecked, as a one-person news operation. Scary but it is what it is.

When I was selected to take part in the Coronavirus Storytelling Project, made possible by the beautiful Inasmuch Foundation and many kind friends of journalism, it marked a moment in The Luther Register’s life that my words would live somewhere else, on someone else’s website with a wider audience, and that’s a little intimidating. “The Coronavirus Storytelling Project provides a unique opportunity to both increase coverage of the COVID-19 crisis, and directly support individuals furloughed or laid-off,” said Robert J. Ross, chairman and CEO of Inasmuch Foundation. 

The stories and multimedia pieces wil be archived for future historical perspectives on the pandemic in Oklahoma.

“These are challenging times for journalists in Oklahoma and across the nation. The pandemic has heightened the financial issues faced by their news organizations,” said Joe Hight, director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and board chairman of Oklahoma Watch. “After submitting the proposal to Tyler Tokarczyk of Inasmuch Foundation, I was amazed at how he worked with me and then put so much extra work into it. The foundation, hall of fame and Oklahoma Watch feel it is important to share these journalists’ stories and to help them.”

I was honored and excited about what story I could tell. It took about two seconds to decide on the theme, “Luther is too small to fail.” But it took days and many agonizing hours to write the story that would be shared with a different audience, on another platform. In addition, I would be edited by a professional. (No offense to all of you dear readers and dear husband).

The professional editor is Mike Sherman. We have never met but he is big-time. Returning to Oklahoma from a stint at the Tampa Bay Times, Sherman was named just this week as the new Executive Editor at Oklahoma Watch.

“I love this story. Charming as all get-out. I’m on the way to Luther for a lunch with you and SLackmeyer the first chance I get,” Sherman wrote in an email.

Not so bad having an editor.

Sherman’s reference to SLackmeyer is to my friend Steve Lackmeyer who I referenced in my Coronavirus Storytelling Project story that published on Oklahoma watch’s website. Lackmeyer, veteran and venerable reporter from The Oklahoman has met me in Luther a couple of times; once when The Luther Register was just a dream, and later for a meetup with Scott Mitchell from Mitchell Talks who incidentally has had his own Covid-19 story to tell, with daily broadcasts on FBLive.

Steve’s story for the project posted today. Please read it and share it.

Steve Lackmeyer’s story at Oklahoma Watch.

Thank you to Joe Hight, chairman, Oklahoma Watch, for your leadership in this project and your leadership for journalists in our state. I love the twist that we became personally acquainted not because of the news business, but because of great food at Farmstead Cafe where I work part-time. I went out to the google file cabinet to find this from your January 2019 column, “Oklahoma Joe: Roadside oddities, a whiff of clean air and 3 trips to Luther” in The Journal Record.

The first (trip to Luther) was for the Luther Pecan Festival just before Thanksgiving. Nan and I made one of those last-minute decisions and ended up enjoying the festival’s small-town friendliness. The festival was first kicked off in 2017 by “a bunch of shop owners, neighbors and “Luther cheerleaders’ who wanted to put our town on the map,” according to the Luther Register. We ate lunch at DJ’s Barbecue before venturing into the festival and downtown. The longest lines at booths were for the pecans and Junebug’s Fresh Fried Pork Skins.

I also bought a Luther Register coffee cup. I’ve heard and admired the online news site, owned by Dawn Shelton, that offers “news for our town.” I think news organizations like the Register are needed for communities to thrive and survive.

We then decided to go a second time. Nan, my oldest daughter, Elena, and I went there for breakfast in early January. We drove to Main Street past the hearse for the town’s funeral home and saw a quaint and interesting downtown. Our stop was the 116 Farmstead Market and Table. The excellent farm-to-table restaurant has a long common table where you can eat and hear Luther residents chatter with the owners and waitstaff. The restaurant also features artwork by local artists, including those who work there.

We then visited the nearby Rustic Farm that was in the former Engels Dry Goods Store and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It sells antiques, gifts, collectibles and its famous Habanero Chunk Pickles. According to its Facebook page, Rustic offers “a hometown atmosphere. Where we treat everyone like family.” And, after leaving a cellphone there, we found the store is as friendly as its Facebook page states.

I’ve told Nan we need to return soon.

Oklahoma Joe: Roadside oddities, a whiff of clean air and 3 trips to Luther, by Joe Hight.

Naturally, Hight and Sherman are invited to head out on 66 to Luther any time. There’s plenty to eat and things to see and do, whether we are masked and socially distant, or in the future, sometime, when our pandemic is behind us.

Thank you, as always, for reading, and believing in community news and storytelling. Find out how to support The Luther Register here.

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