Even with many workplaces now requiring the vaccine, more than a quarter of Americans remain vaccine-hesitant. Those numbers of vaccine-hesitant people are much higher in rural areas. Some in rural communities say it may come down to the messenger.
Al Gibson has been at his Kentucky paper long enough to remember the days it went for a nickel, and then, when it went for a dime. Today? Fifty cents.
“We’re in the office of Clinton County News, which was formed in 1949 by my mother and father,” Al said. “I grew up in this building. I don’t smell the ink like everyone else when I walk in.”
Today, he is the editor and publisher. His wife, Janie, is office manager and his son, Brett, is a reporter and photographer. Gary Guffey is the newsroom veteran of 41 years, and Mae is the news dog and resident guardian of the couch.
“We call ourselves the news family,” Al said.
What they cover is courts, sports at the high school, farm life. Most of all, what makes it into these pages is the stories of Clinton County’s people.
“We love our home,” said Al.
“There are always great people here,” Janie added.
“About the best people you could find,” Gary said.
“They’ll throw up a hand if they see you in town,” said Brett.
The staff said there’s so much to love here, from the barbershop with a cardboard cutout of Mr. T in the window to the daily dessert list down at Ms. Deb’s. In knowing Clinton County so well for so many years, they also know what’s happening here in the time of COVID. Some rural areas across the country have much lower vaccination rates.
“There seems to be a hesitancy in rural America,” said Al.
In fact, only about 41% of rural America has gotten shots. Clinton County has just under 34% of its people fully vaccinated.
“It infuriates me because we’re better than that,” said Janie.
“People in the area do not like the word ‘mandate’,” said Gary.
“People feel like the government is forcing them to do it,” said Brett.
Clinton County News wondered, as trusted voices in the community, is there something they can do? Turns out, there is.
With a large picture of the staff printed in the paper, a headline read ‘The Entire Staff At Your Clinton County News is 100% Vaccinated. Come on Clinton County. Get the shot.’
“It’s more of a do as I do, not a do as I say,” said Al.
“Maybe not push people into doing it but help change their mind,” said Gary.
Was this a risky move? The Clinton County News said they haven’t had any community pushback, and they have reason to encourage vaccination. A year ago, Brett was diagnosed with COVID-19. Complications from it led to a heart attack followed by open-heart surgery.
“It was horrible,” said Janie. “We didn’t think we were going to get to keep him. For me, his mom, the thought of losing him was more than I could do.”
“It’s a miracle I’m talkin’ here today,” said Brett.
In that time of Brett’s recovery, those people covered by Clinton County News took collections, did weeks of meal trains, did everything to prove they are people of quality.
“It just lifts you up to know other people have that much in their heart for you,” said Janie.
As such, a newsroom that’s been here so long now wants to protect the people whose stories are told in ink. They hope this helps do just that.
“Let’s try to put this pandemic behind us as much as we can,” said Al.
“Get a shot. Please get a shot,” said Janie.