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“How could I sit at my desk while Ukrainian children are dying? » : a journalist from a small town goes to war | Ukraine

By on June 5, 2022 0

Lee Zion is preparing to travel to Ukraine this summer.

“I’ve been successful in all my moves. I’ve started storing personal property, donating other things. I’ve adopted two cats,” he said. to learn the language. I can at least communicate some basic needs. Like ‘I want a cookie,'” he said.

For four years, Zion worked seven days a week at a small-town Minnesota newspaper. But now, disgusted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he plans to fly to Europe and help the Ukrainians in any way he can.

But first, he must find a new boss for the Lafayette Nicollet Ledger.

It’s not an easy role for whoever takes it: Zion works more than 80 hours a week, he told the Guardian, as “owner, editor, journalist, photographer, designer and person who brings all the garbage to the recycling centre”. .

Zion tried to sell the newspaper without much success, so he tries another route: giving it away.

“You can own a weekly newspaper – FREE,” he wrote in an ad, saying he wanted to leave the newspaper “in good hands.” Although the newspaper is “financially solvent”, Zion wrote, “the next owner must show that he or she has the knowledge, experience and willingness to take on the challenge”.

Robert Lawson, 37, a local resident and former editor of another newspaper in the area, responded. “It was just perfect,” he said of the opportunity.

Lawson plans to keep the newspaper on its current trajectory, focusing on local news — recent titles cover Memorial Day events and graduation ceremonies, with church schedules and a community calendar — while expanding its presence in line. “My big plans are basically: see what we can do to improve content and what we can do to improve community engagement,” he told the Guardian.

Zion, 54, has worked in the newspaper industry for decades, starting as a reporter and working his way up to editor and now owner. The Brooklyn native was drawn to the Ledger after seeing an ad looking for a new owner for the Minnesota outlet.

“I was looking for a new job because I had been horribly mistreated at the old newspaper where I worked,” he said. “I jumped at the chance.” He bought it for $35,000 in 2018; now it repeats the process on the other side.

One element of his predecessor’s work that Lawson cannot pursue is his editorials, which at times got him in hot water. In 2019, Zion wrote an article about declining fertility rates in which he suggested a remedy: women could “have sex with me.” He also suggested increasing immigration, noting that it might bother some people because it could “make America less white”, referring to Donald Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan.

“I did exactly what Jonathan Swift did. I took an issue that had racial overtones and was related to a birth. That is, a modest proposal,” he said, referencing the 18th century satirical essay suggesting poor Irish people sell their children to the rich for food.”And then I came up with a common sense solution, just like Jonathan Swift did.”

But many in the community were not amused. “There was a huge outcry. Some people really, really loved this piece. And others hated it. I hated it with a passion,” Zion said. Subscriptions have been canceled and advertisements removed. “We’re asking Mr. Zion to make Lafayette and surrounding communities less scary by packing up your wares and setting up shop somewhere else,” one reader posted on Facebook, as reported by Southern Minnesota News.

“One of them said, I’ll never advertise in this newspaper as long as Lee Zion is in charge,” Zion said. “Now that I’m done, a new person can probably win this guy back.”

Another controversy arose after officials used a nearby Courtland City Council meeting to criticize a flood of maintenance-related public complaints, Zion said. The post-meeting headline: “Cortland residents, you complain too much. And by the way, your water rates are going up.

The mayor “told me he would never advertise in the newspaper again,” Zion said. “But eventually he forgave me.”

As Lawson prepares to take over, Zion investigates various organizations that might help him find a way to be useful, militarily or otherwise, in Ukraine. “How could I sit comfortably at my desk while Ukrainian children are dying? He asked. “If they want me as a teacher, I will be a teacher. If they want me to drive a truck and deliver supplies, I deliver supplies. If they need help with the cleanup efforts in Bucha and other towns, I will help with the cleanup,” he said.

He will stay, he says, “as long as they have me.” And who knows? There is a Jewish community in Ukraine. I could find a home in the Jewish community.

He hopes his plans will inspire others to take similar action.

“Although this is an important story, I’m not the most important part of the story,” Zion said. His goal in speaking is “that people reading this article are convinced of this. And they were like, hey, if this guy can go to Ukraine, why can’t I?

As for Zion himself, “hopefully I’ll be on a plane by July 15.”