The Champion News exists through both a website and a Facebook page.
CHAMPION – A winding road takes drivers beyond the black top, crunching onto gravel, and into the city limits of Champion.
Tucked in the Ozarks backwoods — a half-hour drive from the nearest “big cities” of Mountain Grove and Ava — little is left of the tiny Douglas County town nowadays.
The settlement is so small that it doesn’t even have a population listed on its sign, but it does have a general store, a church, a sense of community — and The Champion News, an online newspaper spearheaded by Wilda Moses, who keeps her neighbors tucked away in hills thereabouts kept informed about local goings-on.
“I love the community,” says Moses, who took over the news-gathering effort several years ago.
Originally, she simply penned Champion’s news “item” that appeared in local papers, such as the Douglas County Herald in Ava. Soon, however, she expanded her efforts to keep locals connected and informed in additional ways.
Today, the Champion News is its own standalone presence — consisting of a website and Facebook page — where she can post photos throughout the week, and ignore word-count limits imposed by newspapers.
When trail rides roll into town, she’s there with her camera. If the nearby Skyline School has an event, it’s likely she’ll be there to report — or promote it in advance, such as with a recent cake walk.
“I try to do everything I can to support the school,” says Moses.
She tells of the music jam in nearby Vanzant, which draws musicians on a weekly basis to play bluegrass tunes. In a recent post, she noted that they had a large turnout of musicians, and included a photo to prove the crowd.
From The Champion News; Nov. 19, 2018
There are tidbits gleaned from the local store, which serves as the heart of the community.
Considering the drive to other shopping options, locals frequently come by for gas and groceries (which may all be bought on credit). Chairs are situated near a stove inside the store so locals can visit, and in warmer months, there’s plenty of space on the porch.
Then there are annual events on the “Champion Mall,” a gravel patch between the store and the little church. One is a Spring Fling, which draws folks from their homes in the hills for lunch and music. Reunions of the long-closed Champion school also see those with long-held memories back in town.
Scenes from Champion
Those events and more often find their way into the Moses’ write-ups, as well as other day-to-day info, such as birthday parties, perhaps, or if something unexpected happens.
“(A local man) fell of his horse in the creek one time, so that was a big story,” says Moses.
There are some things, though, that even she doesn’t report. When she took over the column, she asked locals what they’d like to know — and one man, a local mail carrier and the town’s unofficial mayor, gave her a piece of advice.
“(He said), ‘Do not tell me who came to dinner. Do not tell me what people said in church,” says Moses.
So instead of overheard gossip, Moses focuses her reporting on topics that affect the community overall, and typically leaves politics off the tip of her pen.
“If you turn people off, you don’t ever get them back,” she says.
She does, however, share personal sentiments, and reminders about life-living. One topic, posted in a recent article near Thanksgiving, focused on gratitude:
Champions say, “Count Your Blessings.” We have not far to look to find many in much less agreeable circumstances. This week families and friends will gather for feasting and acknowledging good fortune. There will be news to share–some wonderful, some sad, and we will all gaze at each other, glad again for closeness with good people. It has been reported that two of the big fires in California were caused by downed power lines. It is our good fortune to live in an area where electricity is furnished by electrical co-operatives—customer owned utilities, well-run and maintained. We are also blessed not to have extraordinary dry conditions and terrible strong winds. There in California, many are dead. Many more are missing. Many lives have been altered forever. As we set about to give thanks for our blessings here, a hope for healing and recovery goes out to them from the Champion heart.
While Champions follow the news, it also has an international reader base. According to Moses, there is a similarly named publication that covers soccer and rugby in England. “So people are looking for the Champion News about their soccer and they stumble across us,” Moses told Ozarks Alive in 2016. “We’ve had some Facebook likes (that way).”
And even though she is not employed to keep her neighbors informed about things in their neighborhood, her work pays in other ways.
“Why do I enjoy it? Apart from just loving words and needing a deadline, the idea of community — fellowship whether or not we share the same attitudes, interests and goals — is important to me,” says Moses. “‘Belonging’ probably hits home for most of us.”
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