In 1958, Asbury Methodist Village launched its first community newspaper. Called Chit Chat, the document was little more than a few typed pages of text put together by a staff of five each month.
It is unlikely the founders had any idea that their project would endure for 60 years, or that it would develop into a 20-page broadsheet newspaper with a staff of 40 people – and many more contributors. (Read the latest issue here.)
Published every other month, Village Life has a readership that most major metropolitan newspapers would envy and is one of the primary ways that residents learn and share their opinions about events, proposed changes and all the latest news of this 1,300-person campus.
Although the staff includes a few people who have worked in the publishing industry – including a former editor at Time Life and art director for U.S. News & World Report – most Village Life staffers hail from different professions. Teachers, social workers, engineers, musicians, doctors: the list of backgrounds is long. There’s even a retired rear admiral who contributes photographs.
Linda Aber, the community’s Director of Communications and Village Life Editor, prides herself on bringing out the writer in everyone and finding hidden talent, especially among new residents. (Linda also oversees the community's on-campus television station, AVTV.) If someone stops by her office with a piece of news, she encourages them to write it up. Residents who have drawing talent or are good with a joke are encouraged to write humorous columns or cartoons about campus life.
“So many people come in and say, ‘Oh I’m not a writer, but then they end up writing it after they share it with me.’ ”
Once people contribute, they tend to continue, maybe because of the camaraderie the group has developed through the years. “People say it’s the most fun meeting on campus,” Linda says. “Everybody shares news and then discussions grow from there. It ends up being a two-hour meeting every time.”
There are plenty of entertaining, light-hearted pieces in each issue, but Linda says the paper has a very serious side, too. When policy or other changes are underway for the campus, the newspaper is a place where administration, associates and residents can share their viewpoints and facts, Linda says.
One of the most popular– features of the newspaper is the New Resident section. Staff members reach out to new people on campus and interview them. “This is really helpful for new residents because they meet someone on campus right away and can learn about what we offer,” Linda says. “And after the issue comes out, everyone on campus recognizes them and makes sure to introduce themselves.
“Each issue of Village Life is evidence that Asbury attracts myriad people with fascinating backgrounds,” Linda continues. “It’s a yearbook for the community.”