Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Without NewPage mill, Kimberly's identity becomes a question mark

This was a Sunday story I worked with reporter Ed Lowe on for roughly a week. In a way it was successful, in a way it didn't turn out how we thought it would.

The storyline: Paper mills were once (and to an extent still are) the lifeblood of northern Wisconsin. Kimberly's mill was recently shut-down by its corporate owner, NewPage. It is just about the only industry in the village and employs over 400 people... the village's population is only about 6,000. The economic impacts of the shutdown, and the subsequent unemployment of a large sector of the population have the potential to be devastating. Think GM in Flint, Mich.

But this part of the story was a challenge because the concept of a community falling-apart isn't tangible or visible until it actually happens. The only things you can really show are mood, and things in the community that are at risk of being lost.

During a nearby candlelight vigil organized by the local union, four mill employees went on break. Somebody carried candles over to them across the street. For 10 minutes, the workers stood in distant solidarity with the community under the glow of the NewPage mill's sign.

There's an timeless innocence to Kimberly. It's downtown pharmacy still has a fully-operating soda fountain. Here, Noah Brown, 8, wipes his face after finishing his milkshake while Melanie Watkins, 10, center, and friend Katelyn Haen, 10, work on their sundaes on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 27, 2008. All three are from Kimberly. Watkins said, "I come here when I get money."

There are other photos from the story... but these two probably fit the most with what we were trying to achieve.
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