ANNAWAN — If you heard a 12-year-old boy was in the newspaper business, you’d conjure up a picture of a boy jumping on his bicycle with a pouch of newspapers slung over his shoulder. Riding his bike from house to house, you’d expect the boy to toss a newspaper on the porch and then move on to the next subscriber.
But in Annawan, there’s a 12-year-old boy who has far surpassed the duties of a newspaper carrier. Instead, Keith Davis runs a one-man — or should we say a one-boy show. Keith owns and operates the town’s only newspaper, the Annawan Times. He said he started the newspaper when he was in fourth grade because there was a lack of coverage in the Annawan area.
“I started in 2007 because there wasn’t a newspaper here (in Annawan),” Keith said. “A lot of things would happen here that people would think was a big deal, but no other newspaper would cover it, especially stuff at school.”
Keith’s newspaper usually runs between six and eight pages and is filled with a variety of stories, features, photos, a classified section, weather, social and community pages, and more. Hitting the street every Thursday, the newspaper is available from Keith’s own newspaper box, situated near the front door of Annawan’s grocery store, L & J Hometown Markets. Though Keith’s newspaper is a free publication, there is a slot in the newspaper box for donations.
And don’t forget the Web site. You can access the Annawan Times online at www.annawantimes.com. The newspaper’s Web site includes additional features, including a personal column by Keith. Colleen Davis, Keith’s mother, said the design — both of the newspaper and the Web site — was exclusively created by Keith.
“The design is all his,” she said. “We think it’s wonderful. He certainly has a gift for writing stories, small books. He’s creative.”
Keith’s father, Roger, said it’s been fun to encourage their son in his journalistic endeavors.
“He’s the one who wanted to do it, and we just encouraged him. We did tie his scholastic performance into his ability to publish the newspaper,” Roger said, adding only one time were Keith’s grades in school a bit low which raised some questions about his publishing cycle. Fortunately, Keith brought his grades up, and the newspapers continued to roll off the press.
Before each week’s edition hits the stand, Keith has already begun working on the next one. He said he gets up very early and works about an hour before he goes to school every day. Now that summer vacation is here, he spends more time gathering news, writing stories, taking photos and putting it all together into a nicely-designed newspaper.
Keith said he receives his news tips and story ideas via e-mail, letters or phone calls. He has also developed a relationship with the town’s police officer and is able to call him for information. He recently got information about the flood in Geneseo from the local officer, which Keith then developed into a front page story. Some other breaking news stories that came from the 12-year-old journalist were ones about a boil order, a cat in Geneseo that was abused and a bomb threat at the school. His brother, Kyle, also helps Keith from time to time, especially on the newspaper’s puzzles. Like Keith is a whiz with words, his younger brother is a whiz with numbers and doesn’t mind pitching in to help.
Roger said he and his wife monitor Keith’s story selections, making sure the reporting is appropriate for a 12-year-old boy.
Keith’s newsroom is situated in the midst of his family’s dining room. The serious and quiet editor/reporter used to print his own newspapers on the family’s copier, but recently, Keith said he spoke to B&B Printing in Kewanee. The business kindly offered to print the Annawan Times at no charge for the next year. The Annawan Times has a circulation of about 50, most which are picked up at the local store, however, a few are subscriptions that are delivered through the mail.
One of Keith’s brightest moments this year was when he called the Illinois Press Association, inquiring about a membership to the well known organization that represents most newspapers in Illinois.
“I’ve e-mailed the kid a couple of times,” said Illinois Press Associations’ David Porter, director of communications and marketing. “I really like him. It may sound kind of funny, but he reminds me of myself when I was young — always real serious and interested in writing from a very young age ... He contacted us about membership in the association. We didn’t want to discourage him, and we didn’t want to worry about whether he met the criteria (for membership) or not. We just decided we were going to make him an honorary member of the Illinois Press Association.”
Porter said the association sent Keith a box of newspaper/press items including a press pass, an AP Stylebook, reporters notebooks, pens, press stickers, First Amendment posters and more.
“We get (newspaper) people all the time who say they can’t do a Web site. Any newspaper who says they can’t do a Web site, they should talk to this kid,” Porter continued. “This kid has been doing it long enough. I can really expect he could have a career out of this if he wants to.”
And that’s just what Keith has in mind ...
“I probably want to be an editor or a journalist,” he said thoughtfully. “I like to write, and I like to write about current stuff that’s happening.”
Watch future editions of the BCR for Keith’s opinion column.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.