Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Defense of Rural Post Offices: Stories And Media

Selection from a mural inside the Ukiah, CA post office, which closed January 6th

Today we have some updates on the valuable artistic and cultural work addressing the proposed closings of post offices, a move which will disproportionately affect rural communities.

Sylvia Ryerson of WMMT, with Mimi Pickering of the Appalshop Community Media Initiative, produced an excellent 20 minute radio piece that takes the time to sit down with postal workers and their communities - and to hear about the palpable human relatioships which orbit around, and are cultivated by, their town's post office. In many of these communities, these are the last meeting places left - and the last operating public space with a rooted connection to the history and culture:
As the U.S. Postal Service faces financial crisis, Central Appalachia and much of rural America may be hard hit by pending closures of post offices and mail processing centers.  To avoid bankruptcy, the Postal Service had announced plans to make reductions amounting to approximately $3 billion.  Such drastic cuts would result in slower first class delivery and close hundreds of mail facilities nationwide.  After public and Congressional outcry, USPS announced a moratorium on closures until May 15, 2012. In this expanded WMMT report customers at the Burdine and Premium post offices, two of the nine in Letcher County, KY on the closure list, describe what the service means to their communities while officials from the USPS and the American Postal Workers Union offer differing solutions to the Postal Service financial crisis.
More Than Mail: Rural Postal Service Threatened by Mimi Pickering
This radio piece is also an effort of Making Connections, a multi-media production of the Appalshop Community Media Institute with a mission to serve as a platform "for sharing news, stories, and information highlighting opportunities and challenges for building a healthy future for Appalachia's people and land." Their deep archives offer a diverse range of stories - from local tax reform to horticulture, agriculture to photography.

These media-makers are also utilizing PlaceStories, an interactive multimedia mapping site, to reach folks from across rural America and hear their thoughts on the importance of their local post offices. This project is linked to the extraordinary Save the Post Office, which offers a range of reports and cultural perspectives far too diverse to accurately summarize in this space - though folks should give a read to the photo-essay on the Alplaus (NY) post office available via the extraordinary Going Postal site. 

For much more information on the challenges facing rural post offices, we recommend (as always) visits to the archives of The Daily Yonder and The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issue's Rural Blog.