Ne­vis na­tive con­tin­ues local news ef­fort

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By M. English For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

CON­SHOHOCKEN » Are tra­di­tional news­pa­pers a dy­ing breed?

Not as Teresa Par­ris sees it.

Granted, the Con­shohocken wo­man’s yearand-a-half-old Con­shy Courier hasn’t ex­actly taken the area’s me­dia scene by storm. In fact, it’s barely known within its own cov­er­age area. But that hasn’t stopped the af­fa­ble Par­ris even if her ef­forts bring to mind iconic strivers like Sisy­phus or Don Quixote. And although she’s ad­mit­tedly still learn­ing the ropes — how to cre­ate con­tent and at­tract ad­ver­tis­ing for her monthly print and on­line news en­try — Par­ris is de­ter­mined to keep her con­tri­bu­tion to local jour­nal­ism afloat.

“I still see print as very im­por­tant, and my main fo­cus with print is get­ting the news to peo­ple who aren’t on­line but want to know what’s go­ing on in the com­mu­nity,” she ex­plains.

She traces that per­spec­tive to her child­hood on the Caribbean is­land of Ne­vis. Her fam­ily couldn’t af­ford news­pa­pers, but a kindly neigh­bor saved his so she could read them.

“I’ve al­ways loved read­ing the news­pa­per … or, be­fore I could read, just look­ing at the pho­tos in the pa­per,” Par­ris says.

She started her in­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ing ca­reer by net­work­ing with Con­shohocken movers and shak­ers, re­search­ing archived is­sues of the de­funct Con­shohocken Recorder, ac­cept­ing vol­un­teer ed­i­to­rial help “when­ever it was of­fered” and self-fi­nanc­ing on “a very ex­tended shoe­string.” She ini­tially mailed the Con­shy Courier to any­one with a 19428 zip­code and wel­comed feed­back even when the lat­ter was laced with sar­casm (for ex­am­ple, the is­sue one re­cip­i­ent re­turned with mul­ti­ple “corrections” and sug­ges­tions for “im­prove­ment”).

“She of­fered to help me, which I ac­cepted, but I haven’t heard from her since,” she ob­serves dryly.

At 49, Par­ris is no stranger to buck­ing the odds.

As a kid in Ne­vis — also the birth­place of Amer­i­can found­ing father Alexan­der Hamil­ton, she notes — her days were brack­eted by two-mile walks be­tween home and school (with a sec­ond trek to and from for lunch), pre­ceded by trips to a com­mu­nal tap to wash up and fill drums with wa­ter for the house­hold’s needs.

“We didn’t have run­ning wa­ter at home, so we had to go to the neigh­bor­hood tap, and if, for some rea­son, there wasn’t wa­ter there, we walked to an­other one that was far­ther away … be­fore we left for school,” Par­ris says. “It was a far dif­fer­ent life from the one my daugh­ter [12-year-old Kaitlin] has, but it was just some­thing we all did.”

Her child­hood mem­o­ries also in­clude a pas­sion for books — es­pe­cially Nancy Drew mys­ter­ies and Archie comics — quiet read­ing ses­sions un­der her vol­canic West In­dian home’s tamarind trees and not-so-quiet games with sib­lings, half­si­b­lings and other kids from Charlestown, Ne­vis’ cap­i­tal.

“We all played in an area called Low Street,” Par­ris says. “It was where the un­der­priv­i­leged kids — I guess you’d call us — hung out … our ‘play­ground.’ But we had fun. We were al­ways out­side. We didn’t go home un­til the street lights went on.”

She was a “good stu­dent,” and her love for read­ing and writ­ing was en­cour­aged by an un­cle — Ira Jef­fers — who taught English lit­er­a­ture at an area sec­ondary Con­shohocken-ply­mouth-whitemarsh Ro­tary mem­bers Jackie Rocco and Teresa Par­ris at­tend 2016’s Ro­tary Beer Fest fundraiser. school and was nick­named “Teacher Jef­fers.” Dur­ing her own high school years, Par­ris won a full schol­ar­ship to Bar­ba­dos Com­mu­nity Col­lege. She and her un­cle kept in touch via let­ters, and “he con­tin­ued to help me im­prove my writ­ing.”

In col­lege, Par­ris ma­jored in tourism but never imag­ined how far her per­sonal trav­els would take her.

“When I was younger, I ac­tu­ally wanted to be a de­tec­tive — yes, maybe be­cause of the Nancy Drew books — but the is­land’s main [in­dus­try] is tourism and off-shore bank­ing, so tourism seemed like a more prac­ti­cal pro­fes­sion,” she says. “My dad didn’t fin­ish high school, but he was an en­tre­pre­neur. He had a lit­tle su­per­mar­ket where I worked while I was in school, and, later, he built a small ho­tel. Then, my sis­ter started a restau­rant, and my brother cur­rently has a restau­rant on the beach … in Ne­vis.”

An­other brother ar­ranged for her to im­mi­grate to the U.S. af­ter col­lege, and she still gets emo­tional when she de­scribes his “gen­eros­ity.”

“Steven was liv­ing in [New Eng­land] at the time,” she says. “I was about 21, just out of col­lege … and didn’t have much, but he bought my ticket here and win­ter clothes and was so kind to me. He still lives in New Eng­land, but he has been by my side ever since. Com­ing here from Ne­vis was scary. Yes. But I think I just wanted some­thing more out of life.”

Dur­ing her ear­li­est years in the U.S., Par­ris jug­gled a va­ri­ety of part-time jobs and added an ac­count­ing de­gree to her ré­sumé. A job trans­fer by Mar­riott, one of her for­mer em­ploy­ers, brought her to Con­shohocken about five years ago. Par­ris sub­se­quently be­gan her own mo­bile no­tary and in­come tax prep service and was sworn in as a Pennsylvania con­sta­ble in Jan­uary 2016. In her spare time, she’s an ac­tive mem­ber of Con­shohocken Ply­mouth Whitemarsh Ro­tary Club.

Naysay­ers aside, Par­ris is op­ti­mistic about Con­shy Courier’s prospects. The orig­i­nal eight-page print ver­sion has roughly quadru­pled. It’s no longer mailed to ev­ery ad­dress with a 19428 zip code but is avail­able free at sev­eral bor­ough venues and on­line at con­shy­courier.com. Ac­cord­ing to Par­ris, its so­cial me­dia pres­ence on Face­book and Twit­ter is grow­ing. She launched a sim­i­lar “al­ter­na­tive to es­tab­lished me­dia” — The Norristown Local — for mail re­cip­i­ents with 19401 and 19403 zip codes this sum­mer.

“The way I look at it, there’s plenty of bad news out there,” Par­ris says. “I want peo­ple to hear about the good news. Ev­ery­body has a story. The cross­ing guard at your child’s school, the older wo­man down the street. Local stu­dents. Ev­ery­body. No, it hasn’t been easy do­ing this. But it’s my way of giv­ing back to a com­mu­nity that’s been very good to me.

“I learned a long time ago that the worst thing that can hap­pen when you try some­thing new is that you get a lot of no’s, and I’ve heard many no’s in my life­time. But no can mean many things — not now, not yet, not ready. Yes, it’s been rough at times … not re­ally hav­ing a work­ing bud­get. That’s hard. But when peo­ple of­fer help, I ac­cept. And I also ac­cept that some­thing like this takes time to be­come suc­cess­ful.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — TERESA PAR­RIS

Teresa Par­ris ed­its an edi­tion of the Con­shy Courier.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — TERESA PAR­RIS

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — TERESA PAR­RIS

Teresa Par­ris is pictued as a teenager on the is­land of Ne­vis.

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