Ammon Stolzfus, 37, of Quarryville, Pa., picks up the latest issue of Cruise Letter, a newsletter made ‘By Cruisers For Cruisers,’ outside the Markets at Shrewsbury in southern York County. In this 2007 York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News file photo, Stolzfus was working at the outside booth for Penn Dutch Kitchen during Friday Cruise Nights. When asked if he ever checks out the cars himself, he told the newspaper there’s never any time. Background posts: Who was Norman Wood (of bridge fame)?, Horse, buggy, one-room school make county comeback, Amish: ‘We are making a commitment to forgive’
The Amish, commonly associated with the east bank of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, are seen more and more in southeastern York County. They also can be seen at the Markets at Shrewsbury, a house of vendors along the Susquehanna Trail in Hametown, Shrewsbury Township.
The so-called Pennsylvania Dutch church people – German Reformed and Lutherans - mostly pioneered in York County. The Amish, different from the church people in their practice of baptizing adults among other doctrinal distinctions, settled among similar believers in Lancaster County.
So, many York countians, even Pennsylvania Dutchmen, are not that familiar with the Amish… .
But probably even those who are Amish experts would have been intrigued with a recent Associated Press story that told about an Amish newspaper with a worldwide circulation of 20,000.
That newspaper, The Budget, published out of Sugarcreek, Ohio, flirted with Web delivery three years ago, but stuck with newsprint and a slimmed-down Web site.
Here’s how the AP story started:
The writers’ grievances came in the form of angry letters, carried over bumpy rural roads to the newspaper office serving the Amish community. ¶
In a world where news still travels at a mail carrier’s pace, the farmers, preachers and mechanics responsible for filling The Budget threatened to go on strike if the 119-year-old Amish weekly went ahead with its plan to go online. ¶
The writers, known as scribes, feared their plainspoken dispatches would become fodder for entertainment in the “English,” or non-Amish, world. The editors hastily rescinded the plan shortly after proposing it in 2006, and today, only local news briefs appear on The Budget’s bare-bones Web site. ¶
“My gosh, they spoke in volume,” said Keith Rathbun, publisher of The Budget, a newspaper mailed to nearly 20,000 subscribers across the U.S. and Canada. “I’d be a fool to not pay attention to it.” ¶
Far from impeding the newspaper’s success, shunning the Internet actually solidified its steadfast fan base… .
The story tells a bit about the newspaper:
The Budget’s owners – a local, non-Amish family who own a chain of dry goods stores that cater to the Amish – wanted to bring in someone with a fresh perspective and a background in journalism, Rathbun explains. He later bought a 10 percent stake in the newspaper. ¶
Rathbun grins proudly as he boasts about The Budget’s success, but grows nervous when the conversation turns to his readers. ¶
“I need to be really careful about this,” he says. “So I don’t betray a confidence with them.” ¶
Rathbun declined to release The Budget’s annual profits but admitted that he worries about the future of the printing industry. Newsprint is expensive, and he has refused to raise advertising rates for the past three years. ¶
Unlike most of its counterparts, The Budget has a staff that is not Amish (The unpaid scribes, on the other hand, are typically Amish). As such, the self-described newspaper of “good news” takes pains not to offend its pious readers, who are quick to revolt at any whiff of impropriety in its pages. ¶
The newspaper rejects advertisements for products considered taboo, such as beer, tobacco and drugs that treat sexual dysfunction. A public outcry ensued when the newspaper ran an illustration of a woman clad in a bra and underwear. ¶
Sports coverage, some readers claim, “doesn’t belong in a Christian newspaper.” ¶
But most interesting are excerpts from the newspaper. Here’s a sampling of the April 8 edition of The Budget.
- Roodhouse, Ill.: “It was a wet snow, detailing every branch, twig and fence post. Once the sun shone and it warmed up a bit it soon disappeared. A number of the church ladies have planted gardens.” ¶
– Millersburg, Ind.: “Mom sad her arm is hurting more again cause she did some letter writing. She did bind a quilt by hand last week.” ¶
– Burton, Ohio: “I apologize for the mistake in March 25 Budget that Billy Mullets have a baby, which they don’t. My hearing seems to be bad if too many are talking at the same time.” ¶
– Cub Run, Ky.: “There was some excitement yesterday afternoon near Noah L. Bylers’ on Rt. 88 when a large truck that is used to haul brush from the roadsides ran off the road into the ditch.” ¶
– Thompsontown, Pa.: “Awhile ago Steve was up at Sam Peachey’s for some lumber and had a red plastic flag tied on the end, and before they left found their beef cow chewing on and just swallowing the last of it. Several weeks later when Sams butchered the cow the boys cut open the stomach and found it still intact, now he has it again!” ¶
– Degraff, Ohio: “Mrs. Aden Miller is nursing a sore toe which she thinks was broken from something falling on it. Joe Lengacher Sr. was hurrying through the barn and somehow hit his head on a piece of wood which left him stiff and sore.”