Childhood Heroes

Starting out working on the News Project, I was very excited to find stories that sparked my interest. Some of them I recognized. Some of them puzzled me. Some of them were about things that happened right down the street from the house I just moved into!

[caption id="attachment214" align="alignright" width="232"]<a href=""> Stuart Roosa, Courtesy NASA[/caption]

I began keeping a list of all of the interesting stories so that when it came time to write a blog post I would have something to consult. Last week I wrote down a story about astronaut Wally Schirra. He was the third astronaut I had written down. What can I say, I like space.


Less than 50 cards later, I got yet another story about an astronaut, this time Alan Shepard. I had entered stories about Rusty Schweickart, John Glenn, and Buzz Aldrin, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity of writing about astronauts, so I began to think about the significance of these news stories.

For me astronauts, particularly Apollo astronauts, have always been of interest because a relative of mine, Stuart Roosa, was a member of the Apollo 14 crew. As my mother always says, he must have been extremely brave to go up after 13.

For the people watching these news reports, the significance was obviously tied with the fact that we were making huge scientific advances that could potentially change the course of our lives forever. But what interested me most about these stories specifically was the fact that they were local news. Many of the stories had to do with astronauts returning to their alma maters (often MIT) to visit on Alumni Days or give commencement addresses. This wasn’t the whole country watching Neil Armstrong take the first steps onto the moon; it was a community recognizing the presence of these men on a more personal and local scale.

Astronauts have and, for at least the foreseeable future, will remain one of the epitomes of the childhood hero. Thinking about astronauts in local news made me realize how important it is to feel a connection with your childhood heroes, and how local news in an important aspect of feeling that connection. Realizing that someone you admire comes from the same background as you or is a member of the same community as you, inspires a feeling of pride in the community and self-confidence in the person. Local news was and should continue to be a vehicle for that inspiration.

Astronauts are not the only childhood heroes, and local news promotes good role models that children can relate to. Many local politicians and activists who take up good causes get recognized by local news. Sport stars also get far more personal coverage in their hometowns, or the towns they play for.

Do you remember any of your childhood heroes? How did you learn about them and what impact did local news coverage of them have on you?