The world can be a scary place if you read the news with any regularity. Turn on the TV or pick up a daily newspaper and you're bound to see headlines about violence, conflict and death. What you don't always see, though, is the people in your community who are creating connections and strengthening relationships.
That's where Mary Stamp comes in.
In 1984, she co-founded the local monthly nonprofit newspaper the Fig Tree, alongside Sister Bernadine Casey, and has been the editor ever since. The newspaper is dedicated to inspiring the people of Christian, interfaith and nonprofit communities through its articles and news stories.
Stamp earned her degree from the University of Oregon School of Journalism in 1967 before coming to Spokane in the '80s. But it was a graduate program she undertook in Geneva in 1969 through the World Council of Churches that would shape her journalistic philosophy and define her career. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
INLANDER: What makes the Fig Tree different from traditional, profit-driven news media?
STAMP: You gotta have conflict and sensation. It's often sexy. You want what's broken. The news fosters an addiction to keep the attention of audiences so they keep coming back for more.
We're a nonprofit. That means communicating credibly. We're not denying there is violence and hurt — but people are doing things to make a difference. It's everyday people in this region who are doing things because they have faith.
What kind of faith?
The understanding that we're to care for each other. That we're to even love our enemies. Overall, when you look at the different teachings of the faiths of the world, it comes down to the golden rule; it comes down to caring for the least of our brothers and sisters.
The emerging reality is that we live in a world that is diverse. If we're called to love our brothers and sisters in that diversity, we need to know each other and have conversations. You see with the coronavirus how interconnected we are. We have commerce that's based on people traveling, tourism, business. We live in a global economy.
Where the media has profited off dividing people — and as we move to a more autocratic government — democracy requires that we talk to each other and respect each other despite our differences.
What do you think are the most important topics your newspaper covers?
We have one of the strongest human rights movements here in the country because of the legacy of the hate groups here. The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies, their efforts are ongoing. There's not one magic-pill solution. You don't come to a point of accomplishment, because there are divergent views. It's a matter of people being empowered to persist. We see a resurgence of hate, but we have tools for dealing with it.
Why is the newspaper called the Fig Tree?
Micah 4:4: "Everyone would live under their own vine and fig tree in peace and unafraid." It's about peace and justice and care of creation as it's central to faith. And the birds flying around the tree on the newspaper cover, those represent the many colors of birds who fly in and eat its fruit and fly out and are nourished. The stories are the fruit of the fig tree. There's such power in people's stories. It's telling people to articulate what their faith and their values are, and not just recite their belief. "What are you doing because of it?" That's where belief moves to faith.
Which leaders are you inspired by?
You read the Fig Tree and there they are. They're not just off someplace far away. They're right here. Look at the front page and you'll see the heroes who are acting. ♦