A tour that teaches a life lesson

A tour of The Vindicator building is kind of cool — even for me who walks the halls every day and gives most of the tours.

I usually find something unique every time I look closer at the place.

But I often learn something unique from the people visiting.

It was an example of the latter that occurred Friday when a class of Chinese students toured The Vindy.

They are in town visiting Youngstown State University as part of a month-long American visit. They are being hosted at YSU by professors Matt O’Mansky and Ray Beiersdorfer.

As a college tour group, they were typical 19- and 20-year-olds — all eager learners, some who asked plenty of questions, and some quieter.

Don’t think that because they are Chinese, there wasn’t a class clown. He went by the name Maverick.

(Asian kids often take on an American name when they visit here. Maverick picked the right name for himself, or the right one was picked for him: quick, clever and always a good-one-liner.)

The tour was typical for us: Here’s our massive press, here’s a canyon of newsprint, here’s our team at work and here’s some pretty cool technology.

I pointed to rows of Vindicator books — preserved copies of the paper dating back to our first days in the 1860s. We read Vindy pages from 1918 and 1875. I was as amazed as they were at the 1875 pages. I had never opened that book before.

The students quickly got it, and in their broken English, they showed immense interest in two specific Vindy books.

They wanted to read Oct. 1, 1949 — the day Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and the creation of the country we know today.

But they also looked at me with wide glances about one other era.

“Do you have March 1995?” a girl asked. Another girl joined her in the request. They wanted to see the news of the day they were born.

When we made our way to the area where 1994 and 1995 Vindicators were stored, it was a mini-Black Friday sort of scene.

A handful of them shouted out their month.

When we found their Vindy book, off the students went flipping pages till they found the day of their birth. They desired news from the day they were brought into a world the same as us, but so different from us, too.

They pulled out their iPhones to take photos and video of them with their birth pages.

As I said, Maverick was the outspoken one.

When he wasn’t playfully stirring the pot, I would find something to pick about him. And he rolled with it like a pro.

It was also Maverick who was most expressive about looking at a history that was unknown to him.

“I know nothing about the year of my birth,” he said, his eyes quickly moving across the pages.

“So I have nothing to talk about.”

The Chinese government is legendary for its Internet censorship. The Great Firewall of China, as some Internet activists call it, is the process and practice by the Chinese government of restricting and monitoring Internet usage by its citizens.

Maverick knows all of 1995 that Communist bosses want him to know.

It was great to watch him learn more.

Voluminous is our digital-information access. So much so that in our library next to the old Vindys is our own Great Wall of sorts.

They are the rows of annual almanacs — fact-filled histories that were staples of our life before the Internet.

In the mix were news and sports almanacs for 1995 — all the important things one should know about his or her year.

It was great to see those almanacs leave with Maverick and his crew.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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