A Look at the Newspaper a Year Later
A year ago last week I arrived in Utah, my car loaded, a map beside me on the seat and a phone number to call when I arrived. I had known Kevin Ashby, the former publisher, for a couple years by then and remembered how favorable he talked about eastern Utah. But there is still a certain amount of nervousness and trepidation one has as they embark on a new job in a new state.
In my first editorial last year I said that we would remain accessible, focus on local people and businesses, schools and government. I said that our primary purpose was to mirror the community we service, picture our ethnic diversity and capture our unique personality. I pledged to have the paper be a forum for distributing news and opinions and promised to continue the traditions that Kevin Ashby's father had back in 1932 when he purchased the Emery County Progress.
I believe we have done this, one newspaper at a time. We have attended and reported on almost every community celebration in the two-county area, either through photos or stories. We began our Thursday focus pages in January. So far we have published over 40 features B section front covers, all in full color on area businesses, seniors, health, children, and recreational activities. We upgraded our basic paper stock and added more color. We increased our special sections, which include two special historical editions and two farm and ranch sections.
We have expanded our web page and increased the quality of our advertising messages.
As I have traveled from one community to another, one meeting to another and met you, one at a time, I began to understand what Mr. Ashby was saying when he talked about the uniqueness of Carbon County folks. Today one year later, I am proud of the changes we have made to the Sun Advocate and look forward to continuing our pledge to improve our coverage and reach.
It is interesting that another editorial I had thought about running this week covered many of the same basic thoughts I have about small community newspapers. An article appeared in the most recent edition of the Utah Press Association about Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington State. Mr. Rowland returned to his hometown recently where his family had owned the community newspaper and he reflected upon his thoughts of growing up there.
He says, "newspapers are an absolute necessity for economically healthy and civically active communities." He went on to talk about the town and how he remembers waiting at the bus stop under the population sign of 1482. This was back in the 1960's and his parents owned the weekly newspaper at the heart of that small city.
He recaptured his feelings, "In actuality, the newspaper owned us, because week after week, as the seasons revolved, we served it a steady and varied diet of public notices; news, sports; police reports, ads, both classified and display; calls for jury duty; inserts, court reports; announcements of weddings, meetings, births, deaths, polling places, graduations, honor rolls, military enlistments, club elections, vacancies on boards, councils and committees; photos of civic improvements, fires, accidents, fairs, teams, kids, FFA cows, 4-H dogs, awards, giant vegetables, big fish, volunteers, old cars, parades, foreign visitors, homecoming queens, vandalism, concerts, carnivals, old-timers, out-of-town dignitaries, blood drawings, fund-raisers and anything else we deemed interesting that would hold still long enough to have a photo taken."
His article brings to mind so many wonderful thoughts about working with a community newspaper. We do things different than the big city daily newspapers. We care about our people in a different way. We know that the stories we print will end up in scrapbooks and Bibles and on refrigerator doors. We dedicate space to school news and local events like no other media or agency ever could. We promote free trade and encourage people to vote, we assist in fund-raisers and we know the importance of our local college.
"Many small towns all over the country are in decline," said Mr. Rowland. "Much of it can be laid at the feet of economic consolidation, improvement of the road system providing easy access to the big box discount stores, and the hundreds of television channels and video rentals of in-home entertainment cutting into community activism and attendance at community events."
But one of the fingers in the dike protecting the life of small communities is the newspaper. We connect people to each other and to their community. It shows them that they and their families are important, not just to themselves but to their neighbors and friends.
"It praises good judgement, it voices opinion," says Rowland. "It calls for action; it draws volunteers; it brings donations; it interests voters; it encourages commerce; it creates markets; it exposes misdeeds; it validates efforts; it focuses grief, it provides the possibility to success, and it applauds achievement; but most importantly, it breathes life into a community."