Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 1, 2017

What’s In a Name? If It’s a Newspaper, There’s a Story.

I’m a newspaper fan. When I travel, I often go out of my way to find the local newspaper. It’s one way to get the sense of a community and what’s happening there. A moderately good local newspaper provides a useful look at a place.

Newspapers aren’t dead, and although they face dire challenges, there’s an enormous variety of them still on the scene. Consider the list at this link, which names newspapers in New Mexico: 50 or so. They’re still published because someone reads them.

There’s a story behind every newspaper: how long it’s been published, how it’s fared over the years, what’s changed during its run. Talk to anyone who’s worked at a newspaper — large or small — and you’ll learn it’s a world of its own, with a kind of lifeline running through it, carried along by a succession of publishers, editors, reporters, layout artists and press people.

The paper in the town where I grew up had an excellent story for a significantly long time. The Western Star began publishing weekly editions on February 13, 1807. It ran without interruption until January, 2013: 206 years. That’s good. I’m sorry it’s gone.

Local news is, essentially, the same everywhere, and the Western Star was typical: city council meetings, controversy about a new wastewater treatment plant, school news perhaps the weekly lunchroom menu, photos of newly married couples, high school sports, obituaries. It can seem mundane to an outsider, but it’s how communities know fact from gossip. “I read it in the paper” signifies something.

I’m fascinated by the names of newspapers, because they’re part of the story. The Western Star was an excellent name (coined at a time when Ohio WAS the “West”) and persisted throughout its run. Cincinnati, the major city near my town, once boasted several daily newspapers, including the Enquirer, the Post, the Times and the Star. By the time I was a boy, several had folded and merged together, resulting in the afternoon paper being named the Cincinnati Post Times-Star.

That list of New Mexico papers has some of those blended names, and there’s likely a story behind each one: Carlsbad Current-Argus, Las Cruces Sun-News, Valencia County News-Bulletin.

The newspaper with my favorite title in all the world is published in Socorro, about an hour south of Albuquerque. We were there, about to head west to see this:

NM Very Large Array Brad Nixon 010 (640x454)

That’s the Very Large Array radio telescope. I wrote about it here.

Passing through Socorro gave me more than an opportunity to pick up the local newspaper. I made a pilgrimage to see the place it’s published. Here I am in front of the offices:

Socorro Defensor Chieftain Marcy Vincent 003 (640x440)

What better name can there be than “El Defensor Chieftain?”

There were once two local papers, the English language Socorro Chieftain and the Spanish-English dual language El Defensor.  The Chieftain’s older, originating in the 1860s as Socorro grew during a mining boom. El Defensor published its first edition in 1904. Its founder, an accomplished native son of Socorro, A.C. Torres, had a career that included stints in the New Mexico legislature. He retired and sold El Defensor in 1957, then, when the subsequent publishers decided to stop publication in 1959, Torres, then 89, arranged for it to merge with the Chieftain.

At 151 years old, El Defensor Chieftain is New Mexico’s 3rd oldest newspaper. Yep, there’s the news of the city council meetings, crime reports, accomplishments of school students and the high school teams, marriages, births and obituaries. Life goes on in Socorro County, and there’s a newspaper to help people know what’s what. Go over to dchieftain.com and take a look. And support your local newspaper. Someone has to care about the facts.

What’s your local paper? Can they match 151 years of publication? Do they have a name as memorable as Socorro’s? Leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2017. El Defensor photograph © Marcy Vincent 2017, used by kind permission.

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Responses

  1. Our local paper–which reads exactly the way you described–is the Rochester Sentinel. I looked up it’s first year of publication and was surprised to learn it’s been around since 1858, 159 years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Three cheers for the Sentinel. A weekly? I’ll check the link you sent. Picture your town in 1858 … a different world. Thank you.

      Like

      • It’s a daily–except Sundays

        Like

      • Ah, impressive. I lose sight of the fact that you’re the big town in the middle of a lot of space between Ft. Wayne, South Bend, Lafayette … a large readership area.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly. LOL

        Like

  2. http://www.rochsent.com/

    Like

    • Let’s see: an ordinance against wind turbines near town, fantastic 40-footer by high school star to win at the buzzer (It’s ALL ABOUT BB IN INDIANA, FOLKS!), city OKs 2018 plan … yep, the things that make life tick. I’ll read more. Congrats to the “Voice of Fulton County’s People.” Carry on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oops, not at the buzzer. Lady Zs whipped Culver solid. 40-footer just icing on the cake.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Our local ( we get the Friday & Sunday) is the Penninsula Daily News, and is as you described the Western Star, as the Ashland Daily Tidings was. The Tidings had a Police Log, ao you could see who got a DUO.
    We also frequently augment with the Seattle Times (which I used to scoff at before the Oregonian went tabloid format, and thinned considerably) which still has a akendef travel section. Occasionally I’ll pick up the Victorian newspaper The Colonist (I think) which is similar, but you get the extra “u”s here and there.

    Like


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