The newspaper. Everybody knows what it is, but do you realize what an important part of our heritage these paper bound glimpses of the past are? Many do not, and because of this, we see a marked decline of the presence of these purveyors of the news and views of today.
At the last count, I could only find about thirty newspapers still publishing here in Maine, which is a far cry from where we used to be 150 years ago, back before the world began to spin ever faster upon its axis. Why are they important to our history? Because they offer a printed picture of what society can look like at any given moment in time.
Newspapers contain advertisements that help local businesses stay in business. We can look a newspaper and see what kinds of business are down the street, across town or in neighboring communities. When we need something but don’t know where to get it, we look in the paper. Plus they have coupons. Coupons are good, they save us money.
If you need to get a new apartment, you look in the classifieds where you can find your new dream home. You can also buy and sell your car, pick up somebody’s unwanted washer and clothes dryer, antiques and collectibles, check out the yard sales, and find a job.
But more importantly, newspapers provide us with a way to share our opinions in a way that cannot be done in any other way, including the internet. You can write a letter to the editor and get whatever is eating you off your chest. You can read the editors opinion and call him, or her, whatever names you wish because you disagree with their views.
The news of the day on an international, national, regional, and local level can be found in a newspaper. Headlines shout out the latest breaking story, while interior articles sift through the grit and grime of daily politics and business news. How to’s help you decorate your house, buy a new car, or repair an old one, take care of your lawn, and help you with many other problems.
And don’t forget about the cartoons! A little slice of humor brightens everyone’s day.
Newspapers have been the medium of information exchange for centuries, from the little upstart local papers to the huge international dailies of today, and sadly, this part of our heritage is disappearing from our lives as we turn more and more to a quick glimpse of make believe reality on the internet. The net has its place, mind you, but an unfortunate side affect of its very abilities to inform and entertain are destroying what has been in the past a part of our everyday life.
In many parts of the world newspapers are still the number one source for information and education where there is no widespread internet availability, but here in the US the traditional paper bound slice of life is nearly gone, and it is unlikely to return, thanks to this media you are now enjoying.
What do we lose by not having a local paper? We lose a lot, really. We lose the connections to our local community that the WWW just cannot provide. We miss the birth announcements that shouted to the world that Johnny and Sally were born. We miss the school news that says Johnny made quarterback on the local football team and Sally was picked for head cheerleader.
We miss the wedding announcement that proudly boasts of Johnny and Sally’s engagement and marriage. The news of Johnny’s promotion at his place of employment is gone too. Gone also are the proud moment of the birth of Johnny and Sally’s first child, The retirement of this couple from working life, and sadly, the obituary that notifies the world of their passing from this life.
What we really miss by not having a local paper is the sense of community that we all once had. Instead, we have become part of a larger community controlled and fed by instant news, but none of it local, unless it sells advertising, and most of it dictated by editors and boards of conglomerates that are only interested in the revenue provided by the pay per click advertising.
I buy the local papers, but I also get many online newspapers, and the difference in the quality and the content between the two is becoming more and more disheartening. Dailies rely upon other dailies to provide content, and thus local news becomes less and less a part of the cycle. We have to turn to Craig’s List and EBay to buy and sell our unwanted things, and we no longer get to see who’s who.
The opportunity for local people to bask in the glow of local fame is gone.
And unfortunately, gone too are the records of the daily snapshots of opinion, the facts and details of our daily lives. We have become too fast, too instantaneous in our lives. We no longer have the option of reading the paper over our morning coffee, and discussing the latest zoning proposal or tax issue at the town and county level over lunch with our friends. We lose our connection the local community when we have no local newspaper.
We lose a record of our history that no other medium can duplicate, even the internet.
One of the things historians do is pour over periodicals to pick out little details that help us understand what life was like in the bygone days of yesteryear. There are not that many left. Many newspapers simply shutter their doors and fade into the inglorious sunset of failure. Others merge and become part of a larger presence in the greater community, thus losing their local charm. For the sake of history, we should all support our local newspapers buy buying a copy on a regular basis, if for no other reason to say you helped keep a part of yesterday alive.
I came across this list of newspapers and periodicals from the 1856 Maine Register and Business directory, giving frequency of publication and subscription rates:
NEWSPAPERS IN MAINE.
Age, Augusta, weekly, Fuller & Fuller, $2.00. Tri-weekly during Session of Legislature.
American Sentinel, Bath, Jas. M. Lincoln, $1-50.
Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, Wheeler & Lynde, $5.00.
Bangor Courier, weekly, Wheeler & Lynde, $1.50.
Bangor Daily Journal, W. E. Hilton & Co., $4.00.
Bangor Weekly Journal, weekly, W. E. Hilton & Co., $1.50.
Bangor Jeff’ersonian, weekly, Bartlett & Burr, $1.50.
Brunswick Telegraph, weekly, G. W. Chase, $1.50 per year.
Calais Advertiser, Calais, weekly, John Jackson, Publisher, terms, $1.50 pr. yr.
Christian Mirror, Portland, weekly, Charles A. Lord. $2.00 per year.
Clay’s Medical Rambler, Portland, weekly, R. R. Clay.
Daily Mercury, Bangor, S. P. Dinsmore, $4.00.
Democrat, Bangor, weekly, Wm. Thompson, $2.00.
Democratic Advocate, Danville, C. Record & Co., $1.50.
Democratic Clarion, Skowhegan, weekly, Moses Littlefield, $1.00 per year.
Down Easter, Minot, M. F. P. O., weekly, Cady & Co.
Eastern Argus, Portland, daily, John Appleton & Co., $5.00.
Eastern Argus, Portland, tri-weekly, John Appleton & Co., $4.00.
Eastern Argus, Porthnd, weekly, John Appleton & Co., $2.00.
Eastern Mail, Waterville, weekly, Maxham & Wing, $1.50.
Eastern Times, Bath, weekly, John Abbott, $1.50.
Eastport Sentinel, Eastport, A. H. Close & Co., $1.50 per year.
Ellsworth Herald, weekly, W. H. Chaney, Editor, E. Couillard, Publisher,
$1.50 per year. Gem & Gazette, Dexter, weekly, J. F. Witherell, $1.00.
Glenwood Valley Times, R. M. Mansur, Vienna.
Golden Wreath & Ladies’ Advocate, Minot, M. F. P. O., monthly, Cady & Co.
Gospel Banner, Augusta, Joseph A. Homan, $2.00.
Hallowell Gazette, weekly, E. Rowell, $1.50.
Independent Dexter Advertiser, Dexter, W. S. Cilley.
Journal & Enquirer, Portland, weekly, B. D. Peck, $1.50.
Kennebec Journal, Augusta, weekly, Stevens & Blaine, $1.50. Tri-weekly during Session of Legislature.
Ladies’ Enterprise, Portland, weekly, Augustus Robinson, $1.50 per year.
Lewiston Falls Journal, weekly, Wm. H. Waldron, $1.50 per year.
Lincoln Democrat, New Castle, weekly, J. J. Ramsey, $1.50 per year.
Machais Union, weekly, Drisko & Furbush, $1.50 per year.
Maine Democrat, Saco, weekly, A. A. Hanscom, $1.50.
Maine Evangelist, Portland, weekly, S. C. Fessenden, $2.00.
Maine Farmer, Augusta, weekly, Russell Eaton, $1.75.
Maine Expositor, Portland, weekly, Thomas Nichols, $1.00 per year.
Maine Free Press, Belfast, weekly, M. V. Stetson & Co., $1.50 per year.
Maine Temperance Journal, Portland, weekly, Benj. D. Peck, $1.50.
Masonic Journal, Brunswick, monthly, G. W. Chase, 50 cents.
Northern Home Journal, Gardiner, weekly, A. M. C. Heath, $1.50.
Northern Tribune, Bath, daily. Northern Tribune, Bath, weekly, $1.25.
Norway Advertiser, weekly, Geo. W. Millett, $1.50 per year.
Oxford Democrat, Paris, weekly, W. A. Pidgin & Co., $1.50 per year.
Pleasure Boat, Portland, weekly, Jeremiah Hacker, $1.00 per year.
Piscataquis Observer, Dover, Geo. V. Edes, $1.50 per year.
Portland Advertiser, Portland, daily, John M. Wood, $5.00.
Portland Advertiser, tri-weekly, John M. Wood, $3.50.
Portland Advertiser, weekly, John M. Wood, $2.00.
Portland Genius, weekly, Josiah L. Thomas, $1,00.
Portland Inquirer, Portland, weekly, Benjamin D. Peck, $2.00.
Portland Transcript, Portland, weekly, Gould, Elwell, Pickard & Co., $1.50.
Portland Eclectic, Portland, weekly, Gould, Elwell, Pickard & Co., $1.50.
Progressive Age, Belfast, weekly, W. M. Rust & Co., $1.50 per year.
Representative Journal, Belfast, weekly, Moore & Diekerson, $1.50 per year.
Rural Intelligencer, Augusta, weekly, W. A. Drew, $1.50.
Rockland Gazette, weekly, John Porter, $1.50 per year.
Saturday Evening Transcript, Gardiner, weekly, R. B. Caldwell, $1.75 pr. yr.
Somerset Spectator, Anson, weekly, Bodney Collins, $1.50.
State of Maine, Portland, daily, Bearce, Starbird & Co., $5.00.
State of Maine, Portland, tri-weekly, Bearce, Starbird & Co., $3.00.
State of Maine, Portland, weekly, Bearce, Starbird & Co., $1.50.
The Chronicle, Farmington, weekly, L. N. Prescott, $1.00.
Thomaston Journal, weekly, C. H. Paine, $1.50.
Touchstone, Lewiston Falls, A. Young, Jr., 50 cents.
Union & Eastern Journal, Biddeford, weekly, Lewis O. Cowan, $2.00 pr. year.
United States Democrat, weekly, A. & E. Sprague, $1.50.
Weekly Mercury, Bangor, S. P. Dinsmore, $1.25.
Zion’s AdvocatPortland, weekly, J. B. Foster, $2.00.
Comparatively speaking, I’d say we are missing a great deal.