Bookmark and Share

The SUN rises on a new century

A glance at the masthead of this week’s paper shows it is Vol. 101, No. 1 — a major milestone at The Pagosa Springs SUN. The SUN is 100 years old, putting it among select company in the Colorado newspaper pantheon.

The SUN rose out of a flurry of news publishing activities in early-day Pagosa Springs, with several reasonably successful publications preceding the SUNrise in 1909.

From the start, The SUN was a vital instrument and, apparently, a stressful business to own and operate immediately after its creation. The newspaper went through a bevy of owners, and even more editors, during the first half of its existence.

The SUN reflected the overall news business in its early years: Publishers and editors were in no way reluctant to espouse strident political bias, rivaling the ideological approaches all too common on today’s talk radio and cable “news” networks. At several junctures, The SUN was declared to be the trumpet of Republican causes and ideas; at others, the paper was branded as a dedicated servant of the Democratic Party, its candidates and platforms.

With stability of ownership, beginning in the late 1930s, the nature of the paper’s political content began to change, as did its approach to news.

Once The SUN passed into the hands of Glen Edmunds, a die was firmly cast: The SUN modernized, expanded its format and dedicated itself to strong local coverage as well as a separation of news and editorial content that stressed impartiality in coverage of news.

Edmunds brought The SUN into the modern age during his nearly 33 years of leadership and the next owner, David Mitchell, pressed it forward further yet during nearly 22 years at the helm. Mitchell continued to hold to Edmunds’ standards, keeping the news focus of the paper at a local level, retaining the guide of impartiality in news coverage, changing the design of the publication, adding elements, attracting experienced writers.

Mitchell summed up the essence of life at The SUN. He called the newspaper a community “institution,” and he regularly reminded staff that they were that institution’s caretakers — tasked with the responsibility of ensuring its survival through the conscientious application of their skills week in and week out.

The SUN has a responsibility to its community — to report the news as fairly and accurately as possible. To cover the widest range of events and activities, positive and negative. To give the community in Pagosa Country an ongoing, clear look at itself, constantly mindful of the difference between reportorial and editorial approaches, striving each week to include as much as possible of what makes Pagosa Country a unique place to live and work.

Now, at this century mark, the task of caretaking the institution is moving in new directions. The nature of the newspaper business is changing and the manner in which it will be successfully conducted in the near future is not yet determined.

We caretakers know one thing for sure: the loss of a credible news source damages a community. Thus, The SUN will be transformed to meet the demands of the times, to utilize the latest advances in information technology — all newspapers must do this. What the transformations will finally entail, no one knows. Whether or not it will ultimately be an amalgam of Web-based and print products, no one can say. There is no doubt that Internet product will become increasingly important, with content shaped to cater to a new generation of readers. There is also little doubt that, at least for a while, the particular charms of a hard-copy news product will continue to lure readers, in particular the readers of small-town weeklies.

And there is no doubt the institution will stand.

Karl Isberg