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If you are attentive to detail, you noticed something important on the front page of the Oct. 3, 2013, issue of The SUN.
It wasn’t one of the front-page stories, though they were surely important to readers with interests in the topics. It was an element in the masthead — the Volume and the Number. The Volume indicates the number of consecutive years the newspaper has been published; the Number gives a reader an indication of the issue’s place in the current year.
On Oct. 3, the Volume for The SUN rolled over to 106, the Number to 1. It was the beginning of the 106th year The Pagosa Springs SUN has brought news to Pagosa Country. It had done so, every week, without fail, for 105 years and began yet another year with intent to keep the string unbroken.
Those of us who work at The SUN are acutely aware of this fact. An unofficial motto here is that we are all “Custodians of a tradition.” The staff members and owners come and go over the years, but each is a caretaker of a valuable institution.
As The SUN enters its 106th year, the situation for newspapers, for print material in general, continues to change, rapidly. Few weeks pass without a notice arriving, signaling the demise of a print newspaper or magazine. The toll is not limited to publications of a particular size and scope: large metropolitan dailies, long supposed by owners, staff and readers to be bulletproof, have gone down, in the company of small-town publications, weeklies and others.
Many reasons are given: the Internet, the rising costs of print publication, the quickly changing reading habits (and the demise of reading as a habit) of many young people.
Certainly, the Internet has hastened the end of many print publications, simultaneously weakening the news trade and creating the ability to spread rumor and falsehood at lightning speed. The ease of access to information on the web has rendered the hand-held, crinkly newspaper somewhat of a dinosaur. The fact the Internet is now haunted by far too many information sources that lack traditional journalistic credibility has not slowed the trend. Neither has the fact that most credible Internet sources are “collectors” — passing along the work done by traditional, and mostly print, journalists. The newspaper and magazine industries have struggled to figure a way to deal with the new realities, but have not succeeded thus far; no one has yet figured a way to pay for the creation and transmission of credible news by bringing in sufficient ad revenues from digital publication.
With the problems at hand, however, many newspapers and some magazines continue to move forward, The SUN among them. There remains a need for the kind of journalism that has been the heart of the print world and, perhaps, there is nowhere the need is as great as in small communities.
Yes, there are plenty of legitimate complaints to be voiced about small-town newspapers like The SUN. But, it is worth the effort to also consider the many things such publications do for the communities they serve. Take time to analyze the variety of information a small-town newspaper provides its readers that cannot come from another source. Take time to understand how much of what the members of a small community know about their home — other than rumor—comes from a small town weekly. It is impressive, here and in any community served by a newspaper. We hope the American newspaper survives, in some form, while maintaining a broad scope and a high degree of credibility. Without it …