A Note from Cottonwood Corners

Next week, October 6 – 12, is National Newspaper Week.  Some might ask: “Why is that important to me?”  It is important that we all understand the influence of the paper and how it impacts our lives and the future of America.  We just take it for granted and fail to realize that the future of the paper which is delivered to our home or mailbox is important.

The first newspaper published within the present State of South Dakota was The Dakota Democrat at what is now Sioux Falls on September 20, 1858.  When the Indian war broke out in 1862, the settlement was abandoned and the newspaper destroyed.

The territory’s first major newspaper was what is today the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan.  The Weekly Dakotian (now the Yankton-Daily Press and Dakotan), the oldest continuous newspaper in South Dakota, was established in Yankton on June 6, 1861.

The state’s oldest weekly newspaper, The Springfield Times, was first published on July 27, 1871.  It is still published every week in Springfield.

From the earliest days, it was important that those in Dakota Territory had newspapers.  In 1887 there were 352 newspapers published in DT.  Twenty-five were dailies and 314 were weeklies.  The remaining 13 were published less than weekly.  Of the 48 states and territories at that time, only 14 published more newspapers than DT.

Business owners in small communities realized the importance of local advertising.  On April 13, 1897, the Omaha Daily Bee reported about a community in Nebraska which needed a newspaper:  “At a business men’s meeting last week nearly $50 per month ($1,546 today) of advertising was pledged as a starter to some responsible and well-recommended newspaper man, who would come here and purchase the Record plant, and publish a weekly newspaper.”

The newspaper, especially the local weekly, is a critical part of the American news landscape.  They are today being hit hard as more and more Americans now consume their news digitally.  The newspapers financial fortunes and subscriber base have been in decline since the early 2000’s.

In South Dakota, the daily and weekly newspapers are the heart and soul of our communities.  The local weekly paper plays a vital role in keeping citizens informed on what is happening in their hometown.  They cover everything from decisions made by the local school board, city commission, county commission, to the milestone anniversaries and other celebrations in the community.

Citizens have an opportunity to express their opinions by writing a “Letter to the Editor.” This is an important part of our “American Way of Life” and is especially popular during elections and whenever there are local controversial issues before the public.  Those letters which complement a person or organization for something are also important.

Reading the paper over a cup of coffee should be a part of your daily routine at home.  Just stop and think what it would be like in your world if there was no daily or weekly paper!  Personally, I can only take so much noise.  The radio and TV are important; however, the electronic media is not something which you can hold in your hand and refer back to from time to time.

The Pew Research Center in December of 2018 reported that: “Social media sites have surpassed print newspapers as a news source for Americans: 20% get their news from social media and 16% from print newspapers.”  Who can explain what is social about social media?    It seems to be more anti-social rather than social.

With social media there is no personal face-to-face conversation that takes place.  At least with the paper at the kitchen table, you can discuss news items with family, friends, and guests to get their opinion, further clarification, or confirmation.  The less personal something comes to be, the less memorable and important it becomes for us.

In 1900, The Norfolk Weekly News made these editorial comments: “If the country papers are all right, it makes little difference what the city papers think.  It is the weekly and not the daily newspapers that form public opinion in this country.  The dailies are scanned, while the weeklies are read from the leading editorial to the last advertisement.”

The editor of one of the weekly papers in South Dakota made these comments at the 1907 South Dakota Press Association:  “There is nothing which speaks so well for a town as a good newspaper.  It stands as an index to the town’s prosperity, its enterprise and the intelligence of its people.”

The 1921 – 22 South Dakota State Gazetteer and Business Directory listed the following weekly newspapers in Gregory County:  Bonesteel, Gregory County Herald; Burke, Gazette; Dallas, Gregory County News; Fairfax, Advertiser; Gregory, Rosebud Democrat and the Times-Advocate;  and Herrick, Press.

The weekly newspaper is a community institution just like the church, school, and public library.  Many folks have failed to understand this.  It is important that we all encourage and support local journalism.  It’s essential for the future of the Republic and our freedom.  It builds culture and that is what really draws a community together.

America and every community needs the paper.  The home town newspaper is the most valued publication that enters your home.

Author Clarence Shoemaker, originally published in the Gregory-Times Advocate on October 2, 2019

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