The Press And Local History (Editorial)

Few people, as they read their town newspapers realize that they are reading perhaps the only contemporary history of their community it is possible to read. It is doubtful too if they realize that as each issue gets old, the more valuable it becomes, and that the old files of a newspaper are from a historical standpoint, of incalculable worth.

The newspaper files are the most authentic history of the community available. They tell the story of the community’s life as it happens. Past history is important to those who live in the present. Those of us who live in modern surroundings are sometimes apt to forget the sacrifices of those who made the community what it is today. Men have worked, and schemed, and planned, and today we have every modern convenience, churches, schools, libraries, theatres, electric lights, sewers, sidewalks, paved streets, and a hundred and one other conveniences our forefathers never dreamed of. These things did not come about by chance or by natural evolution. They came about because men toiled ceaselessly to leave behind them a better world than that into which they came. Their devotion, their struggles, their ideals, their initiative, and determination should be an inspiration to succeeding generations. And the record of their achievements appears in the files of the local newspapers, and that is why they are such valuable records of the triumphs of the pioneers.

Few people who contribute to the news columns of the newspaper are aware that they are contemporary historians. They are chronicling the events of community life for posterity, and generations hence will read the story they have told, and from the struggles of this day, they will gain inspiration for the struggles of their day. The newspaper preserves the story of our ideals, our problems, and our lives, and those who contribute to the news columns of their local newspaper are therefore doing a valuable service for “those who follow in their wake.”

For this reason, it is essential that contributors write so that the reader twenty-five or fifty years hence may understand the import of the story. For instance, some writers are apt to consider a story as of interest only to their particular organization, rather than to the community as a whole. Occasionally one reads an item about a young people’s meeting in which John does this, and Mary does that. To the average reader, this doesn’t convey anything even at the time, and it would convey still less a quarter of a century after it is written. If the same organization wanted to check back for historical purposes many years after John and Mary would not convey to them who were the active members of their group in bygone days.

The newspaper is truly the archives of the community, and as such is of increasing value to the community as its files grow old. The readers are therefore personally a part of the newspaper because their contributions to its columns are helping to record the history of the age in which they live.