By Gery L. Deer
Editor / Publisher
Prototype web-based publication is a spinoff of its own history.
In 1876, just past the time of the town crier and way before MTV, Jamestown, Ohio residents were introduced to The Jamestown Journal, a four-page weekly newspaper printed by William S. Galvin, editor and publisher. The newspaper offered readers everything from local news to train schedules.
Galvin later changed the name of the paper to The Jamestown Comet, with the first verifiable issue featuring the updated masthead printed in July of 1890. The circulation of each of the paper was about 1,025 with an annual subscription cost of $1.50, in advance.
Printed with the news were advertisements for everything from miracle tonics to glassware and from livery service (not limousines but horse boarding) to a performance of the Century Theater at the opera house. Though traveling entertainment graced the stage of opera houses in most towns, the Century Theater was the resident theater company in Jamestown and often posted advertisements for each show and parades that were held just before a performance.
Keep in mind that one of the jobs of the Fourth Estate has always separate what seems important from what is and deliver that information to the public as quickly and clearly as possible. But what seems important in one era could seem somewhat silly later in time. Here is one of the actual news items exactly as it appeared in the Friday August 1, 1890 edition of The Jamestown Comet.
NEW JASPER – Mr. William Lewis Levalley was thrown from a load of oats Monday and received severe injuries in the arm and limb and was also badly cut and bruised about the head. Dr. Cunningham reports him in bad condition.”
Whatever the information, it was valuable to the people of the time, just as it is important to people today to have the latest update of the next rehab-stricken reality show star. Then again, I might like to see a good story about a guy thrown from a load of oats – it would be more interesting and less predictable.
It is important to note also that there were no photos in The Jamestown Comet, nor most other papers of the time. Plates required to reproduce tin type photos or hand sketches were expensive and time-consuming. Local newspapers could simply not afford the equipment nor did they have the expertise to provide this kind of luxury. Editors and writers had to depend on their words to create the picture for the reader.
As larger newspapers such as the Xenia Daily Gazette and the Dayton Journal-Herald took a larger portion of the market, the days of the Comet were numbered. In 1899, Galvin sold the newspaper to the Press Publishing Company which changed the overall look of the publication and renamed it Greene County Press. The paper continued to be published until 1955 when it finally closed.
Over all, a 79-year run for a newspaper is nothing to sneeze at, but all media has a shelf life. Today, as newspapers around the country plan more layoffs and cut back on circulation in an effort to stay afloat, it should be noted that newspapers are not dying, they are just changing. The big issue is whether or not publishers are willing to change with the times.
When the Dayton Journal-Herald, a conservative morning paper, merged with its liberal afternoon competitor, the Dayton Daily News, in 1987 many readers were outraged. The merger came from necessity since there was simply not enough of a market in the Miami Valley for two mammoth newspapers. The choice in the changing economy was to merge, or both could go under. The decision seems to have been correct.
Twenty years later, publishers who find themselves in yet another economic transformation but are unwilling to change with the times might find themselves selling off their publications or closing them permanently. However, the solution is not as simple as making a move to an all-digital newspaper. There must be a way to make any news publication profitable amidst the flurry of instant news provided by behemoths like CNN.
Quality content is paramount and smaller publications are focusing on more locally-based content and providers and free access to the online version. Whatever the solution, the changes in the newspaper business are going to continue for some time.
As an independent publication the staff of The NEW Jamestown Comet would like to thank you, the readers and advertisers, for having a look at this revitalized publication. From a 19th Century weekly newspaper to an online news resource for the Jamestown, Ohio region, The Jamestown Comet will grow and expand thanks to you – the reader. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.