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The sentinel still stands guard

By Tim Linscott
Managing Editor
Recently talking with librarian Robin Quinn about the current library project in Grant that has digitized copies of all newspapers in the county since 1889 was special to me on several levels.
First and foremost, seeing the sparkle in her eyes when talking about history and what it means to preserve that history for a community is awe-inspiring.
When someone has a passion for something it can be infectious and gets others motivated, which I love.
Also seeing the entire pantheon of news and history of the last 112 years for Perkins County and how it relates to local newspapers makes me look at my hands.
Once upon a time, I was a young Printer’s Devil. That is a very old term for paid intern or, for lack of a better term, lackey.
I was in Plainview, Nebraska, working under Master Publisher Lee Warneke. One day Lee talked to me about retirement, his legacy and what small town newspapers mean to the community and the pages of history.
He looked down at his hands and said, ‘Once you get that ink on your hands, it never really washes off.’ His meaning was that the newspaper business gets in your blood and you become a part of the history of a community.
Looking at how I have been able to add my ‘fingerprint’ on newspapers in this state and how history will show forever my contribution to writing a chapter in the log of a location makes me know that he was right. Once you get that ink on your hands, it never truly washes off. Once you are in this business, it is in your blood, it stains you and you never get it out of you. You become a part of that community forever.
With the digital age upon us, how important is the local newspaper anymore?
Are newspapers truly dinosaurs waiting for the time of extinction?
Statistics are hard to argue with and as the saying goes, ‘numbers don’t lie.’
According to the National Newspaper Association’s most recent newspaper readership survey, two-thirds of residents in small towns across the country depend on their local newspaper for news and information.
The digital age is upon us and many large, daily papers have suffered under the pressure of ‘get it fast, get it now’ news coverage.
However, the NNA survey revealed that the use of smartphones jumped from 24 to 45 percent from readers using the devices to read, shop and communicate. Of that percentage, 39 percent said they use their smartphones to access local news.
Newspaper websites remained the leading provider of local news. Local television and sites like Google and Yahoo were very distant down the list for readers getting local news.
The NNA Community Newspaper Readership Survey concluded in 2013 after starting in 2005. The survey was done in partnership with the Center of Advanced Social Research of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.
Some interesting things came out of the survey, including: 94 percent of readers agreed that the newspapers were informative, 80 percent said they and their families look forward to reading the newspapers; 78 percent relied on the newspapers for local news and 72 percent said that the newspapers entertained them.
Local newspapers are read almost 2.5 times per week per household.
Robert M. Williams, Jr., president of the NNA said, ‘We know that it is very difficult for a good community to survive without a good newspaper and vice versa.’
Former Nebraska Senator Joe Vosoba once told me that a strong community needed three things: a strong newspaper, a strong chamber of commerce and a strong bank.
I believe we have that here in the county and then some.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves at the paper each and every week to live up to an impossible standard of not only informing the public, but entertaining and being a voice and a leader in the community.
I hope in 112 years whatever technology is prevalent at the moment displays and shows that the local newspaper was, and is still, providing news, entertainment and leadership to the community. I also hope that impossible standard is still being strived for each and every day.
If the editor of the paper reads these words 112 years from now, look down at your hands...they may not look like it at the moment, but they are stained with black ink from an industry that has been standing over a community like a sentinel for hundreds of years.