Jon's Jottings: Of wars and newspapersThe day set aside to honor our nation’s war dead, Memorial Day, had its origins in the years after the Civil War.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
The day set aside to honor our nation’s war dead, Memorial Day, had its origins in the years after the Civil War.
The War Between the States was the most costly in terms of human life in the history of the nation. It also left economic and social scars that still festered a century later.
To this day, some old established Southerners refer to the conflict as “The War of Northern Aggression.”
Nevertheless, it’s apparent that when digging for historical facts of past wars, and the people who fought in them as they relate to our community, the most often used, and sometime only, reference material is newspaper back issues.
Throughout the years, in war and peace, the local newspaper has kept tabs on the people of the community.
Because of its important role and my long association with the business, I feel uneasy when sages, soothsayers and MBAs predict newspapers currently have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Those experts say the printed paper will soon go the way of the dinosaurs.
That’s why I was encouraged by a recent article in a national magazine that announced that the predictions of the industry’s demise are premature.
The business will have to change and continue to embrace and expand on modern technology, such as the Web and other electronic means of communication, but it is still vital for at least one very important reason, local news.
Newspaper companies are the only businesses who have the investment and structure in place to cover local news. And with a Web site, local news can be distributed in real time, even from a weekly newspaper’s newsroom.
The article made the very significant point that all other news outlets rely on the newspaper for content. That’s true here, in Hudson, with the Star-Observer, as well. More and more readers of the HSO who also cruise the Web have noticed the curious coincidence of stories that first appear on the HSO Web site and are then purloined by big-city electronic media across the river and follow in the metro dailies.
Scribes were the first to cover war and bring the news back to local communities. When another early technology, photography, was added, the accounts of battles became more real and personal.
Moving film brought back more graphic images, but the hometown paper was where news of our local servicemen appeared first.
Television brought the Vietnam War into America’s living rooms, and still we needed the local paper for information on our young citizens fighting in Southeast Asia.
Without publisher emeritus Willis Miller’s dedication during World War II to report information from the “local boys” serving overseas who wrote to him regularly, I would not have been able to find important information for previous Memorial Day stories. His dedication to consistently fulfill the basic mission of a community newspaper has preserved valuable local history for everybody.
I am glad newspaper companies, including the 154-year span of the Star-Observer and its predecessors, were on hand to record the lives of our ancestors and fellow citizens who served in previous wars.
And I am encouraged there are strong opinions that newspapers will continue recording these historical events for future generations. It is more likely newspapers will survive than an end to war forever.