(For some of the items and data embraced in this chapter the editor is indebted to M. W. Porter.)

Journalism in Mercer County, as in every civilized country in modern times, marked the period from which dates its true development; and here, as elsewhere, it has proved the most important factor of social and material progress —the promoter of education for the whole peo­ ple and the motive power of enterprise. Scarcely any other element has been so closely inter­ woven with every interest of the people, in those varied pursuits which have had their rise and progress or decadence, as has the news­ paper; and no class of citizens have been in such intimate contact with the public mind as the editors, past and present, of our weekly press.

Like magic mirrors, these publications have shown, not only what has been and is, but often what should be, thus shaping the destiny and moulding the character of society. To read the files of one of these papers is to have an admission ticket to the entire panorama of Mercer County history for more than three­score years.

In this period many and marked changes have been wrought, not only in the character of the newspaper and in the manner of its publication, but in the world at large. In that space of time the changes in the news­ paper office have not been confined to replacing the Washington hand-press with the im­proved Cottrell cylinder, the introduction of steam or gasoline for motive power, installing fast job-presses, paper-cutters and folder, and other labor-saving devices, but have included the securing of up-to-date and latest methods of illumination, substituting the kerosene lamp for the former flickering tallow-candle, and, later, the superseding of these lamps by the electric light: Indeed, the whole mechanical department of the printing-office has "evoluted" —undergone a complete transformation.

But while these changes have been going on, there have also been changes quite as distinct in the editorial sanctum. Since the day of the old Washington press—when it turned out two hundred impressions or less per hour; when the printing of the President's message, for example, was a herculean task, scarcely comprehensible at the present day; when the tramp printer sometimes made the labor of getting out an issue on time a serious problem—the reverse side of the picture, as presented by present-day methods, is too well known to need extended notice. Another and notable change that has come within recent years, is the col­ lecting of news. Formerly it was a tedious, and, frequently, a thankless task to await the arrival of belated railroad trains and tardy hacks on the "star routes." Today the telephone is an indespensable adjunct of every newspaper office, and plays a most important part in gathering news.

The rural-route system of distributing and collecting mail has passed the experimental stage, and is now a permanent fixture. It is, with­ out doubt, one of the greatest boons newspapers have ever enjoyed, giving them unmeasured opportunities for expanding their circulation. On the other hand, it has proven to be popular and a welcome acquisition to the farmer, wherever introduced. The "lineotype" machine for setting type, is fast relegating the old fashioned type-setting by hand to the rear, and the improved cylinder-press of the present time makes the crude presses of former days appear as ridiculous relics of an almost forgotten era. Many things, accepted as news today, were not to be found in the papers of the past; much of the local news upon which great stress is now laid, was formerly considered of trifling importance and seldom printed. Indeed, this class of matter has encroached upon the editorial space and almost crowded out the discussion of themes of far wider interest. Every change that has come into journalism has been the result of popular demand. Good newspapers and bad newspapers are not so much what their publishers make them, as what their readers will have them to be.

It is a noteworthy fact that, at the present time, not a single person connected with the early papers of our county is, in any manner, interested in or connected with any of the several papers now published in the county. It is also worthy of note that the editors and managers of the several papers in our county, with one or two exceptions, have had no practical knowledge of or training in the mechanical departments of their papers, while twenty-five or thirty years ago, every editor was capable of handling each and every department connected with his office.

The leading papers of our county have been, as a rule, the mouthpiece of one or the other of the political parties—Republican or Democratic—their editors proving themselves stal­wart and vigorous partisans. Despite this, they have not been unmindful of duty to the community, and, both singly and unitedly, have been ready to carry out their mission for the public good as they saw it—to disseminate news, promulgate policies for uplifting and ele­ vating mankind, inculcate intellectual ideas, and foster home interests













History of Henderson and Mercer Counties

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