Wick Communications

First draft of history

In Newspapers on 30 Mar 2017 at 12:37 pm

Local historians unveiling a 100-year-old time capsule in Safford, Ariz., that included local newspapers.

Recently, we asked editors and publishers to put pen to paper and tell readers why their newspapers were important to their communities. They subsequently shared many of those efforts with each other and they are all heartfelt and wonderful. Here is one. It’s from David Bell, editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier. He rightly notes that the local newspaper is an historical document like no other. Enjoy. — Clay

In 2014, when a 100-year-old time capsule was discovered hidden behind a sign mounted to the exterior of the Graham County Courthouse, longtime residents eagerly anticipated the opening. A historian from the state library oversaw the opening, and from the capsule he removed a newspaper. Followed by another newspaper, then another, and yet another.

In 2016, two former Pima Elementary students remembered it was time to open a time capsule they and their classmates sealed 25 years ago, when they were in third grade. Inside were a video cassette, some stickers, pencils and a Bart Simpson doll. What caused the women to remember was a newspaper clipping one of them had come across, telling the story of the class’ plan to create a time capsule.

Earlier this year, a member of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Safford contacted us about her plan to donate nearly 200 formal dresses to St. Vincent de Paul, so high school girls could have an inexpensive shopping option for prom this year. The donor mentioned that this wasn’t the first time club members donated dresses. “I have the newspaper story when we did this before; would you like to see?” she asked.

Each of these stories has one thing in common — the newspaper. …

The newspaper is the historical record of the community. From birth to death, the newspaper offers a continuous record of the people in the community, what they do, and how they celebrate success and failure. Each edition is snapshot of what life is like at any given moment in the Gila Valley.

The digital age we find ourselves in is amazing. The idea of having a supercomputer in our pocket was science fiction a little more than a decade ago, yet here we are today with access to virtually unlimited amounts of data. But digital stories disappear from our “feeds” as soon as the next one appears, constantly rotating through until we lose all feeling of permanence.

That’s why, when historians wish to learn about a specific region or period of time, the first thing they look at is the newspaper. Because not only do newspapers offer an unbiased view of what has occurred, unlike digital, print doesn’t go away.

That’s why the local Historical Society asked to maintain the Courier’s print archives. And why the Safford Lions Club recently donated the funds for the Safford Library to buy a new microfiche reader, so old newspapers can be viewed by everyone with a curiosity of what life in the Gila Valley was like 10, 20 or even 100 years ago.

You hold in your hands the historical record of the Gila Valley. Maintaining that record is a responsibility we take very seriously.


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