SPOILIN’ THE BROTH
H e died when I was four yea rs old, a nd I on ly vaguely remember sitting in his lap while he read to me.
I remember holding his hand as we walked from his house to a nearby vacant lot, him grabbing a big hand full of grass and feeding it to a horse over a wire fence, and then pulling some grass for me, and holding me up to feed the horse.
My grandfather, a distinguished journalist, set a fine shot pattern for generations of us to follow. I thank the Good Lord regularly for that man that bought this newspaper on May 29, 1911—a century ago—and laid the foundation for four generations (and counting) of Cookes to chronicle Rockdale’s history as it unfolds.
John Esten Cooke brought The Reporter through the Great Depression, and after 1936 his son, W.H. Cooke, my father, continued the struggle. I’ve mentioned this before, but there was only one paper house that would sell John Esten newsprint on credit after the Crash of 1929. We still buy all our paper supplies from that company.
Following is John Esten Cooke’s first column in The Reporter, 100 years ago this week. The issue was dated June 1, 1911, the first Reporter published by a Cooke.
His philosphy on community newspapering is as relevant today as it was a century ago.
As stated by Mr. Kennon in his farewell last week, the undersigned is now the owner of The Rockdale Reporter and Messenger, and will hereafter guide its destinies both as editor and manager.
In assuming this work, I do so with a degree of trepidation for I realize I am now at the helm of one of the best newspapers in this section of the state and I am succeeding a man of brilliant mind and splendid editorial abilities.
However, I shall do my best to keep the paper up to its former standard of excellency as a news purveyor, and as I grow better acquainted with the people and the locality, to improve, if possible, the local news features.
My idea of a good country weekly is one which covers the field of local and community news thoroughly and uses its editorial space liberally in boosting for these material things which go to make a better town and county, leaving politics and things political as nearly severely alone as possible.
I am a democrat, but not a politician, and will not tear my editorial shirt for any politician, even though I am a “Bailey man.”
I shall bend my energies to the publication of a good, live, clean, reliable, readable, local paper. I desire to so conduct The Reporter as to merit the respect, confidence and business of our entire citizenship.
On the subject of “prohibition” I should perhaps make myself fully clear: I have always voted for prohibition and shall continue to do so on every available occasion.
I shall not, however, make The Reporter an “organ” for the prohibition cause.
I believe in temperance in all things, and shall apply the principal to the conduct of my newspaper. I believe rabid utterances of newspapers on both sides of the question does more harm than good, frequently causing strife and dissension among friends and neighbors which will endure forever.
At the same time, I reserve the right to express my opinion on this, or any other, subject as I may deem the occasion fitting and necessary, and whenever such occasion may arise, I shall endeavor to shape my remarks in a form which will lift them entirely above the plane of personalities.
The Reporter will be a strict business proposition. I want all the business I can get. I will need it to “make good” financially. I want your unified support both morally and financially.
You can do much for The Reporter and The Reporter can do much for you; the proposition is a mutual one, properly applied.
I shall do my best to hold up my end of the load, and I earnestly ask you to give me the necessary support.—Respectfully, John E. Cooke