100 years

What does it really mean to have local ownership for a century?

Obviously, this issue of The Reporter commemorates a major milestone, 100 consecutive years of ownership and operation by the Cooke family.

In 1911 just about all newspapers of this size, and even many dailies, were owned and operated locally. There are still some, of course, but their numbers are dwindling.

What does it really mean? There are all kinds of valid grand philosophical points to be made but here’s some points a lot closer to home:

• The newspaper folks drive on the same roads you do, so they can tell when the roads are terrible and need to upgraded. That’s exactly what John Esten Cooke did in the 1910s.

• When there’s a two-year drought and farmers have no crops to sell, the newspaper owner will cut you some slack if you can’t pay your subscription. That’s what John Esten Cooke did in 1925.

• When a world war follows a depression and local boys start dying in places no one around here has ever heard of before, it’s personal and you can tell the person who wrote the news story is bleeding inside right along with relatives and friends. Look at W. H. Cooke’s reporting in virtually any Reporter between 1941 and 1945.

• When your town is in danger of losing its hospital and needs to raise millions of dollars to build a new one, it won’t be just a story to the newspaper owners. They use that hospital too. J. W. Cooke worked hard on the successful effort to create Richards Memorial Hospital in the 1970s.

• When your town loses its major industry, and needs to find new ways to boost its economy, the people out of work and seeking new jobs won’t be statistics to the folks at the newspaper, they’ll be friends in need of help. Ken Cooke was heavily involved in economic development efforts after Alcoa closed three years ago.

There used to be a saying back in the 1960’s, “We have met the enemy and they are us.” That’s problematical. What isn’t is what residents of Rockdale can say about its newspaper owners for the past 100 years.

“We have met the newspaper folks and they are us.”— M.B.

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2011-06-02 digital edition

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