The newspaper business is contracting and editors are blaming everyone but themselves for the reduced readership. 150 years ago this week, the editor of the Rockland County Journal told his readers they had an obligation to the county paper to share information about events happening in the county. “Now, if those who are interested in their county paper would keep the publisher posted as to facts and occurrences with which they are acquainted, how much more interest and valuable he would be able to make their paper. He is their servant, but they should assist him to serve.”
It’s somehow comforting to know as much as things can change in 150 years, some things don’t change at all.
The Citizen Duty to his Country Paper
During these times of war and excitement, every neighborhood takes one or more daily papers, and are by them kept posted in advance of their county paper. If they stop to read it on its arrival it is more with a view Is to what it may have of a local character, than to its general news, which has become old to most of its readers. It thus becomes of value it to them mainly on account of its local items. But does not every one feel that it is valuable to him for the sake of these alone, and that he cannot faii in the course of a year to receive a full return for helping to sustain it.
Yet it is often justly charged that this department is too much neglected by the publisher : that many localities in the county are but seldom if ever referred to, and seemingly little or no interest taken in them : that roads and bridges often need the attention of the proper authorities, but the authorities are not reminded of their duties by the county paper, and that occurrences of interest transpire that are never referred to in print. This no doubt true, and much of the blame always attaches to the conductor of the paper. But does it all attach to him ? Is it not generally the case that he is confined to his office by pressing duties, and must look to residents of distant localities for his facts and figures. Yet how often is he under obligations to any of them for information ? Judging from our, own experience, it is very seldom indeed.
Now. if those who are interested in their county paper would keep the publisher posted as to facts and occurrences with which they are acquainted, how much more interest and valuable he would be able to make their paper. He is their servant, but they should assist him to serve. No one of them should come to the place of publication with the knowledge of interesting facts without leaving them with the publisher. If they obtain such facts, being at a distance, they should for the accommodation and benefit of all, send them to him by letter. It would cost them but little time and trouble, and the good attained would often be very great.
We earnestly request of farmers and other visitors to our town that they call upon us and give us a statement of anything of interest that may have fallen under their notice. No matter if it be of but trifling importance. A record of these little occurrences serve to make up the history of our county, and no one of them is without some value in the light of history.
The evening is so beautiful, that it unconsciously draws the mind to rest on the happy evenings spent with pleasent (sic) friends and companions on the banks of the old Hudson, and since I cannot be with them in person, it is at least a pleasure to let them know that I am still in the land of the living.
Brian Jennings is the local history librarian and librarian supervisor at the Nyack Library. This article is part of a series extracted from scanned copies of the 1850-1884 Rockland County Journal which include The Civil War and the period in which realist painter Edward Hopper lived in Nyack. They provide us with a snapshot into what life was like in Nyack and Rockland in the late 19th century.
See also: 150 Years Ago In Rockland series on NyackNewsAndViews.