The beat goes on

I don’t know if this is universal or unique to me, but the older I get, birthdays have become less about celebration and more about reflecting on the past.

This week’s thoughts hearken all the way back 1869, the year Jesse James robbed his first bank, and the year that set the stage for today’s credit card theft with the first patent for plastic.

The first game of intercollegiate American football was played between Rutgers and Princeton, though it bore little resemblance to today’s game.

Perhaps the most significant and symbolic event of 1869 was the completion of the first continental railroad, a golden spike foreshadowing the nation’s future prosperity and growth.

And on Sept. 24, 1869, significant to the 700 or so folks that called Marion Centre, Kansas home, the county’s first newspaper, The Western News, published its first edition. Two years and two owners later, it became the Marion County Record.

I wonder if E.W. Hoch had any idea when he bought the Record in 1874 that over the next 21 years he would outlast 18 other Marion competitors or that he and his descendants would own and publish the paper for 124 years.

In 1948, Hoch’s grandson and editor Wharton Hoch took on a new associate editor named Bill Meyer. When Wharton Hoch died in 1967, Meyer stepped in as editor. He and his wife, Joan, along with their son, Eric, a University of Illinois journalism professor, purchased the paper from Wharton Hoch’s estate in 1998.

The Meyer family has published the paper under the Hoch Publishing Inc. mantle ever since, adding to the fold the Hillsboro Star-Journal and Peabody Gazette-Bulletin in 1999 and 2001 respectively. Bill died in 2006, but with Joan as the paper’s most senior writer and Eric as president and publisher, the long and storied history of the Record, which includes having E.W. Hoch, Wharton Hoch, and Bill Meyer enshrined in the Kansas Journalism Hall of Fame, is strong and secure as we enter our 148th year.Like football, today’s Marion County Record bears little resemblance to its 1869 beginnings, yet its essence remains unchanged nearly a century and a half later.

E.W. Hoch might at first glance have trouble recognizing “the Ol’ Thing,” and he’d be astounded at what technology has wrought since the days he set each individual letter by hand.

But I think he’d recognize and be gratified to see that after 147 years the county’s first newspaper is hands-down its best, the most comprehensive, informative, timely, and steadfast chronicle of the lives and times in and around Marion.

There’s little time for a full-fledged celebration, though there might be cake to grab as we can between reporting and laying out pages. News never takes a break, and for 147 years, neither have we. We’re not going to start now. That’s what you’ve come to expect, and that’s what we’ll continue to deliver.


Last modified Sept. 28, 2016