One Year for the TNR!
A Tip of Our Hats to Those Before Us
by James Gray
As we approached our one year anniversary, and therefore our self-created temporal legitimacy, it seemed appropriate to pay homage to the brave newspaper men (and women) that have trod these trails before us in Talent. We owe a huge debt to the Talent Historical Society and the Talent Library for supplying us with transcriptions and actual copies of these publications, as well as the bounty of background information. Do yourself a favor and stop by THS one of these days to read some of these back issues; there is no end to the fascinating jewels contained in these literary time capsules.
The Talent News (January, 1892-July, 1894)
The Talent News was run by one Mr. Eddie Robison who was the step-son of W.J. Dean, a diary keeper and noted citizen of his era.
According to Ben Truwe, who discovered and has extensively studied the Dean diaries, Eddie most likely created his paper, which was between 2-4 pages every couple of weeks, using an 800 lb. press that was able to print one page at a time. It is interesting to note that the paper was begun shortly after the railroads made their way into town, an important aspect of getting such an enormous press into the area.
It was not unusual in those times for a man as young as Eddie (he was only 17) to publish a paper as a hobby; what was unusual was the quality of the publishing and reportage. He managed to gain the respect of the more established publications in the area and received advice from other local editors. The paper had definite populist leanings and many involved with Robison's circle would eventually become socialists. Included in each edition was information on all sorts of meetings, editorials, business ads, poetry, fiction, classified ads, an extremely entertaining personals section (imagine a century old matchmaker.com) and, of course, Talent news. The 'news' that was reported ran the gamut from lines such as "Nice new board fences going up in every direction in and about
Talent," to more serious articles such as this excerpt, taken from an April issue in 1893:
A party of young people from Talent were out riding on the Ashland road late last evening and were just nearing the railroad crossing at Wyants when a train was seen coming rapidly round the curve at the north. It was too late to turn and the driver plied whip to the horses in an attempt to cross ahead of the train, but the young horses, taking fright at the shrieking of the locomotive, became unmanagable and overturned the carriage directly upon the track. In another instant the engine, like a devouring monster, rushed upon the struggling mass of --
April fools, would
ye wisdom choose?
Then subscribe at once for the TALENT NEWS.
That pretty well sums up the odd humor of the editor and his wonderful writing style. The paper was riddled with references to subscriptions and the editor's own poverty until Eddie finally gave up the venture in July 1894, citing a disappointing income stream.
The Talent News Flash (1934-1989)
As wildly different as things were in Talent 75 years ago, some things haven't changed much. For example, it was still cost prohibitive for a small time grocery store to advertise in either of the major local papers. To this end, Mae Lowe, her husband Harry and their trusty mimeograph machine put out an advertising sheet for Ray's Market.
Of course the other side of the page couldn't be left blank, so they decided to include some local news.
About a year later, Alice Burnett came on and the paper expanded into a 6-8 page publication whose eventual 700 copies were lovingly delivered by Mae and Alice to the residents of Talent.
The Talent News Flash (Where the City of Talent's publication gets its
name), was a free paper, much like the one which is presently in your hands. To pay for it, the ladies sold advertisements and went around town picking up the information that vendors wished to have included in their ads. The ads were then illustrated by hand.
The paper, according to Alice, never did much financially besides break even; after fifty years in business the paper which began as a weekly publication slipped to a monthly publication and eventually called it quits.
When asked why two women would continue an unprofitable venture such as this for more than a half century, Alice made no bones about it.
"I guess we were a couple of gossips," she said, "We just wanted to keep up with what was going on."
Despite that snark, the News Flashes were instrumental in shaping the way that Talent looks and feels today. Through their many campaigns in the paper Mae and Alice were able to bring the city a new lighting and sewer system, a new water heater for the now defunct City Hall and, perhaps most importantly, they were the originators of the push to allow a vote on which school system Talent would be joined with: Ashland or Phoenix. All those people who despise being thought of as "North Ashland" might have these brave women to thank for that title not becoming reality.
The Phoenix-Talent Record (1995-1996)
For more than a decade there was no printed news in Talent. John Morrison, seeing a need, made up his mind to do something about it.
"I graduated from Phoenix High and grew up in Talent," he says, "And many of the people that I knew were always complaining that they really never got much news of their town covered in [The Mail Tribune and The Daily Tidings]. So I decided to start a weekly paper that would cover the legitimate news interest of Phoenix and Talent."
Morrison says that starting the paper was a bit of a lark; he had occupied nearly every role in the newspaper business but owner and felt like taking on the challenge.
A lark it may have been, but he didn't enter into the business lightly. Throughout the paper's lifespan, Morrison attended an unthinkable amount of city council, planning commission and school board meetings and had a policy that he would never leave until the meeting was over, so as never to miss a chance for the juicy end-of-meeting tid-bits that weren't formally on the agenda.
The mid-1990's was an especially important time for local news coverage in the area because of the amount of growth and modulation taking place
in the two city governments. Many important decisions, including solving the mounting water problems, were made in this era.
"It was a time when Talent in particular was going through tremendous changes politically," he says. "There was a lot of turnover on the city council; there had been an old guard for many, many years and about the time that I started my newspaper, a new wave of younger married people came in and started making changes, particularly through the TAP project which fixed the municipal water supply by bringing water over from Medford. I wanted to make sure that all of that information got out to the public. I take a little pride in saying that I did a pretty good job of it."
When several long term advertisers failed to follow through on pledges to the paper, therefore condemning The Record to another break-even budget projection, Morrison says he eventually lost interest in working 7 days a week for no pay and folded the paper after a year and a half of publication.
The Talent News & Review (April, 2008-Present)
During our interview with John Morrison, he paid the TNR a compliment and, in doing so, summed up his and our motivations for creating such a publication. Here is what he had to say:
"One of the reasons why I started my newspaper was that I remembered, from being a kid, the important function that the little Talent News Flash had in helping to develop community pride and understanding; it was good to hear about what your neighbors were doing and what was going on. I noticed when I returned to the Valley after living around the country, working for various newspapers, that that was missing. I really felt that that shouldn't be missing and if I had a regret that I didn't keep the paper going, that would be it, so I was very delighted when I found the TNR."
Over the course of the last year we have received many compliments and thanks - we would like to thank you, Talent, for the attention you continue to give to our humble little project and would like to assure you that, whatever nice things you have to say about the work we do, you deserve it. It is our sincere hope that we are able to serve you for years to come.
P.S. In order to keep us from the break-even fate that appears to await every person foolish enough to embark on a journey such as this, please patronize one of our advertisers this month and tell them that you found out about them from the TNR. Seriously. Better yet, go to a business that doesn't advertise and tell them that you refuse to give them business until they start supporting their local paper.
April 2009 Talent News & Review
Reprinted with the permission and courtesy of James Gray and the Talent News & Review.