My predecessor as editor of The Alpena News was a notorious packrat.
For history buffs like him and me, that’s a good thing.
When I inherited the editor’s office on the ground floor of The News in downtown Alpena, I inherited five filing cabinets, five desk drawers and several filing cabinets filled to the brim with folders and props detailing the history of The News in particular and journalism in general, as well as the broader history of northeast Michigan.
That doesn’t include the history hidden in several storage rooms throughout the building, including hardback copies of The News dating back to the 1930s stacked in a storage space we affectionately call “the morgue.”
From my office, you can trace the history of newspaper production.
Hanging on the wall are type from the days of typesetting, when individual letters had to be arranged upside down in a rack before a typesetter brushed them with ink and pressed them against paper to make a diary.
Sitting on a shelf in my office is an old Underwood Standard typewriter – although not specifically used in The News, it represents the type of machine on which our earliest journalists would have composed their stories.
Tucked away in a drawer I found an old cut-and-paste layout page for a double truck advertisement (i.e. it spans two full pages of newsprint), probably some 1980s or early 1990s. Newspaper typesetters of this era literally cut stories, photos and graphics out of paper and pasted them onto larger sheets of paper which were then photographed and made into film to make plates for the press.
Today I’m typing this column on a laptop on my desk. Later I will use another computer to compose the Northern Lifestyles page on which you will read this story. Then I will send a digital version of the page to another computer which will communicate with a plate computer machine which will make the plates for the press.
Elsewhere in the files left to me, I found other artifacts detailing The News’ activities over the years:
∫ A 1937 advertising rate schedule, showing that a year’s worth of advertising costs as little as $28.35 per week
∫ A 1996 analysis by former publisher Bill Speer and then-head of circulation James Austin of The News’ then-recent conversion from afternoon to morning delivery
∫ A 2000 analysis of The News’ first Business Expo
∫ Ad cards – posters that would slip into newspaper vending machines – promoting stories about Alpena’s attempt in the early 2000s to lure a Boeing manufacturing plant to our area
∫ The original mock-up of a Bob LeFevre design for an Alpena News T-shirt
∫ Original designs for Alpena News envelopes with a drawing of The News based on it
Among The News’ most prized possessions in its archives are copies of old newspapers, including a January 1864 edition of the Thunder Bay Monitor, one of the only known copies of Alpena’s first newspaper, printed shortly after white people first settled in the area and years before Alpena became a town.
The collection also includes an August 1879 edition of the Weekly Reporter (costs 50 cents for a one-year subscription), a June 1897 edition of the Alpena Argus, a March 1914 edition of the Alpena Daily Echo, and a March 1916 edition of the Alpena Argus. -Pioneer.
These newspapers would merge and consolidate over the years, ultimately leaving only The Alpena Evening News, later The Alpena News, standing.
And I also have plenty of old, frayed and yellowed copies of The News, including:
∫ A June 1917 edition that includes a 1A story about the chief of police chasing down a draft dodger
∫ A January 1950 edition featuring a resounding 1A title on Alpena speed skater Mona Donnelly competing in Nationals
∫ A December 1964 edition featuring a story about a US-23 modernization and M-32 paving project included in state plans for the following year
It’s easy to think of the diary as something to read and then recycle every day, but the archival collecting started by my predecessor and continued by me shows that a diary is much more than that.
Newspapers are the first recorders of history.
A century from now, a newspaper publisher will pull out frayed, yellowed copies of the editions we print today and skim through them for a look back at the lives of the people of northeast Michigan in 2022.
Nowhere else will we offer such a tangible and comprehensive archive of our history.
And that’s a good reason to support your local newspaper now.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.