Kenneth Tingley read the newspaper before his parents got there – first the funny, then the sports, then, growing up, the news. When his father brought home the New York Daily News each night, tucked into his lunchbox, “Anyday, I’d devour that.”
Tingley grew up and became a journalist. When, in 1999, he became editor of The (Glens Falls, New York) Post-Star, he began writing a regular column explaining what went into the newspaper’s coverage decisions.
Tingley maintained this for 21 years, and these columns provided a roadmap for his new book, “The Last American Newspaper”, which was published by McFarland.
In the preface, Tingley writes:
“The last American newspaper” is not a concept to be taken literally. It’s a metaphor for the hundreds of community newspapers across the country that are now struggling to survive.
I used my experiences in my own newspaper – The Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York – to tell how community newspapers have improved their cities and towns by sparking debate and discussion as a way to solve community problems. . and concerns while celebrating their successes.
Using my 21 years as an editor as a time frame (1999-2020), I chronicled the
the events and issues my community faced as they unfolded. The story of The Post-Star is not unique among community newspapers. There are hundreds of posts like this that have had the same kind of impact. Unfortunately, there has been less and less in-depth journalism over the past decade as newsroom staff have been emptied after declining advertising revenue.
Who will do journalism in the future? This is a question for every citizen should ask.
The book tells the news of Glens Falls, how it was made and who made it.
At one point, The Post-Star had about 50 people on the editorial staff. The day after the 2019 election, Tingley had to fire four people from the newspaper, owned by Lee Enterprises.
“I found it to be just devastating,” Tingley said.
This reduced the newspaper to 10 staff members. Tingley went home and told his wife he had had enough. The next person to go would be him.
He retired in 2020. The Post-Star has now seven editors.
“The book is a love letter to newspapers,” Tingley told me.
It also feels like an SOS to the communities, I suggested.
In the last chapter of the book, “Last Year”, Tingley writes:
By December 2018, President Trump’s “fake news” mantra had seeped into the vocabulary of local politicians, while comments and emails from our readers often accused us of bias and partisanship. Earlier in the year, five newspaper employees were killed at the Capital Gazette newspaper in suburban Maryland by a disgruntled reader.
The year has been difficult for journalists.
I wrote at the time: “I often had the impression of being on the front line of a war where the truth was held hostage.
The very real stresses of layoffs, corporate consolidation, and political interference and partisanship are part of his story, but Tingley dedicates the majority of the book to focusing on the work, the people, and the impact that he had in Glens Falls.
…As was so often the case during my 21 years as editor of my little community newspaper, it was a reader who lifted me.
It was Boxing Day 2018 and our receptionist told me there was a woman who wanted to see me.
I was busy and expected her to complain, but as has been the case more often than not over the years, when someone asked to see the editor, I stood up to face to the music. It was part of the job.
“You’ve been at the paper a long time,” the woman began.
“Thirty years,” I replied.
She hesitated, her eyes going from side to side as if afraid someone might hear her in the hall. She stopped again, apparently struggling to find the words.
“Your articles give me hope,” she said, staring at me.
I was relieved at first, then speechless.
It was a reminder why so many of us are in the news business; why we stay committed in the face of adversity, and of course it reminded me of the power of print. We may not change the world every day, but giving our readers some hope is a good place to start.
This piece originally appeared in Local Editionour newsletter dedicated to the stories of local journalists