Silverman: Goodbye Eagle Times

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(HOST) Many aspiring journalists get their start at newspapers like the Eagle Times of Claremont, New Hampshire. It folded last week and NPR All Things Considered producer Art Silverman has a personal remembrance.

(SILVERMAN) A newspaper died last week after a long illness. Cause of death? The same blight afflicting newspapers everywhere. But some self-inflicted wounds certainly hastened its demise.

The National Eagle was born in Claremont, N.H., in 1834. It later became the more modest and more realistically titled: Daily Eagle. Since the 1970s it’s been the Eagle-Times.

On its deathbed, the paper was attended by some eight thousand readers. They depended on it to bring them city council meetings, fires, club meetings, police reports.

Now, the Eagle wasn’t a great newspaper, but it was at one time a pretty good one, and to the people in the central Connecticut River valley, it was the only news outlet regularly watching the people spending their money, plowing their roads, fighting their fires.

And it was something essential, too, to the people, such as myself, who worked there. The Eagle was a calling and it was a training ground. We came there trying to light a fire under our fledgling careers. In the process of learning we gave something of ourselves to the community, or so we hope.

So, it was very sad to hear how abruptly the plug was pulled on the current staff of the paper last week. Just a terse e-mail saying. "We’re filing for Chapter Seven Bankruptcy protection tomorrow. Turn in your keys. Don’t come back."

Actually, my own start at the Eagle was equally abrupt, but going in the other direction.

In late summer 1971, I stumbled into a place called Eagle Printing in Claremont. It was the paper’s subsidiary. I hoped to land a spot helping on the presses but I wound up in the office of the managing editor next door. He had just fired a reporter and now needed a new one.

He asked, "Can you take pictures and run the darkroom?"

"Of course," I lied. I’d studied film-making in college, but never set foot in a darkroom – something made obvious the next Monday when I came in and ruined the sports editor’s film.

But I did learn how to be a photographer eventually, and did some writing. And I got to understand how a small community needed a newspaper – even an uneven one – to weave its way into people’s lives. And the people who worked there? Many of them have remained my friends. And a lot of us were online and on the phone last week talking about the death of the Eagle – and of its value – and of its many, many flaws.

"Hey, remember the time the editor needed help spelling a word at the last minute for a NASA blast-off?" one of my old Eagle friends asked.

Sure I remembered. The editor had been desperate and on deadline for a simple three-tiered block of type that would fill the upper right-hand corner of the front page.

The editor shouted across the news room, "Hey, how do you spell waive?" Having no idea of what story he was applying this to, we assumed he was having a difficult time remembering how to spell the less common word in English, meaning to relinquish.

Well, it wasn’t until the presses rolled at noon that we stared at the page one headline about spacemen departing for orbit that read:



Well,  Sullivan County, N.H., Windsor County, Vt., wave goodbye to the Eagle-Times.

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