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Newspaper Celebrates 125 Years

Donovan, Lauren. "Newspaper Celebrates 125 Years." Bismarck Tribune, 12 June 2009, B-1.


Allan and Leah Burke, publishers of the Emmons County Record since 1993, held a party in celebration of the paper's 125th anniversary.

LINTON - For a high school graduation gift, Leah and Allan Burke gave every one of their son's classmates a gift subscription to their hometown newspaper - their choices: paper or on the Internet.

To their delighted surprise, all but one of those electronic-gizmo, cell-phoned up-iPoded teenagers wanted the real thing, the inky pages bundled in their college mailboxes instead of electronic images to call up on their laptop computers. The one who didn't quickly changed his mind.

The Burkes told that story this week on the 125th anniversary of the Emmons County Record, a newspaper they publish from Linton.

They threw a party, and about 100 people came and stayed afterward for red fruit punch and sweet custard kuchen, the official dessert down there in the "German triangle."

The couple says the kids' preference for a "paper" newspaper bodes well as communications come of age in a new age.

"There's hope for the future," says Allan Burke, whose dark hair and glasses give him the look of a middle-aged Harry Potter.

Their newspaper has a tap root in history, established in 1884 when North Dakota was still a territory. Its founder, Darwin Streeter, lugged an old Army printing press in the back of a wagon to a town that no longer exists, eventually moving south to the Linton settlement.

The Burkes work hard, perhaps not as hard as Darwin Streeter had to back in the day of melted lead type and hand cranked copies, but hard nonetheless to publish a newspaper that has 3,000 subscribers, the third-largest weekly newspaper in North Dakota.

The Burkes load the paper with pictures and local news and Allan Burke ventures a guess that a good portion of every edition ends up in scrapbooks.

His motto: "Do your job, cover your area."

It isn't all Fourth of July parades and Dairy Princesses, though.

The Burkeses have had some knock down, drag outs with city hall, though his reputation is built more on his community-driven news pages than his editorial page.

He said, "I like to keep my powder dry and save it for when I really need it."

He needed it when he discovered city hall was violating state law on its water billing practices and his dogged coverage resulted in people getting their money back.

He told the audience, "It's surprising I haven't been run out of town on a rail. I feel a lot more security ever since they tore that old railroad out."

The work is interesting, definitely not 9-to-5 hours, and makes the couple a "good living," as Allan Burke says.

Gackle

Among well-wishers was Don Gackle of Garrison, whose family corporation publishes 11 weekly newspapers and also prints the Emmons County Record.

Gackle said that he believes weekly newspapers are more relevant than ever in a time when people are seeking small-town values.

Roger Bailey, who heads the North Dakota Newspaper Association, said papers like the Record "are an integral part of every community in North Dakota. You've got one of the best right here."

George Whitmore of San Pedro, Calif., is the great-grandson of the newspaper's original founder and grandson of the man who took it up next. He came to Linton for the anniversary.

Whitmore

He said he loves the "Americana" feel of the Record, with its stories of how people help each other and build a community life together, unlike the mayhem and chaos that fill the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

"I'm very proud of the heritage of this paper," Whitmore said. "It's honest and fair."

For any newspaper, those are words to set in type.

Reprinted with permission of the Bismarck Tribune and Lauren Donovan.

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