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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Age may change, but not our standards

It's the Union's birthday today. No presents, please. It's the thought that counts.

And the thought is that the Union (the oldest part of the New Hampshire Union Leader) begins its 152nd year today as an ongoing daily newspaper. Its origins are even older than March 31, 1863. Its ties to weekly papers go back to 1842.

One of the Union's 19th century owners, Stilson Hutchins by name and a native of Whitefield, was the founder of the Washington Post whose later owner, Phil Graham, coined the phrase that journalism is the first rough draft of history.

I have always liked that phrase and I have always loved newspapers for what they do in reporting on their communities, whether they be a one-man, one-town weekly or a national daily.

Newspapers, more than most media, have had the ability and the resources to put together a community of information on a regular basis that allows a community of readers to be better informed than they would otherwise be. When I look back at old newspapers, which I also love to do, I get a wonderful sense of slices of the history of a particular community.

The Internet now allows news and information companies like ours to be even faster in reporting that history.

That has its pluses and minuses. We can report things quicker but it remains important to remember that what we do is that "first draft." Stories change. Time provides room to develop new information. The print deadlines for a daily newspaper came once or twice in a 24-hour cycle. That seems quaint by today's Internet standards.

But standards remain important to us. Time and further reporting may revise the first draft, but that first draft should be as accurate as possible. The Internet's wondrous speed should not be an excuse for poor reporting or, worse, for just tweeting out the latest rumor.

It is in community information-gathering and reporting that newspapers have long held sway. TV and radio, in general, have not had the space, staff, or inclination for this type of reporting. The Internet has disrupted much of what the various news media do and how we all do it.

Some of that is good, some of it is very challenging. One of the toughest parts is news media figuring out how to get similar value from information online as they do from print, radio, or TV.

But it is no tougher or more challenging, I would guess, than when some hearty souls got together on a snowy day 151 years ago in Manchester, gathered their notes, and hand-picked the type for the first issue of this daily paper.

Write to Joe McQuaid at or on Twitter at @Deucecrew.


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