Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: There is real value in local news

LET THE RECORD show that I am much younger than the New Hampshire Sunday News, which was founded by my father, B.J. McQuaid, and Blair Clark. OK, not that much younger.

Its first issue was Oct. 6, 1946, so it’s about to have a birthday.

The founders had a falling out after only a year, and as far as I know, it had nothing to do with their politics, although B.J. was more conservative than Blair. Blair would go on to be head of CBS News, campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and editor of The Nation magazine.

After their split, B.J. went to work for William Loeb, who had purchased the Union Leader the same week that the Sunday News had its first issue.

Within another year, Loeb had bought the Sunday News from Clark, and my father got back to running it. I still look forward to reading the Sunday News, and the Union Leader, when they get to my door each morning. I hate it when we don’t print on certain holidays, but the news business is in challenging times.

We are meeting them as they come. (As of today, our Monday paper is switching to a two-section format that allows us to keep all of the news and features but saves on pages. Sports is in the second section.)

We remain in better shape than a lot of papers, which answer more and more to distant chain ownership that pays lip service to local news. This is at a time when the press’s role as independent watchdog is more important than ever. I think our newspapers play that role here in New Hampshire.

I get an advanced look at some of our top stories, but I still devour the print edition each morning. A lot of people tell me the same. “I just love to hold that paper in my hands.”

I looked back at just some of one week’s stories. Here’s what I found.

Columnist Mark Hayward gave a World War I hero his due. Before reading Mark’s piece, how many readers knew about Lt. William Jutras? He lost his life 100 years ago, warning fellow soldiers of imminent danger to them in a World War I battle.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins came next door from Maine to speak at the William W. Treat Constitutionally Speaking series. Reporter Todd Feathers gave a good summary of her views on the Supreme Court nomination.

New Hampshire workers are staying in the work force for more years than you might imagine. Our year-long “Silver Linings” series reporter Roberta Baker took a look, not at statistics, but at real people who are working much longer than age 65.

Manchester’s firefighters union is in a contest of wills, and wallets, with the city over a new contract. City Hall reporter Paul Feely showed readers what the union is doing to force the issue; and what the fire chief is doing to adequately staff in light of “blue flu.” (Just yesterday, Feely reported a potential break in the stalemate.)

While all that was being reported, readers could still take time to read Our Gourmet, who was in busy downtown Concord to give us a taste of the burgers at a South Main Street shop near the Red River Theatres.

We also had a special magazine on some of New Hampshire’s most innovative companies that are competing for workers in an incredibly tight job market.

That’s the publisher’s two cents for the first Monday in October. I look forward to reader comments and questions.

Write to Joe McQuaid at Publisher@unionleader.com or on Twitter at @deucecrew.