2015-03-26 / Front Page

GAZETTE charts a course back to paper’s roots

By Erik Skindrud Editor


The first MARIPOSA GAZETTE building burned to the ground in November of 1878—along with most of downtown. This view was captured on a glass plate prior to the fire. It was contributed to the GAZETTE'S collection by Florence (“Tonsie”) Grosjean in 1952. 
Gazette file photo The first MARIPOSA GAZETTE building burned to the ground in November of 1878—along with most of downtown. This view was captured on a glass plate prior to the fire. It was contributed to the GAZETTE'S collection by Florence (“Tonsie”) Grosjean in 1952. Gazette file photo The new MARIPOSA GAZETTE that debuts this week has a philosophy and purpose behind it.

In a world where “new” is a synonym for “better,” a moment of reflection sometimes prompts a look back.

A recent news story about misdirected Yosemite tourists provides a parable. Instead of speeding their trip to the Park, one family’s navigation by GPS unit led it to a dead-end in the Sierra National Forest.

In a similar vein, the culture’s retreat from print to electronic media might seem to embrace progress. In the end, though, it may be a step away from community values and a functioning democracy.

Starting this week, the GAZETTE returns to a layout based on its look from the 1850s to the 1920s. During the period, the paper was laid out using metal type. The procedure was slower, and led to items being added as they were received each week.

For this reason, old newspapers were not divided into sections. Instead, news, event announcements, obituaries, sporting results, letters and opinion ran side by side.

In its new format, the GAZETTE reverts to this alltogether organization. While it may cause some confusion at first, things will likely pop into place as readers become accustomed to it.

That said, the new, or old-style paper will not adopt all conventions of its former self.

During the Civil War, for example, the GAZETTE was an overtly partisan publication. It backed the Union, President Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party. An opposing viewpoint was taken by the Mariposa Free Press—which backed the Southern cause.

To be sure, tensions were high during the War Between the States.

As the conflict dragged towards its bloody conclusion, Free Press publisher James H. Lawrence encountered a GAZETTE reader named Wilson in Mariposa’s streets late one night.

When all was said and done, Lawrence had gunned down Wilson—apparently in self-defense. According to local historian Tom Phillips, a legal proceeding cleared Lawrence of responsibility.

“The GAZETTE, as a competitor to the Free Press, complained about the verdict,” Phillips wrote. “But the judgement stood.”

While passions over politics still flare today, the proper forum for today’s arguments are printer’s ink. As the county’s only traditional newspaper, the GAZETTE is committed to the free, open and non-violent exchange of ideas.

As a newspaper name, gazette has a long history. In North America, it goes back to 1728 with the first publication of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The newspaper was purchased by Benjamin Franklin in 1741, and played a role in the events that led to the American Revolution.

The MARIPOSA GAZETTE traces its history to Jan. 20, 1854, when settlers inaugurated the Mariposa Chronicle newspaper. In 1855, the Chronicle’s printing press was purchased by L.A. Holmes, who changed the operation’s name to the MARIPOSA GAZETTE.

While it has briefly continued under different names, including the Gazette Mariposan (in 1900), the paper has been in non-stop production ever since. From the time it was published by the Dexter and Campbell families, which helmed the paper from 1919 to 1997, when it was purchase by current owner R.D. Tucker, the GAZETTE has celebrated the tagline, “California’s oldest weekly newspaper of continuous publication.”

Today, the GAZETTE is one of a handful of newspapers to survive from California’s Gold Rush era. With its long history, it is valued as a source by historians. Many issues dating from 1861 to 1922 are available on UC Riverside’s online California Digital Newspaper Collection.

A tour through these pages makes for fascinating reading. As part of the GAZETTE’S new format, a liberal sprinkling of content from these old papers will be included throughout each week’s edition. Their inclusion is designed to entertain— as well as to inform.

Another goal is to celebrate the county’s rich history— which encompasses the Gold Rush—as well as the discovery of worldrenowned Yosemite Valley.

Together, these stories help draw hundreds of thousands of visitors a year through the Highway 140 corridor. By referencing them each week, the GAZETTE hopes to promote and perpetuate this tradition in the minds of residents and visitors alike.

In its new guise, the paper also proudly references the history of newspapers in America. Though now stressed by market forces—as well as cultural trends that favor entertainment and instant gratification over meaningful dialog—the GAZETTE continues to play an important role in civic life.

When he visited the U.S. in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville marvelled at the number and vigor of newspapers in the young republic. Their health was a testament to the strength of democracy in America, he believed.

“To suppose that (newspapers) only serve to protect freedom would be to diminish their importance,” Tocqueville wrote. “They maintain civilization (itself).”

To that end, the paper will continue to rely on active readers and partners in the community. Its staff looks forward to hearing what readers think of the new look. Criticism and ideas will be eagerly received too.

Readers can send all comments to editor@mariposagazette.com

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Gazette has of big innovation

Gazette has of big innovation and art being applied in it. now we can expect a new era of the perfectness through it.

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