Journalist Reflects On Paper's Legacy

September 28, 1999

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Journalist Reflects On Paper's Legacy

By Steve Jusseaume, Staff Writer

Steve Jusseaume
Steve Jusseaume
Having recently turned 50. I’m only half the age of the Hampton Union. But I've been familiar with the newspaper as a reader for over a quarter century, early as a summer resident of North Hampton Beach, and as a sometime/ part-time/turned full-time reporter since about 1990.

As a journalist, I've seen changes in the business since I first put pencil to notebook back in 1972, and Hampton Union is no different from the Marlboro (Mass.) Enterprise, where I broke into this addictive profession.

As was the case at the old Enterprise, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1988, the H.U. has gone through many transformations in its history as it reaches its own centennial. Cold type to linotype to computers to pagination has come in fits and starts, sometimes with anxiety and not a little trepidation on the part of writers, editors and production employees. But it has come, and most of us have embraced it and been carried along in the current of the future of the business.

Looking back at early editions of the H.U., it’s amazing how it’s transformed itself into what it is today. In 1907, advertisements dominated the Hampton Record, published by the Hampton Union’s first editor/publisher, Charles F. Adams. Advertisements regularly ran on page one above the fold (as news- paper people say). News used to be secondary to advertising revenue.

"Peculiar to Itself," a headline read at the top of page 1 in the May 3, 1907 issue. "Hood’s Sarsaparllla/Sold by druggists/100 doses $1."

Meanwhile, E.G. Cole & Co. advertised Tip Top bread for 5 cents, butter for 8 cents, and Parker House Rolls for 10 cents per package of 10 buns.

Coffee, the "Pride of Hampton," was offered by Cole and "with the FIRST pound you buy, we will for a limited time give free, a cloth-bound book, valued at fifty cents, giving an interesting story of the great earthquake in San Francisco."

The price of the weekly Hampton Record in 1907 was 1 cent per single copy, 25 cents for six months and 50 cents for one year (which some current-day critics think should be the going rate these days).

In 1901, however, the local paper, under the name The Hamptons Union and published weekly on Saturday mornings, cost 3 cents per copy. Readers found only news on page one in those salad days. No ads.

In Vol. II, No. 44 (April 19, 1901), readers were treated to a lively account of a fire at the beach. "Narrow Escape From Total Destruction of the Lower End of the Beach Property," an unknown reporter wrote.

"Sunday night a little after 8 o’clock an alarm of fire was given, and in a short time it was discovered that a blaze had broken out in a thickly settled portion of Hampton Beach. Later a telegraph dispatch to Whittier’s stated it was The Radcliffe which was on fire and everyone who could, started for the scene. The street railway company started a car from the power house immediately and took down all who could crowd on and later eight more cars were run.

"So rapid was the progress of the flames that it was impossible to save but little of the contents, and in fact there were but few men to help until the first electric arrived from Hampton about half an hour later."

The loss was estimated at $6,000, while the hotel was insured for only $4,400, the reporter wrote; a detail revealed that was not the norm in small-town Journalism at the turn of the century.

Not-withstanding the 1901 article, reporting got better as the century progressed, and journalists got more savvy, as did the public. Newspapers changed according to what their readers wanted.

A May 1929, Rocklngham County Gazette & Hamptons Union article listed Rockingham County’s leading dairy herd farmers. A Rockingham County Dairy Herd Improvement Association article declared that Pollyanna, a 7-year-old Holstein owned by W.P.Tenney, had produced 41.2 pounds of butterfat milk during Februazy 1929 — important information in the 1920s.

The June 6, 1929 Issue of the Gazette & Union vividly reported a cottage fire in Hampton. "With a wind blowing so violently that there was danger of much damage from sparks if not checked, Chief Homer B. Whiting and the men of the Hampton Beach Fire Department fought one of the most troublesome fires of the past few months preventing it from reaching spectacular conditions Sunday morning," a reporter penned.

The fire had broken out just north of the Dance Carnival (at Boar’s Head), in a chest of drawers in the cottage, "probably from a cigarette."

It is interesting that the fire at Hampton Beach in June 1999 which consumed The Old Salt, as well as four other businesses at Hampton Beach, is rumored to have been started by some- one discarding a cigarette in an alley way, though to date no official cause has been reported.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, advertising has disappeared from page one of the Hampton Union (as it has at most newspapers), and news photographs, which first appeared in the Hampton Union in the late 1930s early 1940s, began to compliment news stories, often giving graphic detail to news accounts.

Newspaper coverage of local events improved in the 1950s and '60s, and photographers originally using Speed Graphics, bulky 4-by-5 negative cameras, opted for the more convenient, smaller, 35mm cameras.

These days, photographs are a major part of news coverage. And reporters are, more and more, routinely digging beneath the surface of a news event to find why and for what reasons things happen. Reportage has changed, and it continues to evolve.

But some things haven’t changed.

In the May 2, 1907, issue of The Hampton Record, a notice appeared on page three, offering the following: "In an account of the funeral of Mrs. Mary A. Sanborn last week, it was inadvertently stated that the service was conducted by Rev. Mr. Warren, whereas in fact it was by Mr. Waterman, pastor of the Baptist church of this town."

Some 92 years later, in the Vol. 100, No. 21 issue of this venerable, 100-year- old Hampton Union newspaper, the dateline under the banner read: "Friday. September 7, 1999." The only problem being that September 7 was not a Friday it was a Tuesday.

The newspaper business is a fast- track, get-it-done-yesterday operation, and occasional errors are part of the process. I know that. I’ve made my share of mistakes. But It’s still a vital part of any community and, as they say, let the one who has made no mistakes in his life cast the first stone.

Hampton Union has miles to go to be the best newspaper it can be, but we are all trying, and the past hundred years hasn’t been a bad start.

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