Press move won't change our mission

By the Advocate Editorial Board
May 6, 2017 at 2:21 p.m.
Updated May 7, 2017 at 11:52 a.m.

The Harris N1650 press soon after it was installed at the Advocate's downtown offices in June 1978.

The Harris N1650 press soon after it was installed at the Advocate's downtown offices in June 1978.   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Our old press has told millions of stories.

Across 39 years, the hulking giant - weighing almost 400,000 pounds - has nobly served our many thousands of readers every day without fail. That's an amazing feat if you stop to think about it. What equipment do you have around the house that has worked every day without fail since 1978?

Much of the credit for this goes to our pressmen and women, who have managed through skill and sheer will to keep the machine moving day after day and night after night. Operations manager Charles Kulow, who started at the Advocate four years before our current press was installed, is the ultimate MacGyver. One night, after a part broke, he stood with a two-by-four braced on his shoulder to keep the press's clutch engaged during the entire run.

This can-do spirit started in 1846 when the Advocate's first owners, John D. Logan and Thomas Sterne, brought their press and type from Van Buren, Ark., on a flat boat to New Orleans and then to Port Lavaca. From there, Mexican ox carts hauled the machinery to Victoria.

When the first edition rolled off the press May 8, 1846, the Advocate became the first newspaper west of the Colorado River. It is a tradition our family owners are proud to continue.

The only daily newspaper older than the Advocate in Texas is the Galveston County Daily News. And we printed the Galveston paper after Hurricane Ike knocked the News out of commission for a while in 2008.

Twice, the Advocate burned to the ground in the 1800s, but the newspaper always rose from the ashes. There were stories that had to be told - a wild horseman "who was either drunk, crazy or an idiot" riding recklessly down Main Street on Nov. 29, 1890; an oil strike in Nursery on Jan. 2, 1930; the death of a 9-year-old girl burned when her dress ignited while she was warming her hands at a wood stove Jan. 26, 1940; a letter to the editor from a Victoria High School student complaining about the lack of financial support for top students vs. football players Aug. 4, 1960; and so many more.

Along with telling the stories of the everyday people who live here, we've been the watchdog of local government, most recently analyzing the spending of Victoria Drainage District No. 3 and the abrupt departure of the University of Houston-Victoria president. Our watchdog journalism remains vital to our mission.

We've used many presses over 172 years to bring you the news. The Harris N1650 was state-of-the-art when we installed it in 1978.

Almost four decades later, though, we struggle to even get parts to keep the old press rolling. We had to make the difficult financial decision to print elsewhere for the first time in Advocate history.

Technology makes this possible because we create all our pages on computers now and can send them anywhere. The delivery time to our subscribers' driveways will be the same.

The final edition of the Advocate printed in Victoria coincidentally falls Monday, on the 172nd anniversary of our first one in 1846. The timing is apt because we are making this change so your Advocate will be telling our community's stories well into the next century.

A press is a magnificent symbol of a newspaper. However, the beating heart of what we do lies not in ink on paper but in how well we connect our community.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.


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