Posted 7/25/12 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
Most of us can’t imagine reaching the ripe old age of 105, but if you happened to have looked closely at the front page of the McKenzie County Farmer this week, you may have noticed that this just happens to be Vol. 105, Issue 1. That’s right, this issue marks the beginning of our 105th year of bringing the news to the people of McKenzie County. And that makes us the oldest business in McKenzie County.
While I can’t begin to cover all of the history of this newspaper in a column, I thought this week I’d share with you a brief look at our beginnings and the changes that we’ve seen as we embark upon our 105th year of being in business.
The “Farmer” had its early beginnings in Arnegard when it first began publishing in 1908. Like so many other small communities in McKenzie County at the time, every community had a newspaper. Believe it or not, at one time there were at least 15 newspapers in this county. And if you talk to some of the real “old-timers” they will tell you about the McKenzie County Chronicle in Alexander, The Watford Guide, the Inland Call in Berg, the Charbonneau Herald, The Schafer Record, The Rawson Tribune or even the Grassy Butte News, just to name a few.
While our roots were in Arnegard, it wasn’t long after the town of Watford City was organized that the Watford Guide sprang up in this then, fast-growing community in 1915. As the town of Schafer slowly moved to Watford City, the Record was discontinued in the early 1920s and then in early 1928, the Guide was sold to the McKenzie County Farmers Publishing Company of Arnegard, which had been publishing the “Farmer” since 1917.
Like any other business, over the past 105 years there have been a lot of changes in the way newspapers are produced. In the early days, which we now refer to as the “hot metal era,” type for the newspaper pages was created by injecting hot molten lead into molds that created either letters or lines of copy. Each of those lines of type were then placed in large metal frames containing all of the news and ads for a particular page and then placed on the bed of a large sheet-fed press that then printed four pages of the newspaper at a time. Once all of the copies of those four pages were printed, a new set of four pages was then placed on the press and the back side of the pages was printed. And so the process continued until all of the pages of that week’s issue were printed.
And once the process was over all of the type was melted down and cast into lead bars to begin a whole new process.
And that was the way the McKenzie County Farmer, like virtually every other newspaper in the nation, was published each and every week until the start of the “offset era” which began in the mid-1960s and the early 1970s. From that time on, technology advances have allowed newspapers to do things that were not remotely possible 40 or 50 years ago.
Today, the McKenzie County Farmer is completely produced on the computer with our finished pages being sent to our publishing plant in Minot electronically, where the newspaper is printed and then brought back to Watford City each Tuesday. When weekly newspapers were once only in black and white, today’s weekly newspapers, like the Farmer, feature full color photos and ads. Long gone are the days of processing film for photos as every photo that appears in the newspaper is taken on high-end digital cameras.
Like so many other industries, technology breathed new life into newspapers. Newspapers like the Farmer are no longer just a product that you pick up and read as an abbreviated version is also available online.
While technology may have changed the way that the newspaper is produced and how it looks to our readers over the last 105 years, one thing has always been constant. And that constant is that every week, we do everything possible to bring the people of McKenzie County and our loyal readers the best newspaper that we can.
It’s a job that we don’t take lightly. For 105 years, we’ve been bringing you the news of McKenzie County and it is our intent, God willing, to be doing so for another 100 years.