Argus Champion, 1823-2008

The death of the Argus Champion at 185 years of age was announced on the weekly newspaper’s own pages last month. While it’s a particularly painful incident for the Lake Sunapee region communities it so loyally served, the passing of the Argus really affects us all.

At its best, the Argus was the epitome of a community newspaper. Under the longtime leadership of editor and publisher Ed DeCourcy, the Argus set an example for newspapers around New Hampshire and the country of how a newspaper should be run. Under Ed DeCourcy – who was editor of the Argus for more than 20 years in the 1960s and 1970s – the Argus in particular set a standard for community journalism that has rarely, if ever, been matched in New Hampshire. His brand of newspaper was fearless, fair-minded, open-hearted, intelligent and encouraging, giving readers and the community it served – the town of Newport in particular – something to be proud of.

There’s no doubt that the Argus lost something after former owners Jim Ewing and Walter Paine sold it in 1981 and Ed DeCourcy retired. But it still remained what it always was — a solid and usually wise community newspaper that gave its readers the information they could get nowhere else – articles about the selectmen’s, school board and planning board meetings, births, deaths and weddings, police and court news, spaghetti dinners, school lunch menus. In other words, the kind of information that binds a community together.

But the Argus, like all good community newspapers, is more than a chronicle of events. If it is doing its job, a good community newspaper serves to inform its readers, giving them the knowledge they need to do their work as citizens and voters. Great editors like Ed DeCourcy, and even pretty good editors, understand this.

Sure, you can find much of the information a community newspaper provides on the Web. But you can’t find it all, and you certainly can’t find it all easily and in one place. Web sites don’t often have staffs of professionals whose job it is to find and report the news. Rumor and innuendo, even fiction, is often mixed in with the information citizen-voters require.

When a community newspaper dies, nothing can really replace it. Life goes on, of course, but the community can never be the same.