The Telegraph celebrates 175 years

From the time when bespectacled farmers squinted by lantern’s flame at tiny words on thick, handmade paper to the contemporary businessperson’s harried glance at a bright, graphics-laden LCD screen, The Telegraph has been the unflinching, unfailing constant behind it all.

Born on Oct. 20, 1832, as the “New-Hampshire Telegraph,” a four-page Saturday weekly, the resilient little newspaper escaped a handful of near-fatal pitfalls before gradually finding its sea legs and growing into a comprehensive news, editorial, and advertising package that laid the foundation for the award-winning product you see on paper and your computer screen today.

This year marks a big milestone in Telegraph history, the 175th anniversary of its founding by a young, idealistic printer named Alfred Beard. Customarily, we’ve paused at each 25-year increment to celebrate our past, assess the present, and envision the future, and this year is no exception.

Much water has passed the dam, as they say, in the last quarter century. But the granddaddy of all changes has to be the introduction of technology and its sweeping effect on how the product is composed and disseminated.

The advent of interdepartmental networking, followed closely by the company’s leap onto the Internet’s information superhighway, signaled the start of the most changeable and unpredictable newspapering era to date.

As soon as reliable technology was available, The Telegraph began allotting significant resources to getting an attractive Web site up and running, and then acquiring the know-how to make a strong online presence.

But nowhere along the way did anyone suggest neglecting the printed product, either financially or in theory, said Nick Pappas, Telegraph managing editor.

“It may be trendy to go out and say that, in 10 years, you won’t see any newspapers at all, everything we read will be online,” Pappas said. “But I don’t agree at all. They (newspapers) may have evolved into something different than what we see today — I’m sure many will look a lot different — but I don’t see the printed paper becoming extinct anytime soon.”

Why’s that? “Local news is king,” Pappas said. “That’s what our readers depend on us for.”

Then there’s the advertising side. For publisher Terry Williams, whether on paper or the screen, it all comes down to reliable customer service.

“It’s all about us being very customer-oriented, by connecting with our advertisers and readers and offering them the best value we can in meeting their needs,” he said. “If that way is online, we need to do that. If the need is in print, then we need to do that, too.”

In the spring of 2005, The Telegraph and its parent company, McLean Communications Inc., broadened The Telegraph’s geographical reach considerably when it purchased The Cabinet of Milford, the town’s nearly two-century-old family owned weekly.

With The Cabinet purchase came its string of free Journal newspapers, the Hollis-Brookline Journal, Merrimack Journal, and Bedford Journal, which are distributed weekly in each of those communities.

Their existence was an important part of the sale, said Williams – particularly the Bedford Journal, because up until then, The Telegraph had little presence in that town.

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