Editorial: Lighting out
In 1861, fleeing the tribulations of the Civil War in border-state Missouri, Samuel Clemens “lit out for the territories.” He followed his brother to the West, passing through Salt Lake City before settling in Virginia City, Nevada, where he didn’t make it as a miner and went to work for the local paper the Territorial Enterprise. That’s where he became Mark Twain.
In that time and place, almost anything went in a newspaper, which meant there was room for Twain’s humorous accounts — “stretchers,” he called them — along with a good deal of frontier-style bragging, threats, feuds and imprecations, and then, space allowing, some factual news. Newspapers then could be not unlike gangsta rap, and, anticipating social media, there was also a lot of unsigned or pseudonymous trolling. (And this was really not new or especially Western; six decades before, Thomas Jefferson, that champion of a free press, surreptitiously paid to have a pamphlet falsely claim that his rival, John Adams, was a hermaphrodite.)
Nineteen years later, in Park, Utah, The Record was founded, a weekly newspaper that grew up with a mining camp and saw it become Park City. Under the eye of editor and publisher Sam Raddon, the Park Record — this Park Record — was a controversial sheet, not averse to humor, fancy or, especially, picking fights. Raddon in his pages could be anti-everything, “including anti-Mormon, anti-Chinese, and anti-Indian.” Like Twain, he was looking to get a rise out of people and keep ’em paying a penny a week. There was news, too, but often it came second to sensation.
We all grow up sooner or later, even newspapers, even Sam Raddonses. If we are lucky, we become more interesting, not less. That, at least, is The Park Record’s aim today. We faithfully report the news of a place that would have bewildered Raddon and, beyond the front page, and even sometimes on it, we are not averse to some opinion and joy, of which Parkites have their quota. You’ll find it in the work of our regular columnists — Tom Clyde, Tom Kelly, Teri Orr and Amy Roberts — and this week, in the newest addition to that stable, the talented Kate Sonnick, with the launch of her Betty Diaries.
Kate’s no Sam Raddon, of course — and in these last days of 2022, that’s an excellent thing.
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