— More than a century ago, L.P. Hunt gambled on Mankato.
He believed he could run a daily newspaper profitably in a town of 8,838 residents and more than a few miscreants.
In 1887, Hunt bet the people of Mankato were ready to participate in the democracy a daily newspaper delivers. He bet that the people of Mankato would want to know the news every day. Not once in a while or once a week. Every day. And he bet they would be willing to pay a cadre of reporters, production workers and ad salespeople to make it happen.
The Mankato Daily Free Press started off as a business proposition, but like many newspapers that evolved in 20th century America, it became a sacred community trust.
Those of us who work at The Free Press are only keepers of the trust for the time we are here. Different owners may buy the computers, equipment and pay the taxes, but the community keeps a newspaper alive. They own the trust.
And for 125 years, the community
hasn’t disappointed. Some of the stories we recount today in our 125th anniversary edition — inserted in today’s paper as a five-part special section — unequivocally show that the citizens of the Mankato region desire to be informed, outraged and called to action for community causes.
We look back at 125 years of the stories that offered inspiration and celebration as well as devastation and mourning.
People challenged their leaders, held scoundrels accountable, and, every once in a while with the help of their newspaper, got the bad guy — the corrupt politician, the unfaithful minister and enemies of public discourse and democracy.
The Free Press has endured through the decades while afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. We’ve paid lawyers thousands of dollars to defend the First Amendment and the people’s right to know and to open the doors closed by those who would seek absolute power.
Our history shows that whether the bike of a disabled person is stolen or our neighbors 12 miles to the north endure an F-4 tornado, we stand at the ready to help and heal. A community newspaper is the tie that binds.
Today’s newspaper environment raises questions in the minds of readers about the future of what they see as a major institution of an American community. Twitter, Google, Facebook, bloggers of every stripe and free news sites funded by pop-up annoyances threaten the traditional newspaper in the eyes of many.
But don’t try to call Google, Twitter or Facebook. Call us. We’ll listen to your stories and we’ll tell your stories. They are the essence of our existence and have been for more than a century.
We accept humbly, hold dearly and take seriously the trust we have been given.
We hope you will take today, with us, and celebrate a community trust that has helped build a place that cares about its neighbors, its children and its future and one that will thrive into the next century.
Joe Spear is the editor of The Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or 344-6382.