A Tale of Small Town News: The Marquette Tribune
The story behind the small town newspaper in Marquette dates back to 1887. It was then named the Marquette Monitor. Two years later the name changed to the Marquette Tribune and that is how it has remained.
The office is located on Main Street, where the current reporter/editor/advertising representative and photographer, Liz Ponting, assists me in recollecting its extended history—a history filled with many owners.
The first editor/owner was J.W Richardson. However, Richardson soon sold the business, not much more than a year later, to Mr.H.F Thompson. Thompson only published six issues and sold it on to S.W Hill. The Hill family struggled with their new business and discontinued the Monitor in 1889. Almost immediately, in response to the town's need for a publication, the Marquette Tribune was founded. Jas A. Harris was editor until 1890 when Banta Cress took over. The Tribune was operated by Cress until 1891. Cress was very successful and well liked in Marquette. He left the newspaper business behind after eight years when he was elected Probate judge for McPherson County. E.C Crary then purchased the equipment. The paper was later sold to a local school principal, H.E Bruce. Bruce ran the publication for 23 more years. A.R Nordstrom then became the new editor. The owners continued to change frequently over the years. C.W Bowline, H.K Bruce, their soon, Kenneth Bruce, and then J.J. Walters. H.K's widow, Mrs. Cora Bruce continued to help her son, Kenneth and, later, the new owner Walters.
It was then that a familiar name to me emerges in the pages of Marquette editorial legend: Mrs. Nyla Rawson. I became acquainted with Nyla upon my move to Marquette in 2003. She was in charge of advertising, and after all I was the new owner of the town’s café. She had told me her occupation aptly suited her as she always wanted to know everyone's news. A self-confessed sleuth who was beloved by all. She mentioned that her grandson was in my daughter's class and that her family was her pride and joy. Nyla fancied herself as part time law enforcement. She had been known to remind drivers that about turns of any kind on Main Street were not permitted. I had to chuckle when I heard she had caught my parents visiting from the UK and had told them with a point of the finger that such turns were not acceptable.
In 1962, a young John Wilson, local high school senior, helped the two ladies with the newspaper. Wilson has since become owner/publisher of the newspaper in Minneapolis, Ks. Later that year, the publication was leased to the Droege family. They soon decided the business was not for them and moved to Wichita. The Bruce family asked Nyla to become the editor. It was at this time that the periodical was printed in neighboring Lindsborg. This was an era when "offset" became the trend. This new trend almost put the paper out of business. Karl K. Gaston, former proprietor of the Ellsworth Reporter, had been printing approximately fifteen local, small town publications. He agreed to print the Tribune there also.
It was Nyla's duties to mail news and advertising to that office in Ellsworth every week. She then traveled there weekly to assist with the editing, returning with her sack of newspapers for the town folk.
The first offset edition of the Tribune was in 1973. Karl Gaston bought the paper from the Bruce family and Nyla remained editor. In 1989, the present editor was hired, Liz Ponting.
Initially, Liz was employed as a reporter and bookkeeper for Nyla. Liz recalls how shortly after her employ, a Fax machine was installed. It was an office quip that Nyla would never master the technology. "They should have given her more credit as she learned to use it in a matter of weeks," Liz laughed.
After the paper's owners were killed in a tragic traffic accident, their sons sold the paper to Morris Publishing of Augusta, Georgia.
It was at this time that Liz accepted the position of editor and Nyla took lesser duties in the form of advertising director. The paper was still being printed in Ellsworth. Shortly thereafter the fax macine was replaced by e-mail. In 1999, a Morris newspaper in Great Bend took over printing the paper and, as a result, narrowed the column sizes.
In 2000 Mary Hoisington acquired the title of general manager of the Tribune and the Ellsworth Reporter. The present day line up of those involved in the production of the Tribune starts with Liz. Ellsworth receives the copy and advertising throughout the week. Bill Beckmeyer is the advertising graphic artist, Juanita Kepka is the business manager, and Linda Denning is the publisher and co- owner with Morris Media. Judi Brown paginates the paper by computer, readying it for printing.
After some time spent reflecting on the remarkable history of the Marquette Tribune, Liz shared some of her concerns and blessings that came with her 21 years of employment. These days, she is only a part time employee, working Monday afternoons and all day Friday. With her time restrictions, she notes it is impossible to attend every local event.
Liz says she has always loved a good story, and like her predecessor, Nyla, enjoys a good chat . This, she feels, is essential to acquiring that sense of community needed to fulfill her duties. She knows details to add to an obituary that a family member has perhaps forgotten.
Six hundred issues of the Tribune are printed weekly. Approximately five hundred and fifty of these are distributed out of state.
Liz has seen many changes, some as of June this year. The Journal in Salina now prints the paper. This brings the counter copies to the local grocery store a day earlier than before. For the fist time since 1999, they are mailed out of the Marquette Post Office. Liz was excited at this change as the local Post Office now receives the revenue. Being a part of the downtown, she is acutely aware of the need to support the local businesses. The Tribune also needs that support. Liz finds this one of the most difficult aspects of her job: having to remind people the importance of advertising locally. "They get better local readership and it's less expensive."
It is this income that secures the publication’s future.
The grandest news would be that of the recent “Free Land” program that Marquette has created. This, in addition to the Motorcycle rallies—all created to encourage town growth and financial stability for the businesses—are big news.
But her favorite stories are all about her hometown natives, the retirements, the birthdays, showers, anniversaries and reunions. These stories keep the subscriptions steady as former residents strive to stay informed and proud family members clip the article for their scrapbooks.
One of her obvious responsibilities is to compose obituaries. This is a task Liz refuses payment for. She says it is her privilege to honor her local town’s folk.
She also tries to avoid controversy. But, given it is her duty to publish letters to the editor, she is knows she is unintentionally involved in some disagreements.
The greatest challenge as a small town reporter is the tragedies. Marquette has unfortunately seen its share. Liz rolls the names off like they are embedded on the pages her memory. “Losing friends and neighbors is difficult,” she says. However her most emotionally demanding story was when her adored, teenage nephew died. Liz felt, although difficult, she needed to write the story. “At least it could be written how we wanted it to be.”
And much of her newspaper talent, she says, came from Nyla. “Nyla was always full of life lesson advice. She was respected,” Liz remembered. “I feel I don't compare.” She glances out of her office window to the down town businesses. “That was a different generation.”
Liz is definitely part of the new generation. The Tribune celebrated 120 years last summer, with Liz now at the helm.