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News: past, present and future

By Staff | Jan 31, 2009

This past week was a short one for this editor, as I headed to the Twin Cities for the annual gathering of ink-stained wretches, known as the Minnesota Newspaper Association Annual Convention.

The gathering includes seminars, banquets, meetings and an awards ceremony.

In next week’s Faribault County Register we will highlight any awards we may win at the convention. In truth, we have already learned that we have won four awards, we just don’t know what they are yet.

In honor of the newspaper convention, this week’s column deals with a copy of a newspaper which A.B. Russ of the Faribault County Historical Society dropped on my desk last week.

It is in pretty fair condition, considering it was published on Saturday, Oct. 2, 1869.

The paper was called The Prairie Bugle, and claims on it’s front page that it was published in Wells.

However, a close scrutiny reveals very little Wells news in this Wells newspaper.

The front page has very short snippets of information taken from other newspapers. The inside two pages are full of national news and ads. The back page is all stories about politics.

Oh, it isn’t that some of these aren’t fascinating to read, it is just that it is hard to find anything at all about Wells.

In fact, one of the few items dealing with Wells was a small ‘puff’ piece. It reads, “If you want to secure a good business location, if you want to secure a good home, where you can have railroad communication with the outside world, if you want to live in a live, enterprising, go ahead place, then come to Wells.”

A couple of other short items note that the county fair has been postponed to the 6th and 7th of October, and the county Democratic Convention has been postponed to the 7th of October.

Another item lets the readers know that the sale of state land will take place in Blue Earth on the 18th. An advertisement reports fifty thousand acres of ‘wild land’ are for sale in Faribault and adjoining counties. Ten thousand acres of land are adjacent to Wells, as well as many village lots.

This was 1869, a time when the railroad was expanding and towns were being created. At several points in the paper the city of Wells is referred to as ‘new.’

Another news item report says “The way towns spring up in Iowa is astonishing. Eight months ago Atlantic ‘was not,’ now it boasts having forty stores, three large hotels, three lumber yards, a bank, two printing offices and a daily paper.”

A closer look at some of the items in the four page paper lets the reader know that The Prairie Bugle is published by two men named Wood and Cook, and they also publish the Austin Democrat.

In those days, when the newspaper had Democrat or Republican in it’s nameplate, it meant they were promoting that particular political party.

Those political stories on the back page were unabashedly biased. They bashed the Republicans, and promoted the Democrat candidates.

The copy dropped on my desk is the second issue of the paper (volume 1, number 2). It does make one wonder how many issues of the paper were actually printed, or did it cease publication after a short period of time.

Almost a full column of type is devoted to stories clipped from newspapers around the midwest which praise the new paper in Wells.

It is blatant self-promotion, right on the front page. But then, if there are no other local news stories, the editors needed to fill the page with something.

An example of one of these pieces follows:

“Wood and Cook, publishers of the Austin Democrat, have issued the first number of the Prairie Bugle in the new town of Wells, Faribault County. It is a fair looking sheet, Democratic in politics. We wish it abundant pecuniary success, but beyond getting up a good local sheet, we don’t think it expects to accomplish wonders politically in a county which gives eight hundred Republican majority and only two hundred Democratic votes.” – St Charles Herald

Wonder what our readers would say if we followed some of the ways of this 1869 newspaper? No local news and lots of one-sided politics.

Doesn’t sound like a formula for success. Maybe that is why The Prairie Bugle is no longer around.