Monday, November 8, 2010

Observer American, part of county history

The Clear Lake Observer American turned 75 years old on Saturday. I hope that the paper is as integral today to the lives of its readers as it was when it made its debut.

The "Clear Lake Observer" debuted Nov. 6, 1935 and in 1945 it merged with the "Clear Lake American" to form the paper that readers know today as the Clear Lake Observer American.

During the course of compiling a history for the Observer American, I was proud of the influential presence that it had in the local community. It was a strong advocate in support for incorporation of the City of Clearlake, which was approved Nov. 4, 1990 by a 42-vote majority. The paper was instrumental in promoting a branch of Yuba College in south Lake County and it supported preservation of Anderson Ranch and marsh as Anderson Marsh State Historic Park.

The Observer American stands ready today to publish letters to the editor and readers' submissions of articles. It offers readers a first-draft look at south Lake County history.

For eight years, my personal history has shared its course with the Observer American, working first out of the Clearlake office that houses the Penny Slaver and later returning to the Lake County Record-Bee newsroom in Lakeport.

Being the editor of a weekly paper has been a maturing experience. Each week, I have a deadline to build each edition's pages. In preparation for Tuesday's production, I read reporters' stories each day with a view toward weighing their importance for south Lake County communities.

Even though the reporter's byline is the name that everyone sees, I hope that I create a favorable impression for the stories that reporters write.

While the weekly paper tends to be overshadowed by its daily counterpart, I believe that weekly papers hold a special place in American communities.

For breaking news, readers can turn to the Record-Bee but if they miss the day's headlines, the Observer American comes out each Wednesday with a review of the week's top headlines for Clearlake and surrounding communities.

When I was growing up, my hometown paper provided my first exposure to journalism, an interest that continued as I lived in other communities. I would read the Weekly Calistogan each week that it was delivered to my mother's home. My mother's photo albums include newspaper clippings that preserve moments in her daughters' lives.

Today, there is a second weekly paper serving my hometown.

As I've grown up, I've continued the practice of engaging with my communities through the pages of weekly newspapers, many of which now have a Web component that supplements their printed publication.

I've clipped and saved letters to the editor that I've submitted to various community newspapers. Even today as a Lake County resident, I still find occasion to write letters to the editors of the Weekly Calistogan and the Calistoga Tribune -- except that today, I will likely post a link to the letter via Facebook.

I hope that young readers in south Lake County schools are similarly being exposed to their weekly newspaper, either through their home, their school or the public library .

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