TALES OF TAKOMA • BY DIANA KOHN
Printing the news has a long tradition in our civilization, and Takoma Park is no exception. From the first local newspaper in 1890 to recent times, residents have depended on printed newspapers for information on upcoming events, local news, and the latest political debates. These papers, like newspapers throughout history, also provide an invaluable historical chronicle of the life of our town and form a key element in Historic Takoma’s archives.
Then came the age of the internet, and suddenly a wealth of information began appearing on our computers and the constantly-expanding number of electronic devices. Newspapers are no longer the first choice of an audience that get their news from blogs, Facebook and 24/7 websites. Print is still struggling to maintain its place in this brave new world. In 2012, for example, Eric Bond, editor of the Takoma Voice, decided to give up the huge expense of printing paper copies to move entirely online. In recent months, the Gazette has stopped most door-to-door delivery and will shortly require paid subscriptions for a weekly paper delivered by U.S. mail.
Pamela Favorite published one of the first Takoma Park news publications, The Favorite, in 1892. Photo courtesy Historic Takoma Inc.
No newspaper has ever covered everything that everyone wanted to know. The web offers access to a greatly expanded range of information. The challenge for the reader is to navigate that overwhelming array of data. The challenge for editors, including the City Newsletter and the Takoma Voice, is more difficult. They must compete with the myriad online postings and social media to report the most important details in a news world constantly being updated. We may live to see the day when print newspapers disappear altogether (or arrive via home printers).
Change is nothing new. Takoma Park newspapers have come and gone over the years. The town’s first paper was printed on October 11, 1890, a single issue for the purpose of recording the Act of Incorporation, along with a few tidbits of local goings-on. Other Takoma residents took up the task. In 1892, Pamela Favorite, the proprietor of Favorite’s General Store and Takoma’s postmistress, began printing The Favorite, a monthly news-sheet. She later passed the editor’s pen to Bruce Gosorn and Arthur Skinner.
In the 1930s and 1940s Takoma Park had two print newspapers. The Takoma Journal, published weekly by John Coffman Sr., tracked news events and offered strong opinions on all manner of local topics. Frank Skinner’s Takoma Enterprise came out twice a year, mostly profiling civic organizations, local businesses and annual events like the Fourth of July celebration.
John Coffman. second from right, was publisher of the weekly Takoma Journal. He is seen here in 1953 with other leaders of the city volunteer fire department. Photo courtesy Historic Takoma, Inc.
When Coffman’s son ended publication of the Journal in 1953, Takoma residents were forced to rely on other suburban newspapers and occasional references in the Washington papers for their local news. The dearth of local coverage, prompted Coffman to agree to edit a monthly Takoma Park City Newsletter, subsidized by City Hall.
The Newsletter’s mandate broadened in 1981 under Mayor Sam Abbott to include editorials and reports on local politics beyond the City Council chambers. The resulting tussle over what news to include and who would report it resulted in the streamlined version published today, reporting City Government news.
First issue of the Takoma Voice.
Interest in a more broader community-wide perspective prompted the birth of the Takoma Voice in November 1987 which has continued to fulfill that role. Readers can check www.takoma.com for local updates or subscribe to the Voice eNews summary that arrives by email each week. Here is a fuller version of the history of Takoma Park newspapers in the Voice archive.
Meanwhile, Historic Takoma is at work scanning all the newspaper collections in the archives so they can be digitally accessible online.
The Voice was mentioned in a council discussion, revealing misconceptions and inaccuracies. We wish to correct the record.
Related: GRANOLAPARK • Paper wasp nest
You’d never know by looking at it now what a wasp hive the Takoma Park Newsletter can be.