Watauga Democrat evolves but focus remains the same
by Tom Mayer
The evolution of the Watauga Democrat is not one that its founders could have envisioned in 1888.
Indeed, given the cyclical nature and deadline demands of a newspaper, coupled with the challenges in printing and distributing such a product in the mountains of North Carolina 125 years ago, it is not likely that our county's first journalists had the time and initiative to plan more than a few issues out -- let alone more than a century and a quarter ahead.
But here the Watauga Democrat is today, 125 years later -- one of our county's oldest businesses.
And while there is much that those original owners would not recognize about their newspaper were they to view it today -- the ideas behind television were in their infancy, let alone the publishing of a newspaper, sans "paper," on the Internet -- there is more that they would.
That "more" is the reason the Watauga Democrat has enjoyed success as our community's source of news and advertisements for more than a century.
On July 4, 1889, the date the Watauga Democrat began its current run, Robert C. "Bob" Rivers and D. B. Dougherty published these words in an editorial:
"We believe the people of Watauga and surrounding section will sustain a local newspaper. ... It will be free and independent and will speak out on all public and political questions as seemeth right. It will be the friend of all who will work for the advancement and the upbuilding of our common country."
Those words are more than fine and noble sentiments -- although they certainly are those -- they form the touchstone for the reason that the Watauga Democrat as a business was able to weather the Great Depression, world wars, horrific local climate changes and myriad other challenges that combined to be too much of a force for the continued operation of other local businesses during the past 125 years.
Today, we at the Watauga Democrat recognize that no truer words have been written than those penned by that early publisher and editor. A "free and independent newspaper," a "friend of all who will work for the advancement and upbuilding" -- and doing so by maintaining our focus on the issues important to our local community -- is what still guides each publication today.
The platforms on which the Watauga Democrat has been published have changed dramatically during the past 125 years. They will change just as dramatically, in ways not yet imagined, during the next century and a quarter.
But while, like our founders, we may not recognize all of the end product were we able to glimpse that far into the future, we would recognize what has made that end product successful -- a partnership that is special and unique between a newspaper and its community; a partnership that continues to build on our shared local stories throughout the generations.