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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 20, 2006

From the editor
We’re ready to press on for another 120 years

When we talk about the press — as Walter Lippmann did when he said, "A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society" — we mean the mediums that carry news and inform the public. At the time Lippmann spoke those words, that included radio and television as well as newspapers and magazines. It now includes the Internet, too.

But the root of the word "press" is in the physical imprinting of words on a page.

One-hundred-and-twenty-one years ago, when our newspaper was founded because its publisher believed the local citizens would want to be informed of goings on in their community and were "ready for a square knockdown with wrong" each week, The Enterprise was also a print shop.

We still are, and our publisher, James Gardner, is a master printer. Gardner started working in the print shop just after graduating from Guilderland High School more than a half-century ago. His son now carries on the tradition.

It is a heritage we are proud of. And you can see it symbolized in the icon that centers our new nameplate, on the top of our front page: The Franklin press.

Benjamin Franklin is, of course, best known for his work as a scientist and an inventor, a diplomat and statesman, one of the framers of our constitution and shapers of our new nation.

But he began as a printer, apprenticing with his brother in Boston at the age of 12 and then becoming a publisher on his own in Philadelphia.

His role as printer was essential to his identity. The epitaph he composed for himself, as a young man, said:

"The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding), lies here, food for worms; but the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author."

With our new nameplate and masthead this week, we, at The Enterprise, are returning to our roots. While our full name, for decades, has been The Altamont Enterprise & Albany County Post, we have used just the first part. Post-office officials informed us this year that we needed to use our whole name if we wanted to keep mailing our paper to subscribers.

While summaries of our local news coverage can be read each week on our website — www.altamontenterprise.com — as well as archives of our in-depth stories, our sum and substance is still on the printed page. Our newspaper continues to be, as our first editor wrote in 1884, "Not a visitor of flesh and blood but a silent speaker of true things that will each week go to every home where its presence is welcomed."

Benjamin Franklin himself was a proponent of postal efficiency, Disturbed by poor colonial postal service, he became Philadelphia’s postmaster in 1737 and eventually became postmaster general for all the colonies.

We decided to do our small part — in style.

We were fortunate that Phillip Ritzenberg, one of our nation’s top newspaper designers, agreed to design a new nameplate for us. Ritzenberg started his career as an apprentice in his father’s print shop and went on to work in almost every phase of the profession, from reporting to graphics. One of the founders of the Society for News Design, and its second president in the early 1980’s, Ritzenberg has helped define the new discipline of newspaper design.

Although we have always been and will continue to be based in the village of Altamont, we have for well over a century covered the towns of Guilderland, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville. This makes up a large part of Albany County. We believe in-depth regional coverage is important; citizens from both rural and suburban areas can benefit by understanding issues that affect each.

Thomas Jefferson, a chief author of the grand experiment of modern democracy, wrote in 1787, "The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

The printing press remains a symbol of free and independent publication.

In an era when television allows us to see instantly what is happening on the other side of the world, and when much media attention is given to national and state issues and elections in our country, it is easy to forget that many of the decisions that most affect our everyday lives are made locally.

You will find on our pages letters that allow the community to talk to and inform itself, interviews on issues for upcoming elections that allow voters to make educated choices, reports on crime and courts in our towns, investigations on area environmental issues that affect our health and welfare, news on educational trends and articles on what is happening in local classrooms, stories on local athletes and high-school games, features on people of interest living in our midst, news on local events and activities, and advertising highlighting local goods and services.

In short, we provide news you can’t get anywhere else.

The age of 121 may seem a bit ripe for an identity crisis — usually the purview of adolescents and newlyweds. But we’d like to think The Altamont Enterprise & Albany County Post will be around long enough that this will be looked back upon as our youth. We’ll still answer to The Enterprise — our loyal readers can consider it our nickname.

And we’ll continue to carry out our same mission as an independent voice for our community, unfettered by corporate demands. Whether we come into your home through computer, on our website, or in the age-old way of newsprint, we seek the truth and print it.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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