Newspaper’s demise is disappointing

Travis McMullen - Contributing Columnist

Travis McMullen

Contributing Columnist

You probably read Sedalia Democrat reporter Nicole Cooke’s recent story about the demise of the print edition of that other Sedalia newspaper, The Sedalia Observer. For years the weekly and the daily coexisted, with each carving out their own little niche in Sedalia.

Add another one to the pile of defunct Sedalia newspapers – there have been more than you would probably expect, especially in the wild early years of the blossoming cow town. Independent Press, Pacific Enterprise, Sedalia Advertiser, Sedalia Capital and my personal favorite, the Sedalia Bazoo, are just some of the publications that have delivered the news to the people of the State Fair City.

(“Bazoo” is apparently old time slang for mouth, which I suppose is appropriate.)

The end of the Observer shouldn’t come as a complete surprise: in its final months and years in print it was doing anything and everything to find a spark. There were at least two name changes and that seems like the last thing a publication that has been building its reputation for years would want to do. It’s bad form to change the name of a paper unless they change the name of the city it serves or it’s forcefully merged with a crosstown rival.

The offices of the Observer also changed locations at least twice in the last few years. I guess it’s easy to move around when you outsource the actual printing of your newspaper. But why do it near the end? Is someone going to drive past a new location and suddenly be inspired to subscribe?

A relative of mine repeatedly tried to have his subscription canceled and was repeatedly stonewalled.

But the worst part of the aftermath is that the loyal readers of the Observer are left holding the bag. There was no announcement, no indication and no consideration. Imagine first hearing about the official demise of your favorite local publication in the pages of that other local publication. Would it really be that hard to send out a few letters? With these gas prices, it might have been more affordable to knock on the door of each and every subscriber and tell them the bad news in person.

Those who haven’t received refunds for the papers that they’ve paid for but will not receive should be reimbursed.

It’s awful for the staff and others who depended on the production of the paper to support themselves. It would have been nice for them to have some sort of warning so they could make their final preparations and so they could work on a hilarious final issue full of the things they were usually too afraid to print.

It’s strange to see ghost newspaper machines scattered throughout Sedalia – there’s still an Observer machine in front of Big Lots that still had the display copy of the last Observer in the door for at least six weeks. Until the story came out, I hadn’t even realized it wasn’t a new issue each week.

A small band of machines, unable to know they will probably never again be filled with fresh stacks of Sedalia’s weekly newspaper. Will they sit there forever? Are they still full of quarters? Maybe ancient newspaper law says you can’t move the machine until the last paper has been sold.

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

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