This is one of those times when no news is not good news – not for the people of Ripon, at least.
The Ripon Record published its final edition last week, ending a 107-year run. The weekly, as a small newspaper in a small town should do, reflected the heart and soul of the community. It did the grunt work of coverage while regional news agencies including The Bee, the Stockton Record and the Sacramento-area TV stations in recent years basically covered only major events that happened.
For more than a century, the Record served its purpose. It brought citizens in the small farming community north of the Stanislaus River news about every conflict from World War I to the war on terrorism, telling about the town’s sons and daughters and sisters and brothers who died fighting in those wars.
It told Riponites about themselves: who moved into town and who moved away. It covered marriages, divorces and deaths. It chronicled club activities, dances and other social events. It covered businesses that opened and plants that closed, and the people affected by either.
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The Almond Festival queen knew her photo would grace the front page each February.
“The diaper derby winner was always in there,” said Ripon police Sgt. Steve Merchant, who grew up in Modesto but has lived in the town and read The Record for the past 25 years. “It covered everything.”
Ripon High homecoming parades – covered by the Record.
The paper served as a clearinghouse for everything from recipes to farming practices. It reported who was naughty or nice. It covered cops, city hall, industry and growth. It told readers which of their neighbors’ kids scored the touchdown, hit the game-winning basket, homered or scored goals in soccer.
Indeed, generations of Ripon families established deep roots and built the kind of town – one with good schools, churches, quality parks and safe neighborhoods – that attracts other families looking to move to the Valley. Many current residents commute to work elsewhere, creating the bedroom community effect. Some who move there become involved in the community through the schools, sports programs, etc. Others, not so much.
Through the Internet, and particularly Facebook, residents can easily create their own pages where they share information immediately: crime blogs, neighborhood watches, sports team pages – you name it.
Ultimately, The Record became another casualty of newspapers since advertisers pulled away from print products. The Internet has made information through words, photos and videos instantly accessible, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the information is researched and factual or agenda driven.
Newspapers that don’t think online first become dinosaurs in the industry, and most are making a gradual transition toward the day when print will be obsolete entirely. Advertising revenue is generated by proving to advertisers there will be eyeballs on their ads.
Ripon residents can get basic crime information online through the Ripon Police Department, Merchant said.
“Our PD website has a crime blotter,” Merchant said. “We knew the paper was closing, and (the blotter is) a sanitized version (basic reports and locations). We update it every 24 hours.”
Still, I suspect in the majority of homes throughout the city, scrapbooks include clips from The Record.
“Thursday, I went to the Record,” said Connie Jorgensen, assistant curator at the Ripon Museum. “Evelyn (Locamini, the advertising manager) took me up into the attic and we discovered a box of papers from 1985 that would have been tossed out.”
One edition in the box included a story about Ripon native Kim Johnston Ulrich, an actress who is married to Emmy-winning casting director and Modesto native Robert Ulrich.
Another detailed the opening of Ripon’s only veterinary hospital, owned by Debra Daniels and still in business today.
“And in a building built in 1917,” Jorgensen said, “I found all of the information about that building through (the Record).”
One told the story of Ripon High’s baseball team, complete with a club photo, that won the Sac-Joaquin Section Class A title in 1985.
Yet another story told that police Chief Red Nutt was about to begin his second term at the helm.
Jorgensen posted some of the stories on Facebook and got immediate responses. But many of the Record’s readers, she said, aren’t tech savvy.
“All of these older people – they don’t go on a computer,” Jorgensen said. “They don’t care if (the news) is a week old. It’s where they get their information. What are we going to do without a newspaper?”
Indeed, no newspaper in Ripon is anything but good news.