• Karen Cummings

Another Year for the Ear

NOTE: This was written as a Business Brief with lots of quotes by Ear co-founder and longtime publisher Steve Eastman. It gives insight into the philosophy behind the weekly paper.

It seems as if the elusive spring of '83 may never make an appearance, but despite the weather, most local businesses are gearing up for the summer season, which, considering Mountainfest, the Volvo International, and the premiere of Arts Jubilee, should be a record breaker. Such is the case at The Mountain Ear, where the crew is entering the home stretch on the Mt. Washington Valley Summer Guide, and looking ahead to Memorial Day and the summer beyond.

Unlike most businesses, which start their calendars in January, things are a little different at The Mountain Ear (as you might have guessed by now). The transition of spring into summer means the close of another annual publishing schedule, the end of Volume VII, and Memorial Day inaugurates The Mountain Ear's eighth year in Mt. Washington Valley.

"When Jane Golden and I launched the paper in 1976, we drew a lot of laughs, as in 'What are you going to do, put The Reporter out of business?'," recalled publisher Steve Eastman. "The question was whether there was room for another newspaper, but the intent then, as now, was not to be just 'another' weekly," he continued. "Not to downplay the role of conventional newspapers, but The Mountain Ear plays a unique part in a community like ours. It's a paper that is easily accessible not only to local residents, but to second-home owners and transients, with in-depth features and information about what's occurring in the area. But what has set us apart from the beginning has been our original material -- a fresh approach to the stories and individuals who influence life in Mt. Washington Valley."

Editor Emeritus Jane Golden divested her interest in The Mountain Ear in late winter 1978, opting for the bright lights of the Big Apple and an editorial position with Fairchild publications. Stepping into her shoes, after a whirlwind apprenticeship, was Ann Bennett, taking over as editor and feature writer. In 1979, Tom Eastman, then a freshly graduated political science and journalism major from the University of New Hampshire, joined the staff, followed two years later by Chris Stewart. The most recent addition to the editorial department is long-time friend of The Mountain Ear, Karen Cummings. Photography is the realm of Andrew Haltof.

Many faces have changed over the years, but what has emerged is a trend of steady growth, one that parallels that of the Valley itself. From 30 issues a year, The Mountain Ear has grown to 48 different publications, including 44 regular issues, two dining guides, and special summer and winter promotional editions. And, from the early crew of two, the staff now totals eight.

Basic to continuing expansion is an aggressive sales effort. Steve, as publisher, oversees advertising, while setting the guidelines of the editorial policy. Heading the sales staff is Rick Luksza, who celebrated his first anniversary with the paper this May. Rounding out sales personnel is Gerard Fagan, and Cynnie Donaldson handles the bookkeeping and office duties.

"One of the paper's real strengths is the personalities involved, and their familiarity with Mt. Washington Valley and the White Mountains," Steve pointed out. "Editorial and sales staff members alike are people who have chosen to make the Valley their home, who like living here, and their commitment to the region comes through in The Mountain Ear."

Another factor that sets the paper apart is that after seven years, it remains under sole, local ownership. "When people say 'you're not really a local paper,' I reply, 'we're the only local paper.' From early coverage of events like the Volvo, or issues like acid rain and the future of the White Mountain National Forest, we've often had the story first," said Steve. "And I think that our feature format handles the issues in a responsible, informative manner that's of interest to our entire readership."

"Our style has matured over the years," he continued, "but it's been a matter of improving the paper's impact, rather than a change in concept. The intent is to cover the issues that affect the quality of life here in the White Mountains region. Basic to that is tourism, and the transitions and problems facing the industry. But quality also means community, and the news and people that reflect its character," Steve concluded. "The Mountain Ear is centered on Mt. Washington Valley, in hopes that living here remains a fulfilling experience for residents and visitors alike."

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