The lessons weren’t ever geared toward insecurity or a lack of self-worth. Instead, they were designed to make sure the right people and the right reasons always got the right credit.
With that warning in mind, it’s hard to withhold some of the pride I have in this newspaper, The Leader, as we devote much of today’s edition to the celebration of our 65th year of publishing local, trustworthy and relevant news for the neighborhoods we serve.
On Nov. 15, 1954 (OK, so this is a belated birthday), the first issue of The Leader hit the streets of North Houston, and for those who forgot or weren’t around back then, here’s a primer of what else happened in 1954:
– The first mass vaccination of children against polio;
– RCA sold its first all-electronic color TV, the CT-100, for $1,000. Adjusted for inflation, that 21-inch TV would cost $9,560 today;
– Swanson released their (cough) delectable TV dinners;
– The Dow traded at an all-time high of 382 points;
– Sports Illustrated published its first edition;
– Elvis launched his music career with a self-titled album, “Elvis Presley;”
– The Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that segregation in schools was unconstitutional.
And here, in our tiny sliver of the world, a community newspaper commanded the attention of the thousands of people who would read its pages each week.
From Day 1, The Leader built its reputation on encapsulating the history of this community, but it was – and still is – more than a history book for our neighborhoods. Long before social media created infinite space, the only place pictures from the school play were published was in The Leader.
Before direct mail lists and targeted email blasts and internet cookies that know where and when you shop, the only way to target a community came through advertising in The Leader.
More than anything, The Leader has spent 65 years keeping you aware of the important decisions that impact your way of life. From reports on education, interviews with politicians, features on expanding businesses, analysis of government projects, explanation of city ordinances, coverage of neighborhood squabbles, details of local recovery efforts, to those light-hearted looks at everyday life, this newspaper has been a central part in the staying power of one of the best communities in all of Houston.
In 2012, our company assumed ownership of this venerable publication. And yes, my name has been listed as publisher for more than seven years now. But the power of this paper, and its worth to our neighborhoods, has absolutely nothing to do with me.
When Lee Burge assumed ownership, and when his son, Terry, directed this local institution for more than 40 years, that’s when The Leader developed its reputation as a real and lasting contributor to our society.
He won’t say it, by my dear friend Terry Burge led The Leader through its most important years of business, and what I admire most is that Terry used the power of the press to improve our neighborhoods. He helped form (and later ran) the Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce. He helped start and maintain the Houston Heights Association and many of its wonderful events. He was a member of every club, sat on nearly every board, offered free advertising to any worthwhile event, and in my humble opinion, used the authority of The Leader to cultivate community when this area of Houston needed it most. In his cordial, yet devoted way, Terry Burge made The Leader a self-fulfilling reality. This newspaper has genuinely been a leader for this community.
Today, more than 65 years later, we spend nearly every hour of every day working hard to re-invent and re-invest in this source of local news and information, but that’s a difficult job, and it seems to get harder by the day.
For the first time – all across this country – the threats to local news and trusted information are formidable and ever expanding. Today, we get our news from friends of our friends. We make decisions based on news that appears in the swipe of a finger and, often, was crafted in about the same amount of time.
The information we receive about the places we live, the schools we attend and the companies we trust now appears in rapid increments of half-truths and missing sources.
The economics of news has changed just as quick. Local businesses that never missed a chance to market through local news channels like ours now never miss a chance to boost a post on social media. They aren’t wrong for doing so, and they’re better able to target potential customers through those rapid increments of information. But that has shifted the paradigm of funding local journalism, and in the past 15 years, more than 2,000 newspapers have closed across the United States.
As for The Leader, we consider this a time to celebrate 65 years of devotion and relevance to the readers we serve. It’s also a wonderful time to reflect on the future of this business and our continued ability to have a place inside the homes (and smart phones) of our readers.
We’ll continue to move toward more effective digital platforms to keep pace with our readers and their lifestyles. We’ll also continue to publish a printed edition for as long as our readers and advertisers support the product.
What won’t change – ever – is our dedication to offering you vetted, responsible and trustworthy information that better helps you make decisions about the sliver of Houston you call home. In the process, our only goal is to forever fulfill the name at the top of the page.
Through the work of so many before us, we’re thankful you’ve allowed us the chance to be a leader in this community. We’ll do our level best to remain one.