The newspapers are the 96-year-old San Juan Record published by Bill Boyle, and the 22-year-old Canyon Country Zephyr, an Online published by Jim Stiles.
The book is Emus Loose in Egnar by Judy Muller, an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, and a recipient of numerous journalism awards.
In 234 pages, Emus Loose in Egnar takes the reader on a journey through the world of newspapering in small towns across rural America from Massachusetts to Alaska.
This world comes alive through anecdotes, interviews with small town publishers and editors, and in reprints of portions of articles from selected newspapers, one of which is an article on girl’s high school sports written by Scott Boyle for the San Juan Record.
Muller successfully captures the travails and the joys of what it means to tell the stories, good and bad, of friends and neighbors, and, sometimes, family. She prefaces her story, subtitled “Big Stories from Small Towns” as follows:
“This just in: journalism is not dead. It is alive and kicking in small towns all across America thanks to the editors of weekly newspapers who, for very little money and a fair amount of aggravation, keep on telling it like it is. Sometimes they tell it gently in code only the locals can understand. After all, they have to live there, too. But telling it like it is also takes courage.”
Muller tracks the efforts and challenges faced by Bill Boyle of the San Juan Record when federal agents raided the area and arrested dozens of residents, who are also friends and acquaintences.
Jim Stiles of the Zephyr spoke to Muller of a problem similar to Boyle’s. He learned, he said, “you can write 30 stories” with which people agree, “but write one they don’t like and they hate you for the rest of your life.”
Of the 33 newspapers featured in Muller’s book, 22 are published in the West. Of these 22 papers, eight are in the Four Corners area. They are: San Juan Record, Canyon Country Zephyr, Times Independent of Moab, and five Colorado rags, including Dove Creek Press. The title of Muller’s book comes from a story in the Press.
Muller closes her guided tour with an optimistic message. “As I witnessed when Jonas Miller resurrected the Concrete Herald (Concrete, WA), people can become down-right emotional about their local newspaper. Many small town newspapers are thriving, mostly because absolutely no one else does what they do; document the births, deaths, crimes, sports, local shenanigans, and many other events that only matter to the 2,000 or so souls in their circulation area.”
Emus Loose in Egnar is available at the San Juan Record Bookstore and at the Monticello Branch of the San Juan County Library.