Since April, we’ve been celebrating our 15th year in business and thinking back to earlier days.
My first experience with the Bulletin was in late March 2003, just before the first issue was published.
Frank Graham, a veteran newspaper man with the commitment to make a dream come true, asked if I would help launch the Bulletin.
Less than enthused about my job at that time, I said I would.
I gave two weeks notice, and soon, I stopped at Graham’s house. He and wife Laura Johnston lived a couple blocks west of the Willow St. overpass.
Frank stood at the top of the stairs to their basement. Laura was downstairs, working on the first edition on her computer.
I sensed excitement in the air. Frank had an abundance of charm, and his grin was especially warm and contagious that evening.
We talked a few minutes — which is about as long as a conversation lasts in the news business. We compared schedules. I asked how things were going.
“Going good!” he said.
Each week since, the Bulletin has been going good, publishing a weekly newspaper for our community and updating our website every day.
We couldn’t have done so without our advertisers, or our readers — their support, notes of encouragement, suggestions and of course, their patronage.
Our first front page story was about the city’s growth. The Wal-Mart Distribution Center was newly built. Great Plains Health was expanding. Menard’s had just arrived; so had the Cabela’s Call Center.
New strip malls were planned near the Wal-Mart Super Center. Bloedorn Lumber was building on the east side of town.
That construction boom came on the heels of a new high school, new banks, hotel expansions, the U.S. Highway 30 bypass and the Poplar St. overpass.
It was clearly one of the largest growth spurts in North Platte’s history.
Our fourth issue featured the distinguished alumni of North Platte High — plus one of our most widely read stories ever – “the list” of local suspects in a major cocaine investigation.
Within a month, we moved into a little place at the corner of B and Chestnut, where we jammed our desks together in the front room.
That summer we published the first annual Parade edition for Nebraskaland Days, walked the route and handed them out for free.
A year later, we moved to our office in the Wyman building at 1300 E. Fourth, where we happily remain.
Among the news stories that stand out in memory:
We covered come-from-behind election wins by Gov. Dave Heinemann, who defeated Tom Osborne in the 2006 primary. Also, Sen. Deb Fischer came from behind in the 2012 primary race and we could see it coming.
Sen. Mike Groene surprised everyone in 2014. We found out why.
We reported on Nebraska National Guard and Army Reserve units as they went to Iraq and Afghanistan and returned.
We’ve covered the effects of the national health care overhaul under Barack Obama, and the effects and dilemmas of U.S. immigration policy and practices.
We reported potential Annie Cook movies and published regular “look backs” at the city’s history. We edited a book about North Platte’s oldest buildings, called City Bones, by library researcher Kaycee Anderson.
For the last 8 years, we have published a weekly rundown of entertainment events for people looking for something new to do in town.
We launched a new publication – the Bulletin Bits – in 2013.
We’ve covered court rulings, fatalities, crimes, convictions, new businesses, personal rejuvenations, awards, adults, students and athletes — the stuff of life in North Platte.
We’ve spawned and inspired others, prodding competitors to improve, as they have prodded us, here in the sometimes furiously competitive world of North Platte’s news media.
Over 15 years, we have published nearly 35,000 articles in the print edition, plus many more on our website.
We have grown to be Lincoln County’s most experienced, in-depth source of local news.
In 2005, the focus was on child abuse, how to recognize and how to report it. And later that year, we covered the opening of the Bridge of Hope child advocacy center.
The Midwest Renewable Energy ethanol plant opened near Sutherland and started selling gas at nearby stations. Frustrated by high prices, a North Platte woman said she drove to Sutherland to buy gas and support ethanol. She said if the Arabs have to drink their oil, that would be just fine with her.
We reported the history of Maranatha Camp, then 68 years old. We provided a day-tripper’s guide to affordable vacations and a rundown of home businesses in North Platte.
We covered the “River Valley Rumble” — a prelude to the mixed martial arts fights of today that are sponsored by Midwest Championship Fights.
We reported the 100-year-old history of Kildare Lumber.
We’ve reported droughts, floods, fires and shootings.
In February 2004, we published a “Best of / Worst of” issue, polling our readers about the best and worst things in our community. Our readers voted on such categories as the worst traffic, the worst potholes, the most convenient convenience store (B & Jeffers Kwik Stop) and the best local politician at that time – County Commissioner Tom Kennedy of Sutherland.
We caught some grief over that issue, in part because it was real, not just something glossy.
It’s often said in newspapers, if you want a friend, get a dog. We’ve found that to be often true.
That “Best and Worst Of…” edition sparked our primary competitor, the North Platte Telegraph, to launch a sanitized version, which remains glossy to this day.
In 2005, we started reporting the troubles at the Pawnee Hotel, and we continued to do so until it closed. And since then, we have looked at what it would really take to restore it.
In 2006, we reported the failure of the Bank of Paxton.
Stories about methamphetamine arrests have been too-often repeated through the years. We reported the burdens it places on the legal system – the workload at the county attorney’s office and district probation office, the efforts of the cops, deputies, troopers and courts. We’re hoping someday to cover the elimination of meth, which cripples the users and often, their friends, families and community.
We were there when Gibson’s Super Center closed on East Fourth. We were there when the building was restored and re-opened years later as the Fourth St. Plaza. We reported the work of Gary Suhr, the owner of Gary’s Super Foods, and his commitment to local business.
We reported the work of leadership teams in Lincoln County, such as one of the first “drug take-back” days, highlighting the abuse of prescription drugs in all parts of the community, including the high school. Our story was reprinted in California college textbooks.
We covered efforts to counter drugs and violence, including well-thought-out projects like drug court and the community domestic violence intervention program, and free drug-test kits for parents at the pharmacy counter.
We covered debates in city council and at the county commissioners. We were there when one commissioner was in the hospital and the other two could not agree on the county budget.
We’ve covered disagreements in the schools, including the resignation of Supt. Marty Bassett after losing a dispute with physical education teacher and coach Mark Woodhead.
We’ve continued to report that our school superintendent is paid more than most anyone in the state, except, that is, a handful of other school superintendents.
We covered the formation of the NCORPE water augmentation project on one of the largest farms in Nebraska, where the land was purchased in the taxpayers name when prices were at their peak. We’ve reported NCORPE’s benefits as well as its detriments.
Also, 13 years ago, with the help of Sharon Owen at A to Z Books, we started hosting Open Mic Nites, which continue today. Open Mics have led to concerts at the Espresso Shop, thanks largely to the talent and vision of Espresso Shop owner Brandon Raby, who is an extraordinary guitarist too. The Espresso Shop shows led the last two summers to us organizing Music on the Bricks, celebrations attended by hundreds of people each year.
Also over the years, these stories stick out in memory:
- The tower of Great Plains Hospital.
- Sen. Chuck Hagel’s formative years.
- Overpasses over railroad tracks and I-80, including million-dollar pedestrian overpasses that are barely used.
- The new Lincoln County jail, built after years of efforts, and the lawsuit that came out of it.
- Henry Hill whipping up the Italian sauce at a North Platte restaurant.
- The Hoggy Doggy Splash.
- Danny Woodhead’s Super Bowl touchdown.
- The 10-11 takeover of KNOP.
- The arrival (and relative departure) of Rail Days.
- North Platte’s World War II Canteen comes to the Big Screen.
- The crackdown on cigarette smoking.
- (Just a few months ago) the security crackdown at the county’s relatively trouble-free courthouse.
What Bulletin stories do you remember? We’d like to hear your memories.
Also, if you’d like an article or an issue from the past, we have back issues at the Bulletin office, 1300 E. Fourth.
We couldn’t have reached our 15-year milestone without our advertisers, who put their great products on our pages.
We couldn’t have reached 15 years without our readers — their support, notes of encouragement, suggestions and of course, subscriptions.
Deep gratitude from all of us abides for Frank, Laura and Greg Hood. Greg was our first Internet Technician and business manager. Much of his outstanding work is still in use.
After two weeks, it was an honor for me to join those three highly talented, highly capable people.
It was a labor of love for all of us then, and since.
We couldn’t have reached our 15-year milestone without the work of many people over the years – James Parrish joined us the fall of 2003. Mark Lewis was our first graphic artist. Kyle Ferguson was our first advertising representative. Terri Davis was an outstanding graphic artist for many years. Tad Stryker was our first sports editor. Homer Cruetz was a great computer programmer for many years.
Shari Cecil, Bob and Ruth Gambs, Tad Stryker and Ben Schwartz all contributed mightily over the years.
The current dedicated staff includes Floydene Dressel, Martin Owen, Darla Golden, Nancy Michaels, Tray Sorenson, Ray Olson and Roger Noonan. Anna Melvin and Twilla Miller have helped prepare the paper for the mail each Wednesday for 14.5 years. There are too many others to mention, including the outstanding press room at the McCook Daily Gazette, and the dedicated mail carriers at the U.S. Postal Service and our volunteers, whom we cannot thank enough.