One of Homer’s oldest institutions is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. The Homer News is marking the occasion by taking a little time to reflect on its past.
In January of 1964, lamb’s wool sweaters were in, the Beatles were at the top of the charts and in the tiny town of Homer, Alaska, two major institutions were just getting off the ground.
As the City of Homer first incorporated, laying out a future for the little town, the first newspaper popped up at pretty much the same time. “Incorporation Move Gains Steam” read the first headline of the first story in the first edition of the Homer News, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this week.
Publisher and Editor Lori Evans took over at the Homer News in 2004, a few years after the paper was bought by Morris Communications, a Georgia-based media company that owns several radio stations and newspapers in Alaska, including the Peninsula Clarion.
On a recent tour of the paper's headquarters on Lakeshore Drive, Evans shows off the production room, where the paper is put together every Wednesday, and advertising, where sales staff tries to rustle up business for the newspaper.
In the back of the building, Reporter Michael Armstrong is in the library, which is stacked floor to ceiling with history, including bound volumes of the Homer News going all the way back to the paper’s humble beginnings. Armstrong is sort of the unofficial historian of the Homer News. Having worked at the paper for 15 years himself, he knows most of the details.
Did you know, for instance, that for a while in the 1970s, the paper was called the "Homer Weekly News?" Or that for many years, it was owned by two men from the Washington Post, including Howard Simons, the man who oversaw Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate investigation?
McKibben Jackinsky has been on staff with the Homer News for nine years but her experience at the paper goes all the way back to 1979.
"I was writing the weekly 'Ninilchik News,'" said said. "It was just a little column but it was very fun to do."
Jackinsky grew up on the southern Kenai Peninsula. She worked for a time for the Clarion and came to the Homer News in 2005. She says much has changed at the Homer News – and in the news business – just in the last few years.
"The biggest change is having access to the Web and the amount of information that we have available," she said. "(And) the increased opportunity to contact people. That's made a huge difference."
Of course, those technological advances have also increased the workload for reporters on other ways, too, like having to write stories for the web and stay on top of social media as the way readers get their news changes.
Evans says that when it comes to the news, though, some things will never change.
"The goal is still to provide people with great information that they can use to base their decisions on," said Evans. "As long as people realize that community news sources ... are a place they can trust for good information, I think there will always be a need for us."
The Homer News celebrated its 50th anniversary with a party Thursday night at VBS specialty stoves on Pioneer Avenue.