“R.I.P. The Rayne Independent” – the death of an American newspaper

Another American newspaper stopped publishing last week. This Nieman Journalism Lab article tells the story of a small-town newspaper’s life and death.

weekly papers

“In a small town in south Louisiana, two weekly newspapers have battled for more than four decades. Not any longer.”

By Joshua Benton

“I hope you’ll allow me Nieman Lab director’s privilege to write something brief about the demise of a newspaper dear to my heart. Yesterday, the final edition of The Rayne Independent came off the presses. The Independent was a weekly newspaper in my hometown of Rayne, Louisiana (home of the Frog Festival!), a small town of about 8,000 people in the middle of Cajun country.

“As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the future of newspapers, I was always keenly aware of how unusual Rayne was in one respect — it has, for the past 45 years and despite its small size, had two dueling weekly newspapers. Both were dominated by strong women: The Acadian Tribune by Myrta Fair Craig and The Independent by Jo Cart. Craig was publisher of the Acadian Tribune for an astonishing 70 years, from 1924 to 1994. Miss Jo, as she was known, didn’t get along too well with Myrta, so she started the Independent in 1967.

“We were an Independent household growing up, despite the fact that by most any objective judgment, the Acadian Tribune was the better paper — more pages, bigger staff, better layout. But we read the Independent because Jo was a local force of nature and because the Acadian Tribune had become part of a chain back in 1963, Louisiana State Newspapers. (Hence the name “Independent,” started four years later.) For decades, Jo wrote a front-page column called From the Streets of Rayne that was sort of in the Herb Caen mode — an item-by-item recounting of who’d been in town that week, what people were talking about at City Hall, how good the shrimp poboy Jo had at Gabe’s was on Monday, and so on. The rest of the paper was pretty much just photos of kids who won awards at Rayne High and the attendees at the volunteer firemen’s ball, but From the Streets was the key read of the week in town.”

Example of small-town community writing from the Rayne Independent.

rayne independent news clip

To continue reading this article from the Nieman Journalism Lab, click here.

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