Cowboy State Daily: A Blast From The Past

in Column/Dave Simpson

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

What I like best about the Cowboy State Daily is that it reminds me of the good old days.

And I hope you’ll send them a donation to help keep this good thing going.

For a few years back in the early 1980s, I was the state editor of the Casper Star-Tribune. It was a wonderful time to be in the newspaper business, and I’ve told Cowboy State Daily Publisher Bill Sniffin many times that CSD reminds me of the old State Page at the Star-Tribune. That’s a good thing.

Back then, we had about 20 correspondents spread out across Wyoming, and when something happened in their towns, we worked hard to get their reports in the state’s largest newspaper. It wasn’t easy back then – I just about got a crook in my neck taking stories over the phone. And when we got a machine that received typed pages via a phone line, the smell just about knocked you over.

We had great folks around the state, covering the news. There was Warren Murphy down in Dixon (he later moved to Cody), Don Gerstein in Rawlins, Betty Cash in Douglas, Betsy Bernfeld in Wilson, Paul Krza in Rock Springs, Buzzy Hassrick in Cody, and Andrew Melnykovich in Laramie. (Andrew went on to win a Polk Award after leaving the Star-Tribune, the second highest award in journalism.)

And, of course, we had Wyoming Journalism Hall of Fame member Joan Barron at work in Cheyenne. She was the absolute best.

In the office, we had great folks like Greg Bean, Linda Bean, Dan Neal, Anne MacKinnon, Bill Landen, Adella Gould, Penelope Purdy, Ron Fanscell, Ann Franscell, Alison Oresman and Warren Wilson. Dick High and Rob Hurless managed the paper. And our publisher, the late Tom Howard, once told me, as he sent me off to publish the tiny Northwest Colorado Daily Press, “first do what’s right. Then worry about the money.” I don’t think they make ’em like Tom anymore.

Fast forward to the Cowboy State Daily, and you have a publisher who has been around Wyoming for over 50 years. Bill Sniffin is that rare breed of publisher who is not only great at running businesses, but who has also won national writing awards. His weekly column in newspapers all over the state is required reading if you want to know what’s going on in Wyoming. (My favorites are his travelogues.)

Executive Editor Jimmy Orr looks like a writer at heart to me, and he does an excellent job keeping the page fresh and newsy. And to have an editor like Jim Angell, formerly of the Associated Press, is a gift. Add to that reports from all over the state from an impressive list of contributors, including Ray Hunkins, a former candidate for governor (like Bill Sniffin), veteran newsman Jim Hicks, and former legislator Tom Jones.

Those of us who have been in the newspaper biz for decades are worried sick about what the Internet has done to advertising and circulation revenues, causing staff layoffs, massive cost cutting, empty buildings, and the cancellation of whole publication days. I wouldn’t go back to publishing newspapers in this environment for all the beer in Milwaukee – it sure looks like Ulcer Gulch to me –  and my heart goes out to those fighting this war of attrition.

The good news, however, is the growth we’ve seen in digital publications like the Cowboy State Daily. But to keep it going, this non-profit voice of Wyoming needs your help.

My wife Caryl and I are sending a check off to the Cowboy State Daily today, and that’s remarkable because we’re cheap!

I hope you’ll join us in supporting this wonderful all-Wyoming publication.

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