Ralston Recorder Stops Printing After 84 Years

By 
Molly Ashford
The Daily Record

The Ralston Recorder spent the past 84 years chronicling Nebraska’s Independence City with weekly coverage of the community and its inhabitants.

But in late April, The Recorder announced that it would be releasing its last issue on May 26, citing financial concerns as the reason for the end of an 84-year run.

“With the change in times, we’ve also had a change in our readership which has declined significantly over the years and is no longer able to financially sustain itself,” wrote Courtney Brummer-Clark, managing editor of The Recorder and several other newspapers, in a short article announcing the newspaper’s closing.

The Ralston Recorder was owned by Lee Enterprises, which also publishes The Omaha World-Herald, The Lincoln Journal Star, The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs and several other area newspapers, such as The Bellevue Leader and The Papillion Times.

The Recorder was originally purchased by The Times in 1981. That company was, in turn, purchased by The World-Herald, which later became BH Media when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway purchased The World-Herald in 2011. Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises bought the properties in 2020.

Ralston Mayor Don Groesser says the demise of The Recorder is a great loss for the community.

“I think the greatest loss is the history and documentation of how our city has developed, what has happened over the years, and what is going on with current projects,” he said.

It is difficult to overstate the love that Ralston has for The Recorder—and the love that the many editors and writers who worked at the paper over the years have for the residents.

One such staffer is Sherry Wachtler, a columnist and writer for The Recorder who worked in the community for 23 years.

“She truly was the heart and soul of The Recorder,” former editor Adam Klinker said.

A Ralston native and Ralston High graduate, Wachtler wrote weekly columns, school news, obituaries and everything in between since she began in 1987.

“When you start in a little community newspaper, you get to do everything from scooping snow off the front walk in the winter to taking ads and sports scores to publishing engagements and births and deaths,” Wachtler said.

A few stories stuck out to Wachtler during her tenure, including funerals for volunteer firefighters that stuck with her for years and a story about a 9-year-old kid who saved a friend from drowning.

Before obituaries were paid placements, people would simply stop in to tell stories about the people they lost.

“People would come in, and we would write the obituary for their loved one together,” she said. “Sometimes I would cry with them. You got to know the people, and such they all have such heartwarming stories.”

Klinker, another Ralston native, was one of 17 editors that Wachtler worked under. He first began his editorship at the Recorder in 2004, although he left for Memphis shortly after.

Not even two weeks after he returned to town in 2009, he ran into Wachtler at the annual Independence Day parade. He started out freelancing, and Klinker was back at The Recorder full-time by the next spring.

“Not a lot of people get the opportunity to go back to where they are from and report about the way that the place is changed and the way the place continues to change,” Klinker said. “It was pretty amazing to be able to write about it all.”

Klinker and Wachtler both emphasize the loss that Ralston will face as The Recorder comes to an end.

“Losing The Recorder will affect the community’s spirit,” Wachtler said. “A small paper is the heart and soul of a community—it can cover the sports, the deaths, the civic actions. You’ve got to have a conscience in that community, and I believe the newspaper often serves as the conscience.”

Daily Record Managing Editor Scott Stewart also used to work for the newspaper group that published The Recorder, including a year as managing editor. He said he was particularly fond of a story he wrote about the Stanley Cup gracing Ralston Arena for the 2014 USA Hockey High School National Championships.

 The potential loss to the community is a significant part of why The Daily Record is offering coverage of Ralston in its Friday papers, he said.

“Newspapers are an important way that a community engages with its members and preserves its legacy,” Stewart said. “We hope The Daily Record can serve that role for Ralston, and we would like to invite former Recorder readers to subscribe to our newspaper.”

On Facebook’s “Let’s Talk Ralston” group page, community members shared their memories of The Recorder.

“Our family took the Recorder for years,” said Richard Shively. “Later on, when I was in the Air Force, I received it through the mail while stationed in Turkey and Germany. Back in those years, the stories were about Ralston folks and the sports section was about Ralston athletes.”

Debra Joy Groesser, a Ralston resident for over 50 years, said that she has saved every Recorder issue since her husband’s first mayoral campaign in 1996.

“I have articles from our kids’ school years, my mom and dad’s obituaries, my art career and studio,” Deb Groesser said. “So many memories from our lives are captured in the pages of the Recorder”

Groesser’s own art studio on Ralston’s main street holds relics of The Recorder’s past. The newspaper was produced in the 1960s in the same brick building on 77th Street.

“When we took up the flooring to see if we could refinish the original floors, we discovered ink and grease slicks in the areas where the printing presses must have been,” she said. “The old printer’s sink is still in the basement along with a lot of old metal printing plates.”

While the smell of ink eventually fades, the lives documented by The Recorder will live on in its pages — along with the community that it helped build over the past eight decades.

“Everybody has a story in a small town,” she said. “You just have to talk to them long enough to find it out.”

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