DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Rio Grande Sun Never Sets

Hawking the Sun.
While newspapers around the country are struggling, the small weekly The Rio Grande Sun, which is considered one of the best weekly papers in the United States, is doing well. So well in fact, that it often sells out every issue it prints.

The Sun, started in 1956, now has a paid circulation of 12,000, a number that climbs higher in the summer when longer New Mexico days provide for stronger street sales in the small town of Espanola where the paper is based..

Unlike virtually every other paper in the country, The Sun is sold primarily by street vendors, with the balance sold in stores, racks and mail subscriptions. A drive through EspaƱola on any Wednesday evening will show families parked at intersections with children dispersed at strategic selling points hawking the popular paper.

The unique story of the publication, which has won numerous awards for its investigative reporting, is the subject of filmmaker Ben Daitz's documentary The Sun Never Sets which was shown at the Newseum today.

The film followers The Sun's reporters and editors as they write about the news, sports, crime, and culture of their extensive rural county, home to a large Hispanic and Native American population. It also shows how the paper broke the story that its rural community has the highest per capita heroin overdose rate in the country and has led a continuing legal fight for open records and open meetings.

Following the screening, publisher Robert E. Trapp, who started the paper almost 60 years ago, and his son, Robert B., now the paper's editor, handled questions about their publication.

The secret of their success, the younger Trapp said, is that there is only one focus - "we cover local news." He said that while there is great care for the accuracy with the reporting of local sports and obituaries, the main focus is keeping an eye on politicians and reporting on their shenanigans. In addition, newspaper experts have called The Sun's police blotter reporting the best in America.

Of course, the paper is often accused of printing only bad news. In the film, Trapp is shown displaying the huge collection of rocks that have been hurled through the paper's windows over the years. "I don't have any (powerful) friends in the community. I originally had 2 or 3, but eventually we reported about one or another of their relatives. But that's OK. What we do is important," Trapp said.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
The documentary captures a fascinating portrait of small-paper (there is a staff of 6 reporters and one editor) journalism at its finest. To view the trailer, click here.

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