Community-run publication documents small-town Adirondack life
By Tim Rowland
Decades before “news desert” became a buzzword, Emil Seerup grew concerned that the town of Hague on northern Lake George didn’t have a paper of its own.
Sure, reporters from multiple papers in Ticonderoga to the north and Glens Falls to the south nosed around for news, but every community, he felt, deserved a newspaper to call its own. So in 1972, the recently retired vice president for American Express founded the Hague Chronicle.
Fifty years later, those other publications that covered the stunningly beautiful northern Lake George community are gone or greatly depleted. Only Seerup’s publication remains standing.
“People always say they love reading the Chronicle,” said Ginger Henry Kuenzel, a frequent contributor whose mother Dottie Henry was once its editor. “It’s a local paper that wants to be for everybody, and to bring the community together.”
Changes over time
The monthly Chronicle is an eclectic mix of news, public-meeting minutes, mirth, photos, history, passings and civic functions. It’s a community whiteboard of events for year-round residents and a lifeline to snowbirds who, from afar, watch the doings on the town planning commission like a hawk to make sure nothing untoward encroaches on their little piece of paradise.
Indeed, there are two different Hagues: the one in winter with scarcely more than 800 residents and practically no commercial activity, and the one in summer where the population swells to four times that number, and businesses that have been shuttered for the winter, fingers crossed, come back to life.
That’s different from the 1970s, said Chronicle Publisher Judy Stock, when Hague had young families, its own school and it was still possible to buy a tank of gas. Since then, “the whole demographic of the town has changed,” Stock said.
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But the paper remains a strong champion of Lake George, its life blood, and includes hard news on environmental issues and town business — a connection many Adirondack towns lack.
In his inaugural message to the town then, Seerup wrote, “Hague has all of the usual accouterments of a small town except one — IT HAS NO NEWSPAPER! News of what is going on is non-existent except that which is passed by word of mouth and all must agree that this source of news is unreliable. Except for those persons actually involved in particular projects, few people really know what is going on. Lack of information or misinformation sow the seeds of suspicion and distrust.”
A community project
Stock said the paper’s policy was then, and continues to be, one of nonpartisanship, designed to unite instead of divide. Its bylaws prohibit it from endorsing candidates, and “we steer clear of politics,” she said. “Our primary goal is education.”
Supported by donors and written, edited and distributed by volunteers, production of the Chronicle was historically something of an event in its own right. Once a month, 30 volunteers would gather to reproduce, fold, staple and mailed 700 hard copies. “It was a great social thing,” Stock said. “The Chronicle wasn’t just a publication, it was an organization.”
Instead of a printing press, the paper was originally mimeographed on what was commonly known at the time as a “ditto machine,” rescued from the scrap heap by Seerup and installed in his home. It had marginal print quality and a cracked drum that obliterated a line here and there, but it got the job done — printed on all colors of paper, depending on what was available for cheap — until the Silver Bay Association volunteered the use of its offset press.
In 1976 Seerup died and use of the offset press became impractical due to lengthy production times. Hague resident Virginia Shattuck took over the paper with “monumental effort” and did most of the work herself in the late ’70s, according to a Chronicle history, aided by a band of volunteers that called itself the Chronicle Committee.
Passing the torch
That’s always been the story of the Chronicle — someone through the years has always stepped up to keep it going. Often, the editor was the reporter and the photographer and the production staff.
Kuenzel said her mom encouraged her to write for the paper when she lived in Germany — a Twainesque snapshot of a Hague resident abroad. Today, she writes lake news and humorous takes on a small town. “If I could bring a smile to people’s faces, that’s all I ever wanted,” she said.
Stories from Hague
Read some of Ginger Kuenzel’s commentary in the Adirondack Almanack:
As the paper existed through the decades, it had its ups and downs, much like Hague itself. Slowly it was able to modernize its equipment — volunteers were finally able to afford the luxury of an electric typewriter that had been surplused following the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
The computer age brought another crossroads that the paper was able to negotiate. It now sends out more electronic copies than the town has residents. “Summer people really like to keep up with what’s going on,” Stock said.
It still prints a few hard copies for a handful of residents who have no use for computer screens, and to include in a voluminous archive in the community center’s museum. Because as the Chronicle goes, so does Hague itself. “Really, the history of the Chronicle is the history of the town over the last 50 years,” she said.
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