In the coming weeks, The Ellsworth American will change ownership for only the third time in about 50 years. Under the careful tutelage of Russell Wiggins, Alan Baker at once not only bought a storied newspaper, but carefully continued the tradition of running a smart, balanced weekly newspaper, a journal that could be relied on for sound information, thoughtful insight, as well as entertainment for all. As those around him in the industry lost their (editorial) way, and floundered with diminishing sales and readers, Mr. B’s Ellsworth American stayed the course.
I came to Alan Baker with an idea in September 1994. I had been “writing” about the automotive industry since a school project in 1968, so what the heck, why not pitch the idea for a weekly automotive column in the pages of The Ellsworth American. V. Paul Reynolds (who now appears in these pages too) liked the idea for the Bangor Daily News, but then he left and no one else seemed to have the appetite, or awareness, for such a project. Mr. Baker was my next option — with no names after his on my list.
Good fortune prevailed as our stars aligned; Alan wanted a vehicle to boost advertising opportunities, and I hoped to provide a path forward. A month later, the first “On the Road Review” started in The Ellsworth American.
During the ensuing years, there have been car junkets to Texas, Virginia and New York, plus frequent journeys to southern Massachusetts. There have been memorable events, and more than a few forgettable cars, yet so many interesting, positive people have contributed support to this weekly column that it has often been much easier than those early years. Then and now, it has always been fun.
It would be easy for readers of The American to forget all that goes into accurate news gathering and the presentation of the material we look forward to reading each week. Mr. Baker’s emphasis in publishing his “hometown” newspaper frequently didn’t meet normal business objectives, yet the pride of a quality publication cannot always be measured in dollars and cents but in the lasting impact on the people and the community served. By this standard, success was assured.
Thank you, Alan, for the opportunity to appear in these pages week after week for 24 years, but also for the shared dialogue, the insightful lunches and the good fortune realized from being a tiny part of what has been an impressive experience. Best wishes to you.