The newspaper you are reading is 40 years old.
Well, not this actual one in your hands. But its ancestor, the first Jackson Hole Daily, the progenitor of this publication, came out four decades ago this morning.
And while the paper hit the streets with fingers crossed, it has grown and prospered from that initial 16-page Daily — in a format half the size of today’s paper — and is now guaranteed by ad sales and readership to be a success.
That first Daily, published Dec. 1, 1978, was seen as filling a news void in what “had always been a very isolated market,” said Mike Sellett, then publisher and editor of the Jackson Hole News, its sister weekly.
The Daily, at first called the Jackson Hole Daily News, was considered necessary because successful weeklies in similar markets had seen free dailies established that cut into their business. That was the case in Vail, Colorado, where the market-dominating Vail Trail was being challenged by a two-page mimeographed paper called the Vail Daily, and in Aspen, where a new Aspen Daily News popped up.
Having a six-day paper — even if it shut down during the spring and fall offseasons — was also seen as a way to keep the presses running more than for just one long day each week. And Sellett, mindful that newspapers by their nature can offend and drive away some people and their business, also liked the idea of a separate product.
“Publishing the Daily meant that people who were not fans of the News had another outlet,” he said.
Another advantage was seen in having a paper aimed at a growing part of a readership that wasn’t as attuned to a weekly publishing schedule as locals.
“We saw it as a publication aimed more at tourists than locals,” said Paul Bruun, a former editor of the Daily and still a News&Guide columnist. “We thought people on vacation would want some national news and sports, and back then you couldn’t get that in Jackson.”
That was before CNN, the internet, USA Today and a variety of other news sources that now constantly compete for attention. Daily papers from outside Jackson arrived a day after they were published, if that fast. The news in the Daily was soon complemented with an assortment of cartoons, a crossword, sports and business.
The 1,600-copy issue was a hit with visitors, but not just with them, the founders said.
“It started out as a tourist publication, and we quickly found it was a resounding hit with local people,” Bruun said.
“It was really gratifying,” Sellett said. “There wasn’t anything else around, and local people embraced the paper.”
The three-person staff soon grew to four; the number of copies printed rose to about 5,000 within two years. In 2004 the old “half-tab” size, a paper the size of today’s but folded once more and cut across the top, was changed to the current format. The Daily’s press run now averages about 9,000 and hits a summer peak of 11,500. Four or five people out of a rotating staff of almost a dozen are now involved in putting out each issue of the Daily.
Among first-issue advertisers who still buy space in the Daily are Jackson Hole Cinema, Real Estate of Jackson Hole, Stone Drug, the Mangy Moose, KMTN, the Cowboy Bar, Hoback Sports, Teton Mountaineering, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort.