Newspaper in fourth decade of serving River Region
Sentinel staff thanks readers, advertisers; pledges to continue serving River Region
By Joshua Maloni
Thirty years ago, a screen star was president, Vanna White was turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune," musicians were making political statements at the Grammy Awards, and movie star Tom Cruise was dominating the box office.
Boy, those were the days.
1987 also was the year the River Region got its own newspaper.
Of course, it wasn't the Lewiston-Porter area's first newspaper - or even its second - but it was the first publication (to our knowledge) to debut without a name.
On Feb. 14, 1987, the paper was printed with a giant headline, in big, bold, red letters, that said, "We Need A Name!"
In a front-page story, editor Joelle Logue wrote, "As you can tell by the masthead, this paper needs a name and, since it will be your newspaper with news of you, your neighborhood and friends, we thought it only fitting that the paper be named by you."
The Sentinel didn't become "The Sentinel" until March 14 - issue No. 2. (Back then, the paper was printed monthly.)
Sharon Norbut, a Niagara Falls native who had moved to Lewiston four years earlier, submitted the winning entry. She was pictured with the nameplate design, which was the work of cartoonist and artist Sam Russo. On the front cover, under the words "The Sentinel," Russo created a row of historic sites that was bookmarked by Artpark and Old Fort Niagara. The subhead read, "The Good News Of The Lewiston/Porter Area."
Norbut won a $50 savings bond from the Permanent Savings Bank, as well as a $50 gift certificate from the Lewiston Business and Professional Association to use at any of the member businesses.
More than 300 area residents entered the contest. Honorable mention names included "Landmark" and "Beacon."
It was an odd and imaginative way to launch a newspaper.
Less out of place then - and certainly fitting in 2017 - was Logue's lead story, wherein she wrote of The Sentinel's quest for truth.
"George (Washington) was, as exemplified in the cherry tree story, a basically honest man. We intend to be an honest newspaper," Logue wrote. "Our purpose is to be a public information paper geared to increase community awareness - to point out the advantages and opportunities in this richly historic area. It's what's happening, what's new, the real accomplishments of people and businesses that we're interested in communicating to you.
"We'll work hard in bringing you the most complete coverage of the Lewiston-Porter area, but just as Washington set his own strict rules of conduct, he also enjoyed a good time. This paper will be a happy one. There will be no news of Lebanese terrorists, no Nader casualties or bad weather forecasts. We are optimists in your town merely passing good news from organizations, schools and merchants to you.
"As Lee said of George, 'He was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.' So, too, we strive to be first in good reporting, first in marketing integrity, and the number one paper in the heart of Lewiston-Porter."
To be the River Region's go-to source of news - good, bad or otherwise - was the staff's goal in 1987.
It remains our top goal today.
Now, being the first doesn't equal being the best. The Sentinel comes out on Saturday. Often times, news topics are reported on before they appear in this paper.
We would rather be the best than the first.
And still, we constantly hear readers say they wait to read our stories. Yes, news appears elsewhere, in other forms, but readers still look to us as their first source of River Region news.
We've worked hard to position the paper in such as way that, when news breaks, or just unfolds, The Sentinel is where readers look to find out what happened, why it happened, and what it means. They look to this paper to provide the straight scoop, the extra details and the backstory they're not likely to find in or from other news sources.
That's not a knock on the competition. It's just what makes The Sentinel different. No other newspaper, TV newscast, radio program or billboard advertiser, for that matter, will spend as much time, energy or budget as The Sentinel does covering your backyard and the news that matters most to you (and your bottom line).
The "other guys" do their thing.
This is our thing.
Our staffers live in the River Region. We eat, drink, shop and bowl inside the locally owned businesses. (The latter where appropriate.)
We cover the River Region best, because we are a part of the River Region.
Richard Soluri said, "When I was mayor, I felt that you guys made great contributions, and were always very supportive of whatever we accomplished."
Soluri presided over the village for half of The Sentinel's first 30 years.
"To me, the paper grew in stature," he said.
Soluri added, "I think it's important to the community, and I think people definitely rely on it - particularly since you concentrate on Lewiston news. And now you've been including more stories about the Falls. ... The Falls could've been taking advantage of what's in Lewiston and Youngstown a long time ago. You are promoting regionalism, and I like that."
Terry Collesano, Lewiston's current mayor, a noted historian and - little-known fact - a one-week (give or take) Niagara Frontier Publications' employee, said, "I think it's great."
"I can remember when they had the other paper, 'What's Going On' in Lewiston, and there was a publisher by the name of George O. Benson. He was a great guy. And I had my (barber) shop up the street at the time. He used to come to me. I said, 'What a great thing.' He used to play up the businesses in Lewiston, and featured certain people in Lewiston. It was a great newspaper.
"When they went out of business, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh. This is terrible.' Then when The Sentinel came along, I remember The Sentinel had pictures of the old houses on the cover, and Artpark - from the old to the new - I said, 'This is great. This is great.' "
"As far as the paper itself, yes, it's really great for Lewiston, and the area. Porter, as well; Ransomville, Sanborn. It's been really a great paper," Collesano said.
If that's true, it's because we work with a lot of really great people.
We can only do the job we love to do because of you, our readers. I've often said we don't do this in a vacuum. We do it because we believe we have worthwhile information to share.
Thank you for allowing us to share our news stories with you over the past 30 years.
And thank you to the businesses and organizations that buy ads in The Sentinel.
We know we're ... um, persistent ... when it comes to sales and advertising. But, it's only because our staffers like to eat and pay their bills on time.
Sentinel Editor Terry Duffy said, "I haven't been here 30 years ... though at times it feels like I've been. But for my 15 years, now going on 16 and beyond, The Sentinel's objective has been and remains to tell the news of the community like no other outlet. To go into the details - the good, the not so good - and tell it like it is.
"You see it in our articles. They're thorough. They're complete. We don't just skim. We tell the stories, the behind-the-scenes, the details of what's really going on.
"You don't see this type of approach all too often with our competitors. Then again, they're not us. They don't live here; they don't all that often have the opportunity to actually experience, firsthand, what is going on, the emotions ... and have a feel for the feedback.
"But the Sentinel staff does. Yes, we do provide the news, but so much more. We also have an appreciation, a sense of the 'feel,' the impact - because we live here and experience it first-hand.
"It's what sets us apart. And we pledge for that to continue."
Jennifer Pauly, president of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, said, "The Sentinel is the type of community paper that does it right! They engage in community events, issues that affect the residents, and highlight the good that is happening. We often tell people who just moved here to pick up The Sentinel and read the entire paper - after they are done, they will get a sense of what this community is all about. Not to mention, everyone loves seeing their picture in The Sentinel!
"Congratulations to 30 successful years, and we look forward to the next 30!"
So, as we begin year No. 31, this is our vow to you, our readers and advertisers: We promise to cover your board meetings, attend your events, publicize your chowder sales and fundraisers, patronize your stores and, most importantly, listen to you.
Complaints, compliments, calls to action, concerts, community news you and others can use: We'll take it. We'll take all of it. And we'll shine an appropriate spotlight on the people, places and events working to make this community great ... and call to task those who would threaten your ideals and way of life.
We are here to serve you, and we look forward to doing that for another 30 years.
Pictured is one of the Sentinel's more colorful covers from 2016.