Since 1893, there’s been a newspaper in Emmett to record the happenings of the local community. From births to deaths and events in between, the Emmett paper has taken note and written the community’s history. The Messenger Index celebrated that history in November with an open house marking the paper’s 120-year milestone.
From its earliest publication, the Emmett newspaper found a welcome place in local homes and businesses. By way of introduction, Emmett Index Publisher Eugene Lorton wrote, “To the people of Emmett and the public in general, the Emmett Index extends a cordial ‘howdy,’ and this morning starts out upon a career which it hopes will be fraught with success.”
It would be a lasting venture, but it wasn’t an overnight success. The Index struggled to get on its feet, and when its subscribers couldn’t afford to pay the yearly $2 rate, Lorton accepted eggs, fruit and firewood instead.
At one point there were two newspapers in circulation. But “Emmett is a one paper town,” and the brief life of the Emmett Examiner – from 1910 to 1925 – ended with those words in its final edition before being sold to the Index.
In 1933, that statement was challenged with the first publication of the Emmett Messenger. The two papers coexisted until 1957, when the Index sold to the Messenger. The Messenger Index debuted on July 4 of that year. With a combined subscriber base of about 3,000, the Messenger Index had the largest circulation of any weekly community newspaper in Idaho.
“Small community newspapers are well supported,” Messenger Index Managing Editor Diana Baird said from the Messenger Index office, where black ink still stains the walls of the back room where the presses once rolled. A sister paper to the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Messenger Index is now printed in Nampa.
The newspaper has embraced the global shift to online media as well, offering an online copy of the paper to each subscriber.
Baird attributes the MI’s sustained success to its identity as a hometown newspaper. It’s an identity that she’s invested countless hours into learning and archiving. “You have to know where you’re working so you understand the people in the community,” she said.
Baird has hundreds of computer files chronicling the community’s 150-year history and was the driving force behind the 2011 publication of Gem County, Idaho: Historic Moments, News & Photos. She has also created a living document, “The history of the news in Gem County.” She balances time spent on past events with current news and said the role of the paper is still much the same: “To find the things happening countywide that are significant.”
The Messenger Index is located at 120 N. Washington Ave. and is open 8-5, Monday-Friday. For more information or to subscribe, call (208) 365-6066.