<strong>By Lexi Browning,<\/strong>\r\n\r\n<strong>West Virginia Press Association<\/strong>\r\n\r\nFor nearly 150 years, The Monroe Watchman has served as the authoritative news source for Monroe County, West Virginia. The weekly newspaper, located on Main Street in Union, West Virginia, published its first edition in 1872.\r\n\r\nEditor Craig Mohler is now at the helm of the publication. He\u2019s the second generation in his family to hold the title. Two decades ago, he took over editing responsibilities, following in the footsteps of his father, Harry \u201cH.H.\u201d Mohler.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy folks purchased the business in 1965. My dad actually worked here for a while when he was in high school and went away for school and eventually came back and started working here again,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cThe editor at the time had never married or had children, so he allowed my dad to start purchasing the business.\u201d\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_53512" align="alignleft" width="651"]<img class=" wp-image-53512" src="https:\/\/mountainmessenger.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2021\/02\/Watchman-1-scaled.jpg" alt="" width="651" height="468" \/> Harry Mohler, Craig Mohler\u2019s son, and senior reporter John Honaker in the newsroom in 2005. Honaker came to The Monroe Watchman in the 1960s part-time as a high school student and he never left, the elder Mohler said. John works part-time, handling ad designs, page layouts and commercial printing.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nThe business had been purchased from another family in the region, the Johnstons, who had run it for three generations before it was sold to the Mohlers, he explained. As the child of farm workers who worked his way up into the newspaper\u2019s leadership, Mohler said running the newspaper was a \u201cgreat source of pride and accomplishment.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s been neat to be part of it,\u201d Mohler said of the family legacy.\r\n\r\nWith the exception of early owners\u2019 one-week break between each Christmas and New Year, Mohler said the publication has, to his knowledge, never missed a week of publishing.\r\n\r\nFor the weekly newspaper, production and mailing is a weeklong affair. Newspapers are printed on Monday evenings and mailed out on Tuesday.\u00a0 Each newspaper carries a Thursday date, carrying on Mohler\u2019s father\u2019s tradition of ensuring that recipients weren\u2019t receiving \u201cold\u201d news in the mail.\r\n\r\nAltogether, the business employs four people: Mohler, his mother, and two employees, including a senior reporter, John Honaker, who joined the newspaper with Mohler\u2019s father in the 1960s. In 2018, Mohler\u2019s mother transitioned from full-time to part-time. His brother, Rod, who works as an attorney, covers Monroe High School football games for the Watchman in the fall and offers legal advice as necessary.\r\n\r\nIn recent years, many newspapers across the United States have faced economic stress, resulting in budget cuts, layoffs and closures. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has added an extra layer of uncertainty.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur circulation has gone up a bit during the pandemic. We reached a maximum in the early 2000s when I first came in here and had gotten up to 4,200 per week. Since then it\u2019s dropped to 3,200, and then over the last few months, it\u2019s crept up a bit. I think a lot of that is from losing papers in neighboring counties.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe newspaper hasn\u2019t been printed on-site since the 1960s, but the Babcock printer that was purchased in the early 1900s is still in the building. With presses closing and streamlining operations across the nation, the Watchman\u2019s printing has changed multiple times over the last several decades. They\u2019re currently printed in Lynchburg, Virginia, along with The Roanoke Times.\r\n\r\n\u201cPeople love seeing that when they come into the building with all the pulleys on the ceiling,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cOf course, that used the old lead letters, and they were handset letters and with linotype after that. They stopped using that in 1965 and went to offset. We never purchased an offset printer because they were expensive and we wouldn\u2019t be using it every day.\u201d\r\n\r\nPreserving a family legacy\r\n\r\nCraig Mohler had always been a familiar face around the newsroom, visiting and helping with inserts and writing features after school and on days off.\r\n\r\n\u201cI always enjoyed the paper. I hung around here in high school, and, of course, we did a little high school paper, and we\u2019d do that here and use the equipment we had here to put that together.\u201d\r\n\r\nGrowing up, Mohler said he always struggled to find a singular hobby or interest, and journalism offered opportunities to learn about new subjects each week and become a \u201cjack of all trades.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut it\u2019s not just the love of learning that\u2019s kept him invested in the field.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor me, it\u2019s partly the family tradition and the fact that people do appreciate it and want to see it continue,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cIt\u2019s neat to be part of something that\u2019s been part of the county for so long.\u201d\r\n\r\nAfter graduating, Mohler didn\u2019t start his career at the newspaper; instead, he became a veterinarian. In 1997, while Mohler was running his veterinary clinic, his father passed away, and he began to help out part-time at the newspaper. For about a year, Mohler said he tried to balance his clinic, a position on the Monroe County Commission and the newspaper, but it wasn\u2019t feasible long-term.\r\n\r\n\u201cI finally decided to close my clinic because my mother was still involved with the paper and we really wanted to keep it going and keep it in the family,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cIt was a tough decision, but it\u2019s worked out pretty well.\u201d\r\n\r\nAt the newspaper, Mohler has worn many hats. Every week, his responsibilities range from content production to hand-labeling print editions and packaging them to be mailed to subscribers. Once papers are labeled, they\u2019re driven to the local post office. The rest of the week is dedicated to management, billing and pursuing leads on stories.\r\n\r\n\u201cLike most local business owners, the buck stops with you,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cOnce a week, I take out the trash, and I put salt on the front steps this morning because they were icy. You do whatever it takes to get things done.\u201d\r\n\r\nMohler, who is 59, said though the pandemic has caused stress throughout the news industry, The Monroe Watchman has received an outpouring of support for subscribers over the last year.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_53513" align="alignright" width="570"]<img class=" wp-image-53513" src="https:\/\/mountainmessenger.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2021\/02\/Watchman-2.jpg" alt="" width="570" height="428" \/> The newspaper\u2019s original Babcock press that was purchased in the 1900s.[\/caption]\r\n\r\n\u201cA lot of times, when people send in their subscription renewal, I\u2019ll get this really nice note from somebody saying how much the paper means to them and how glad they are that we\u2019re still publishing. I started printing them out and putting them on the wall.\u201d\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s just one of the many rewarding aspects of his job, he added.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere\u2019s notes and cards, and someone even drew this really fancy calligraphy design on a piece of cardstock that says, \u2018We want The Watchman,\u201d and it was very detailed,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cI see that and think, \u2018Wow, we\u2019re important to people,\u2019 and that makes you feel good to still be a part of that.\u201d\r\n\r\nMohler began posting notes and cards from subscribers on the wall near his desk shortly after the coronavirus pandemic struck in spring 2020. Mohler said he \u201cfound it very encouraging to know we were still important to so many readers.\u201d\r\n\r\nAs for the next generation, Mohler said his two children, who are currently in college, both help with billing and filling in administrative duties, and one nephew has also been involved for several years.\r\n\r\nAdjusting to the times\r\n\r\nCertainly much has changed since the newspaper debuted in the late 1800s, including the introduction of the 24-hour news cycle, social media and political pundits. In order to keep Monroe County residents in the loop, the publication has, like many others across the nation, has had to adapt to suit their audience, Mohler said.\r\n\r\n\u201cI look back through our archives in the late 1800s and 1900s, and the paper was full of national news,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cThere were stories about the exploration of the west, Yosemite and Yellowstone. At that time, there was no radio or tv, and the newspaper was the source of local news for people.\u201d\r\n\r\nToday, Mohler said, it\u2019s a little more difficult to compete as a weekly publication when people have instantaneous access to information - and misinformation - at their fingertips.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe sort of shifted our focus to locally-based or state or national stories that are of particular interest to local people, and you don\u2019t always get that in the larger outlets,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cI think it really creates a sense of community, and that\u2019s something we\u2019re losing, I think, in the digital age, too.\u201d\r\n\r\nNational news has an aerial view of what\u2019s going on in rural America, but nothing can replace local publications, Mohler said.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s the local perspective, and a lot of times, it\u2019s easier to understand something that\u2019s happening from an inside view rather than an outside view. ... Sometimes, the view from the outside is confusing or misleading and people don\u2019t really understand why things transpire the way they do or happen the way they do,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nMany local news items, he said, are often too niche to be included in larger papers, but smaller papers help preserve the \u201csense of local culture and community\u201d that readers won\u2019t find in national coverage.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe still run birth announcements and pictures of large tomatoes that someone grew in their garden and that stuff, and I think it establishes us as a community,\u201d Mohler said. \u201cPeople do need an outlet for local news.\u201d\r\n\r\nEventually, he said he hopes to bring credit card payment capabilities and possibly an e-edition to help the publication reach a wider audience. For now, readers can email Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office at 304-772-3016 to subscribe or renew subscriptions. Payments must be made in the form of cash or a check.