San Bernardino Sun donates archives to county

Pam Langford, left, and Kathryn Ervin, right, view a bound copy of a 1939 edition of The San Bernardino Daily Sun at California State University San Bernardino April 8, 2013. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/San Bernardino Sun)
Pam Langford, left, and Kathryn Ervin, right, view a bound copy of a 1939 edition of The San Bernardino Daily Sun at California State University San Bernardino April 8, 2013. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/San Bernardino Sun)

Whether it’s community newsrooms or community engagement, Digital First Media newspapers have long made it a priority to deepen bonds with the communities they serve. The San Bernardino County Sun, for example, which has been continually serving its residents for 119 years, recently donated the entirety of its archive to the San Bernardino County Historical Archives and Cal State San Bernardino’s John M. Pfau Library.

As LANG Vice President and Executive Editor Michael Anasatasi puts it, the history and heritage of papers like the San Bernardino Sun are tantamount to the history and heritage of the communities they serve. The daily newspaper has undergone several names changes since its first edition, from the Daily Sun to the Sun Telegram and finally, to the San Bernardino County Sun.

“This puts 120 years of San Bernardino county history into the hands of its citizens,” Anastasi said. “There’s no better living source of history than what we see in a newspaper. Not only do you see the newspaper articles of the day, but you see the editorials and the advertisements. It’s a window into our community’s past.”

The gift has made it possible to shift archival preservation duties from The Sun to organizations with the expertise and resources needed to protect delicate newspaper archives. Placing the volumes in the care of professional archivists also improves access for historians seeking to write about San Bernardino or greater Los Angeles.

The San Bernardino County Historical Archives have also agreed to digitize all editions of the newspaper from 1894 to 1999, providing access on the newspaper’s website after the digitization has been completed.

The transfer was made official at a Memorandum of Understanding signing event at the Pfau Library April 8, 2013. We’ve included text of Anastasi’s speech below – the original was placed in the archives, alongside the newspapers.

Text of LANG Vice President and Executive Editor Michael Anasatasi’s Speech at Memorandum of Understanding Event

Good evening,

Alas, San Bernardino! Whyfore art thou bankrupt?

Thank god for The Sun, which also rises, and which has for nearly 120 years ensured the people of the largest county in the lower 48 have been, as our forefathers demanded upon our founding, a well­informed citizenry.

Today, we commemorate that long­running and illustrious chronicle of this great county’s storied past, as we donate The Sun’s archive to the county and Cal State San Bernardino.

I am here to talk about the past, but I also want to talk about the future, your future, and the future of the Sun. Thank you for inviting me here today and providing me with the honor of speaking.

I have been associated with many wonderful newsrooms over my 28 years in the profession, with staffs that have won many journalism awards. I won’t bore you with the details, as I surely have my wife, a librarian who finally took notice when I told her I was speaking to a group that included a number of accomplished librarians.

Among librarians and journalists, there are no two groups of professionals who cherish the First Amendment more. That is why today is so important. I know these archives will be in safe hands for decades to come.

At The Sun, we’re very proud of our history and heritage, which really is your history and heritage, and we count ourselves fortunate to have been the chroniclers of it since we published our first issue, those many years ago, on Sept. 1, 1894.

Our lead story that day, incidentally, was headlined “BUSINESS REVIVING,” which would be a welcome headline in tomorrow’s edition, no?

Of course, there was another story at the top of the same page in about the same type size, that said, “WINE MEN DISAGREE,” apparently about a flap between some local vintners.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

By the time that first edition of the Sun was published, the post­-Civil War economic boom that hit Southern California was already beginning to wane. Of the more than 30 recognized towns that sprang up seemingly overnight in the county, fewer than half survived, including Ontario, Redlands, Rialto, Colton, Chino, Barstow and Needles. Hard times are nothing new to those who have lived here, and neither is rebuilding.

The family of my own ancestor, Francisco Lugo, recognized as one of the founders of the city of Los Angeles, was instrumental in the establishment, development and growth of Redlands, a legacy of which I remain proud.

After the Spanish­-American war, the San Bernardino Valley saw a rebirth with the blooming of citrus fruit, a thriving dairy industry and famous health resorts for the wealthy.

Oranges grown in the county became an annual Christmas staple in the stockings of children throughout America. They tasted them, and they dreamed of a California city named San Bernardino. Later, many of them moved here.

By the 1920s, the Sun was the county’s largest locally-­owned employer. The newspaper had established itself as an advocate of reform. As one historian later wrote, “Open gambling was driven out under indictment of the editor’s pen.” I hope that editor is able to rest at ease despite gambling’s very organized and state­-sanctioned return. … Anyone have numbers in the Powerball?

That mission of reform, of listening to those we serve, of advocacy for the voiceless, remains one of the most important things we do. Just last month, the Sun opened a news lounge with the express intent of reconnecting, in a highly personal way, with our readers. We welcome you to visit, we welcome you to participate in the regular community events we will be holding there. We are nothing without you, and we know that.

The Sun moved downtown in 1949 and, except for a few adventurous years in the suburbs where we relocated next to perhaps the only Lowe’s in America that has ever shuttered its doors, it’s where we’ve always been. Downtown is where we reside today. We’ve come home.

During the 1950s, the Sun had opened bureaus in Ontario, Fontana, Redlands, Loma Linda, Yucaipa, Twentynine Palms, Victorville, Barstow, Ridgecrest, Needles and Bloomington. The paper was so successful it was bought by the Times­-Mirror Corporation, then Gannett, then, in 1999, MediaNews Group, which today is operated by Digital First Media.

Ah, yes, Digital First.

Nearly everything about our profession has changed as we are living through a transformative era in communications. Not since the advent of the printing press have we’ve seen such changes in how technology is impacting our lives, and the dissemination of information, as we are now. In business terms, it’s called a “disruption.”

The fact is, every day more and more people are consuming their news through digital means. In fact, more people read the Sun today, combining the traditional print form and the various digital tools through which it’s delivered, than ever have before. Yet the business of digital is very different, and as society evolves, we find ourselves challenged to sustain our news organization. The days of ubiquitous bureaus are gone.

But what has not changed is our commitment to this city, to this county, to this community. Every day we come to work determined to report the news as we always have, to invent and innovate, to put forth our product in the way each individual consumer prefers, to ensure that, as was called for that first day, the citizenry remains well­informed.

We are grateful to you for sticking with us during this journey.

Earlier I spoke of wine, and there is wine here tonight. Please join me in raising a glass to the long history of The Sun and this delightful partnership between your favorite local newspaper, county government and our local center for higher learning.

Thank you.

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