by James Rada, Jr
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about the history and evolution of newspapers in Emmitsburg and Thurmont.
Although Thurmont and Emmitsburg have remained distinctive communities, US 15 has connected them closely so that it is not uncommon to travel between the two multiple times in one day. This closeness of the communities has been reflected in the north county’s modern newspapers.
William “Bo” Cadle and his wife, Jean, started the monthly Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch in 1993.
“Volunteers helped us do all sorts of things. An unexpected and greatly appreciated alliance between people in the community (readers and merchants and the worker-bees) over the following months helped the paper to gain firmer footing,” Bo Cadle wrote in a 2002 editorial.
A couple years later, after he started his own paper, Bo encouraged Lori Zentz to get into the newspaper business. Chronicle Press had started The Catoctin Banner in 1994, but by 1995, Art Elder was looking to sell the paper. The Cadles already had the Regional Dispatch running, so they contacted Zentz about taking the Banner over.
Zentz saw a need for local news in Thurmont. WTHU in Thurmont was publishing the Thurmont Times, but this was seen more as a coupon supplement than a newspaper. The Gazette published a Thurmont/Walkersville edition, but it, like the Frederick News Post, focused more on happenings around Frederick. Meanwhile, the Regional Dispatch was primarily focused on Emmitsburg.
“When I took it over, I asked for public input about what they wanted,” Zentz recalls. “I tried to make it a paper they wanted. I focused on the good things.”
The newspaper was eight pages when Zentz took over, and it grew steadily, at one point reaching thirty-two pages. Her goal was to create a paper that was about Thurmont.
“Thurmont was growing and people were moving in who didn’t know what was going on in the town,” Zentz said.
Both the Banner and Dispatch continued operating independently, focusing mainly on their respective areas.
Cadle nicely described a community newspaper when he wrote in 2002, “As far as we know, there were few, if any national conversations, ever held, but the Dispatch chatted on. Writers, of less than national stature, but with their unique voice, kept us informed of what was going on in our churches, clubs, service organizations, and homes across the greater community. Local merchants and groups were willing to bend their bottom-line thinking and underwrote the Dispatch by placing ads or making donations to insure that the Dispatch was able to pay its way. Small-town journalism was taking root, not spectacularly, but the entire community, the Dispatch’s extended family, was contributing and the paper became a household word.”
In 2002, the Cadles decided to pass on the Disptach to Raymond and Jennifer Buchheister. They changed the name to The Emmitsburg Dispatch. The Buchheisters began publishing the newspaper twice a month.
“This was done as part of our continuing effort to reestablish a news publication in Emmitsburg that operated like the first publications the town had, up through The Emmitsburg Chronicle. These publications were usually weekly or daily editions. The MDDC (Maryland-Delaware-D.C.) Press Association guidelines require that a publication be printed twice monthly,” Ray Buchheister said.
In August 2002, The Emmitsburg Dispatch published a large color photo spread about the 20th anniversary of the Emmitsburg Lions Club annual Community Day. It was the first time an Emmitsburg newspaper had printed in color.
Three years later, The Emmitsburg Dispatch created its sister publication, The Thurmont Dispatch. Though the newspapers shared some stories, such as features and education, the news sections of both papers tended to focus on different subjects.
“Not only were we a member of the MDDC Press Association, we also won awards for excellence in writing,” Buchheister said.
Meanwhile, Zentz had shifted the focus of the Banner to include Emmitsburg and Thurmont news in response to the Buchheisters adding The Thurmont Dispatch. Running what was primarily a one-woman operation was wearing on Zentz. “For the last two weeks of every month, my family hardly saw me,” recalls Zentz.
She sold The Catoctin Banner to Deb Spalding in 2006. Spalding said, “I never intentionally entered the newspaper business; I just wanted to keep a good thing going. As a reader, I looked forward to receiving the Banner each month.”
Spalding added additional color and pages to the paper and expanded the focus to truly include the Catoctin region, from mountain news to the west in Sabillasville, Cascade, and Blue Ridge Summit to the east in Rocky Ridge, to the south in Lewistown and north to the Mason Dixon Line.
Both Dispatch newspapers ceased publication in November 2008. The following year, Michael Hillman tried to restart the Emmitsburg Chronicle with Lisa Elder, whose family had owned the Chronicle, but after a couple of issues, Hillman went his own way and renamed the newspaper the Emmitsburg News Journal.
“I don’t think operating a newspaper in our area as a stand-alone business is feasible without sponsorship. The Catoctin Banner’s sponsorship rests upon several advertisers who have committed to our mission and have not wavered since I took over; those advertisers are greatly appreciated,” said Spalding. “Before I had help, I was overwhelmed and actually asked for help or someone to take it over. I was fortunate to have several individuals join the Banner team who have made the newspaper better than it could have ever been without them.”