Note from the editor: Glen Brand, the Olympics, and the Monitor's Past and Future

Olympic champion wrestler Glen Brand observes his own likeness at Glen Brand Day, with surrounding headlines on the Monitor's front page: Sept 2, 1948

                As I assume the editorship of my hometown newspaper, the Sochi Olympics are taking place some 6,000 miles away. America is winning medals, as usual. Wright County doesn’t have any athletes at the Olympics. That’s also not unusual – though we congratulate our high school wrestlers on making the 1A state tournament. In 2016, who knows if we’ll see them in Rio!

                The one time (as yet) a local athlete made it global was 1948. On Aug. 5 of that year, in the upper left corner of the front page, the Wright County Monitor ran a photo of Glen Brand, the Clarion-raised Olympic champion wrestler. It was partially captioned:

                “It is believed he participated in four matches, obtaining three falls and a decision against opponents from India, Turkey, Australia, and Sweden. First news of his victory was heard over the radio here Monday afternoon.”

                This was the first of several notices detailing his return to America and a radio broadcast (Aug. 19) and the Aug. 30 local celebration held in his honor. I don’t mean to call attention to 1948 as being anything other than a blip in linear history – the Monitor began in 1869 and had been running almost a full century at that point – though from these short words, we can link one past era of local news to our own in several significant ways.

                The first is that the caption demonstrates how print has existed alongside other mediums. The 1948 London Games were the first to be broadcast on television. The Monitor reported Brand’s victory as being “heard over the radio.”

                In today’s age of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones, Mid-America Publishing is committed to keeping its papers in physical print. That doesn’t mean that we ignore other sources of information. We exist alongside them, as we have mediums dating back to the telegraph and ever-popular “word of mouth.”  It is part of my job as editor to better explore what it means to be a print news source in today’s “information age.” I hope to expand the paper’s use of digital tools to broaden the conversation, keeping the paper at the center as Wright County’s news nexus, where we aggregate the concerns affecting our community.

                A second thing that old photo caption does is situate Clarion globally. Clarion produced a man who challenged the best wrestlers from all over the world. One can imagine that each of those men “from India, Turkey, Australia, and Sweden” had a community of hometown supporters eagerly awaiting word of how he fared.

                On my travels abroad, I have met many people from many places, and a surprising number of people with Clarion ties, just as I met foreign exchange students and expatriates alongside other born-and-raised Iowans growing up here. As editor, I hope to better explore how we can reach out to our far-flung Wright County diaspora to bring its news back home, better understand our position in the world, and share what happens here with the world.

                A third notable thing about the caption – and the Monitor’s 1948 Glen Brand coverage in general – is how little space it takes up.  The Monitor ran no profile of its world champion in those weeks, and its coverage of “Glen Brand Day” focuses on the celebration more than the man himself. I know nothing of what he was like as a person except that he was celebrated for his athletic prowess in London and Clarion – both places I know closely and quite like. Clarionites of the day likely had their own feelings toward Brand, though history does not record them.

                Instead, Brand’s Olympic victory sits comfortably as one news item of myriad headlines that wouldn’t seem out of place today: “New Ordinance Bans Parking on East Central” ; “Hanson Receives Instruction for New Soil Position”; “Rowan, Woolstock Students on Roll”. The Aug. 19 stories about his return to the US play second-fiddle to a posed photo of local seventh grader David Mechem, mourning the end of summer (“no more pony rides, no more hikes,  no more trips to the swimming pool on hot afternoons”) to the gloating of an anthropomorphized Dalmatian (“Haw-haw-haw,” says Duke. “No school for me”).

                Rather than see what the Monitor wrote (and didn’t write about) back in 1948 as an under-utilization of a spectacular event, I see this combination of the global, celebrated, local, and everyday as a powerful demonstration of how all these things together make up our lives.  A local paper is a place to collect these wonderful and routine goings-on, discuss them, and make them as tangible as the mass-mediated goings-on of Des Moines, London, Sochi, and every other village. I’m honored to be a part of it as editor.