EDINBURG — Gilbert Tagle, longtime reporter and editor for the Edinburg Daily Review, wrote a story in 2014 commemorating the newspaper’s centennial.
Tagle wrote about the paper’s history and about his history with it. He wrote about its illustrious publisher, Jim Mathis, who covered Kennedy as a White House correspondent and traveled the world as an investigative reporter. According to Tagle, Mathis toured the Rio Grande Valley with LBJ in the aftermath of Hurricane Beulah.
Tagle also wrote about the humble eight-page paper’s reputation for boldness in reporting on corruption and scandals, on bribery schemes and assassination plots and drug trafficking. He recounts being threatened with jail time for not revealing a source, and being threatened in a less legal way by the friends of a drug kingpin he covered.
The Review would run headlines in red, Tagle wrote, to signify a “hot” story.
In many ways, the commemorative article was an ode to an industry and a community that no longer exists, at least in the way they did when Tagle was writing his red headlines.
“It is with great pleasure that I wish The Edinburg Review a ‘Happy Centennial Birthday’ and a hundred more birthdays to follow,” he wrote as his lede for the story.
That wish went unfulfilled. The publication, since rechristened the Edinburg Review, printed its last edition last week and closed its doors for good.
Calls to the paper, a possession of the media giant Gannett Co., went unanswered earlier this week. Gannett also owned the Valley Town Crier and the Valley Bargain Book, which appear to be closed as well.
“Our offices are permanently closed,” a sign taped to the publications’ office reads. “Thanks for your preference and support!”
The news of the publications’ demise was met with sorrow by many of its former staff.
“I really, really had a soft spot for the Review. It was a shock and to be honest it was very hurtful that it would close down this way. I would figure that some folks would be knowledgeable of that history behind it, enough to say, ‘We can’t just shut it down,’” Joey Gomez, a former Review reporter, said. “It was really a paper of record for quite awhile, and it developed a reputation for that really the hard way, just making sure the community was informed as well as possible.”
As someone who grew up with the Review, doing puzzles in the kid’s section as a grade schooler and reading some of those “hot” stories, Gomez jumped at the chance to write for it as a freelancer and later as a staff writer. As the outlet’s only reporter for about four years, he covered school districts, city hall, the county and whatever other stories came his way.
“It’s interesting to see how, when you’re working for a local paper like that, how entwined you become within the community,” he said.
Like many of the Review’s more recent reporters, Gomez was recruited through Greg Selber, a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who got involved with the publication during an effort to reinvent it in the early 2000s.
He says the publication deserved its reputation as an influential political paper.
“From what I understand, when LBJ was a state senator, he wanted to get a copy of that newspaper sent to him as often as possible, just to see what was going on in the Valley, ‘cause he had been in Cotulla,” Selber said.
In its more recent history, the Review backed away from hard news and switched to a community news format, which Selber says contributed to its decline. Switching to a free subscription model and the advent of the internet also hurt the paper economically.
“There’s nothing to be done about it, and that’s the saddest part. If we had made some big mistake, or been corrupt or been dishonest or spent the money, I could understand, but it feels even worse to have done the best you can — to have done your best — and go out on your saddle,” he said.
Despite backing away from the political stories of its heyday, Selber said he expects the loss of the paper to be felt in the community, especially when it comes to sports.
“The Monitor has too many teams (to cover), they can’t be writing about Edinburg all the time. I filled the niche that this town needed, but now where do they go?” he said.
Brad Nibert, who joined the Valley Town Crier as editor in 1999 and stayed with it for the next dozen years, says that publication also filled a community news niche, starting out with gossip columns and eventually turning into a publication that printed community calendars and school lunch menus, film and restaurant reviews from locals — the kind of stuff that makes up the foundation of a community and doesn’t always get picked up by bigger dailies.
“Little items, like, ‘Saw so-and-so looking pretty in a green dress at Jones and Jones.’ That type of stuff,” Nibert, who’s now working as an editor in The Monitor newsroom, said. “That was probably the one thing that was always part of the Town Crier, was the I See You column.”
The Town Crier started in North McAllen in 1964 as a small neighborhood paper, eventually raking in enough classified and grocery store advertising to distribute through much of Hidalgo County. By the early 2000s, the paper was printing over 100,000 free copies a week.
“The classifieds deadline was Wednesday at noon before they printed it Wednesday night. There was a small office area in the front where people could buy their ads and it was not uncommon to see the line out the front door back in the early 2000s of people waiting to place their ads at the last minute,” Nibert said. “They still were, even at the end, delivering a decent number of papers for free all around the Upper Valley.”
Ultimately, Nibert said, he wasn’t shocked to see the Crier close.
“I’ve seen a lot of papers go that way, so it’s not too surprising, but it is sad to see another institution that’s been here a long time and was a big service to the area go, but times change and people now have different ways of getting a lot of that information,” he said
Despite the role they played in the Upper Valley, the Review and the Crier died without much fanfare. They printed their last editions Wednesday, June 3.
A few other local papers reported on their closing, and this story may be the last obituary for the two proud papers that cumulatively served the Valley for over 150 years.
According to Selber, some of the Review’s papers are preserved at UTRGV, but neither of the publications’ older editions appear to be online or particularly readily available. The Review, at the least, has a sort of memorial: the building that previously housed it in downtown Edinburg has been converted into Sidebar, a bar and restaurant which has preserved some of the original printing equipment and many of the building’s original attributes.
Other than that humble memorial, the papers will live on in the memories of the men and women who worked there, until those memories, too, yellow and fade away.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of the name Kennedy.