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Malta newspaper presses on

 


Malta newspaper presses forward

John Kelleher

Veteran Phillips County News reporter John Degel is accustomed to being awakened in the middle of the night to cover a fire, but the phone call he received at 3:45 a.m. Thursday will always stick in his mind.

Curtis Starr, the owner of the weekly newspaper, called Degel, his top reporter, to tell him to get downtown as soon as possible.

The newspaper's building in Malta's central business district was on fire.

Starr couldn't get photos — his camera equipment was inside the burning building.

When Degel got downtown, the newspaper building where he had worked for the past decade had smoke billowing out of every window. Flames began to shoot out.

Degel gave his keys to the firefighters so they could get inside the building. Then he started taking pictures, so the event could be reported in next week's edition.

Firefighters from Malta, Chinook, Harlem, Fort Belknap and Glasgow were on hand to help put out the blaze, which had been discovered by city employee Tim Hasler, who was making trash pickups.

Just after Degel arrived, the front part of the building caved in.

Degel saw a decade of memories go up in smoke as the building became engulfed in flames.

Bound copies of the newspaper dating back to the late 19th century went up in flames. Three small printing presses were destroyed. All the awards he had won from the Montana Newspaper Association in the last 10 years were gone.

Four other businesses were also damaged.

The nearby Great Northern Hotel was evacuated because it was feared the flames would spread.

Despite the problems, the News put out its weekly edition on Thursday.

Page negatives had already been prepared and removed from the building, and Starr took them to Glasgow Courier, where the paper is regularly printed.

By Thursday afternoon, the paper was on sale.

Mail subscribers will not get their paper this week, he said. The mail labels were destroyed in the fire.

However, arrangements have been made with stores so that people with News subscriptions can pick up their paper for free at any location where it is sold.

While the crowds gathering in downtown were downcast at seeing the 85-year-old landmark fall to the ground, there were light moments, Degel said.

The second floor had once housed apartments, he said. But the apartments were closed off, and the windows were boarded up. Degel had done paintings on the window boards, a feature that had become popular with passer-by.

One of the paintings was of two lifelike people facing toward the street.

In the midst of the fire, someone on the street yelled, "aren't you going to save those people?"

The newspaper's future is not in doubt, he said. It will continue to publish, he said.

It looks like the Starrs will publish out of the basement in their home for the time being, he said. Eventually they will rebuild, perhaps on the same location, he said.

It is amazing how the Malta community has rallied around the Starrs, he said.

"The Starrs are very community-minded," he said. "Organizations come in all the time looking for contributions, and no one ever had been turned down.

"A lot of memories are gone, a lot of records, a lot of equipment," he lamented. "But everybody is alive. And we a have future to look forward to."

Veteran Phillips County News reporter John Degel is accustomed to being awakened in the middle of the night to cover a fire, but the phone call he received at 3:45 a.m. Thursday will always stick in his mind.

Curtis Starr, the owner of the weekly newspaper, called Degel, his top reporter, to tell him to get downtown as soon as possible.

The newspaper's building in Malta's central business district was on fire.

Starr couldn't get photos — his camera equipment was inside the burning building.

When Degel got downtown, the newspaper building where he had worked for the past decade had smoke billowing out of every window. Flames began to shoot out.

Degel gave his keys to the firefighters so they could get inside the building. Then he started taking pictures, so the event could be reported in next week's edition.

Firefighters from Malta, Chinook, Harlem, Fort Belknap and Glasgow were on hand to help put out the blaze, which had been discovered by city employee Tim Hasler, who was making trash pickups.

Just after Degel arrived, the front part of the building caved in.

Degel saw a decade of memories go up in smoke as the building became engulfed in flames.

Bound copies of the newspaper dating back to the late 19th century went up in flames. Three small printing presses were destroyed. All the awards he had won from the Montana Newspaper Association in the last 10 years were gone.

Four other businesses were also damaged.

The nearby Great Northern Hotel was evacuated because it was feared the flames would spread.

Despite the problems, the News put out its weekly edition on Thursday.

Page negatives had already been prepared and removed from the building, and Starr took them to Glasgow Courier, where the paper is regularly printed.

By Thursday afternoon, the paper was on sale.

Mail subscribers will not get their paper this week, he said. The mail labels were destroyed in the fire.

However, arrangements have been made with stores so that people with News subscriptions can pick up their paper for free at any location where it is sold.

While the crowds gathering in downtown were downcast at seeing the 85-year-old landmark fall to the ground, there were light moments, Degel said.

The second floor had once housed apartments, he said. But the apartments were closed off, and the windows were boarded up. Degel had done paintings on the window boards, a feature that had become popular with passer-by.

One of the paintings was of two lifelike people facing toward the street.

In the midst of the fire, someone on the street yelled, "aren't you going to save those people?"

The newspaper's future is not in doubt, he said. It will continue to publish, he said.

It looks like the Starrs will publish out of the basement in their home for the time being, he said. Eventually they will rebuild, perhaps on the same location, he said.

It is amazing how the Malta community has rallied around the Starrs, he said.

"The Starrs are very community-minded," he said. "Organizations come in all the time looking for contributions, and no one ever had been turned down.

"A lot of memories are gone, a lot of records, a lot of equipment," he lamented. "But everybody is alive. And we a have future to look forward to."

 

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