This year the Fort Bend Star turned 40. If the newspaper were human, it would be having a midlife crisis and wanting to go out and buy a red convertible sports car or perhaps a fishing boat. It might even be eying that cute little fashion magazine a couple spots down the news rack.
As newspapers go, the Star is actually pretty young. Most of the newspapers I’ve worked for prior to the Star are in their 100s. Some of the oldest ones in this country have crossed the bicentennial mark. The oldest papers in the world started publishing in the late 1600s.
Yet at 40 years, the Star is the oldest weekly newspaper in Fort Bend County. I might be a little biased, but I think it’s the best.
When I think back to 1978 when Bev Carter started the Star, I was 13 years old, living in Colorado, active in Boy Scouts, obsessed with this new movie called “Star Wars,” and living on a hobby farm with a couple cows, some sheep, pigs, ducks, chickens, two beehives, and a couple hundred rabbits. I could find Texas on a map, but I couldn’t locate a single city from memory. In fact, I was pushing 40 before I had ever heard of a place called Sugar Land. (Hey, don’t judge me, I bet you can’t find Niwot on a map without using Google!)
So, what else was going on the year the Star was born? Let’s take a look:
• Space Invaders started the computer video game craze;
• The first test tube baby was born;
• Cult leader Jim Jones convinced 900 of his followers to commit suicide;
• The Susan B. Anthony dollar was minted;
• Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz was sentenced to life in prison; and
• Swedish scientists discovered the affect aerosol sprays were having on the ozone layer.
• Top movies included “Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Superman,” and “Halloween.”
• Top songs included “Shadow Dancing,” Night Fever,” Stayin’ Alive,” “Kiss You All Over,” “Y.M.C.A.,” and half the songs from the “Grease” soundtrack.
While 40 may be young for a newspaper, it really isn’t for a mom-and-pop business, which this is. Most family businesses run their course after 40 or so years. Once the founders move into retirement mode, the business is either passed to the next generation, sold, or simply closed.
Although Carter passed away in 2013, the Star has remained a family-owned paper with partners Jonathan McElvy and Frank Vasquez taking over management in 2014 and then buying it outright last year. They took ownership with the intent to see the Star shine for another 40 years and beyond. Despite the hard times that the newspaper industry has fallen on, the future looks bright for community papers. In a world discombobulated in a digital blitz of real and fake news, readers can continue to count on the Star and other community newspapers to be reliable sources of local news and information that impact their lives.
At this juncture of my career and the Star’s growth, I find it refreshing to be in such a wonderful place. I’ve spent many years working for daily newspapers and just getting burned out on the daily grind.
Here I get to take the time to really dig into a good story and to meet some truly fascinating people. Fort Bend County, and Sugar Land in particular, is one of the nation’s fastest growing and most diverse communities.
This area is rich in history and has a thriving economy, which continues to drive the community forward. Sitting on the edge of Houston affords many great opportunities and the advantages found in a metropolitan area, but also the slower, city and country lifestyle that many of us enjoy. Our schools, despite their problems, are still among the best in the state and some of the finest I’ve been associated with. In the short time I’ve been here, Houston Community College, the University of Houston, Texas State Technical College, and Wharton County Junior College have all expanded their facilities and services in Fort Bend County.
These are all signs of a robust economy and a great future for newspapers and most any other industry here. I’d say the Fort Bend Star doesn’t have to worry about a mid-life crisis. I’d dare say in terms of longevity, it’s just reaching puberty.
Thank you to all the Star’s readers and advertisers for 40 great years. We are certainly looking forward to the next 40 with great optimism.