Twelve years after the Civil War, a Union Army veteran named James Hayden established a newspaper for Garrett County, and called it The Republican in honor of Abraham Lincoln. One hundred and forty years later, the Lincoln kind of Republican is long gone, and those who live in the Western Maryland county where Hayden’s newspaper is still published each Thursday voted overwhelmingly to make Donald J. Trump the commander in chief.
Donald W. Sincell, the longtime editor of The Republican, who opposed Trump’s election in November, is still shocked by Trump’s 4-1 margin in Garrett County. The Republican, published in Oakland, does not have a history of directly endorsing political candidates. But it was clear from editorials in 2016 that Sincell did not think a Trump presidency would be good for the country. The Republican refrained from endorsing Hillary Clinton, but in words and in cartoons, it railed against Trump.
If you were not a regular reader of The Republican, and just picked up a copy while vacationing at Deep Creek Lake, you might have found that remarkable, even courageous.
“I get criticism all the time because I tend to take a more liberal stance on a lot of issues,” says Sincell. “People will write or they’ll call and say, ‘You need to change the name of that paper to The Democrat.’ And my response has always been that I didn’t name the paper, first of all. And, second of all, as the editor, as an individual human being, I consider things for their fairness, for their logic, for what seems right, and I don’t care if it comes from a Republican or a Democrat.”
When I contacted Sincell to talk about life in Garrett in the time of Trump, I did not expect him to report the following news: The Republican has just been sold to a West Virginia media company, a publisher of rural weeklies. Sincell, 65, retires this Friday after more than 40 years at the editor’s desk, ending a long run for one of Maryland’s last family-owned weeklies.
Don Sincell’s great-grandfather bought The Republican from Hayden in 1890. His grandfather, great-uncle and father ran the paper for many years. Don Sincell became editor in the 1970s. There have only been four editors in the 140-year history of the newspaper.
The decision to sell to NCWV Media was a tough one, Sincell says. But he says the new owner is better positioned to take The Republican across the digital divide.
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