By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
This month marks thirty years since the first edition of the Moapa Valley Progress was published and distributed throughout the greater Moapa Valley area. The free community newspaper has come out every Wednesday since that first edition. And it continues to inform local residents about happenings in the valley and events that impact them.
The Progress was started in September of 1987 by local resident John Robison. John remained the sole proprieter and editor of the paper for seventeen years. In November of 2004, ownership of the paper was placed a newly formed partnership involving John and his nephew, Vernon Robison. Vernon has run the publication for the last thirteen years.
John said that he started the business to fill a void that was left by the closing of the Moapa Valley Herald and the Lake Mead Monitor.
“In college I studied art and commercial art and had worked with a small newspaper in Las Vegas doing ads and ad layout,” John said.
After college, however, Robison returned to the valley and became a local businessman, running a Sears Catalog store on Overton’s main street for many years.
But eventually, Robison was once again bitten by the newspaper bug. He went to work for about two years at the Valley Herald and the Lake Mead Monitor before moving with his wife to Virginia for a short time. When the couple returned a year later, both newspapers were gone and John decided to start his own paper. He named it The Progress after a similar small-town newspape he had encountered while in Virginia.
The Progress started out with a shoestring budget, John said. Another nephew, Brad Risk, helped with technical layout issues in the startup. Meanwhile Robison said that he covered the writing, photography, art, and ads.
Back then, the newspaper was printed entirely in black and white and in a tabloid news format. The first edition of the paper was only about 8 pages long. It’s total distribution was 3,500 copies.
Through the years there have been many changes to the paper. Shortly after taking control in 2004, Vernon Robison printed the first full color edition. This appeared on the week before Christmas. The paper has been printed in full color ever that time.
Several years ago the paper also switched to a broadsheet style of printing in line with other newpapers in the region. It continues in that format today.
Technological advances have also changed the way the paper is laid out and edited. Advances in print quality over the years have greatly improved the appearance of photographs and ads. And the page count of the paper has expanded. Current circulation has risen to around 5,400 copies every week.
The Progress also launched a website in late 2007. All of the newspaper’s content has been published online since that time, with online archives reaching back to that date.
Despite the changes, the Progress remains a free publication to all Moapa Valley residents. Rather than subscription costs, the newspaper’s operations are funded by local business advertising.
“We can’t overstate the role of the local business sector in the Progress,” said Vernon Robison. “Whatever the role the Progress has played in the community, it’s in large part thanks to our local businesses. After all, the Progress is delivered free to everyone’s mailboxes. That is a significant expense that not many community newspapers do anymore. But that is done because of the support of local businesses that advertise in the newspaper.”
Another thing that has not changed is the local focus of the newspaper. “I was always focused on the community from the very start,” John said.
Furthermore, it was always his goal to promote local businesses, he said.
Today’s Progress focuses on those same things. Promoting local businesses continues to be a priority. The paper frequently runs stories highlighting businesses: new businesses opened, contests or promotions, anniversaries and changes in local business leadership.
Today’s Progress also strives to cover community interest issues and answer community questions. “Any question that someone emails or calls into the paper with, automatically gets a very high priority,” Vernon said. “I figure if one person is wondering about that subejct, enough to ask, there is a high likelihood that there are many others in town wondering the same thing. So we go after it.”
There are residents and businesses that fondly recall the first edition of the Progress coming out. Town and Country Auto in Overton, and Whitney Water Systems in Logandale are both locally-owned businesses that advertised in the very first edition of the Progress. Both continue to advertise faithfully in the paper to this day.
“We’ve been in business for about 33 years and are one of the oldest businesses in the valley,” said Teresa Jones of Town and Country Auto. “We’ve advertised with the Progress all along, and have been able to see the changes it has gone through in the last 30 years. The print quality has really improved and it’s great to see our ads in color. We’re grateful to have a local newspaper.”
Whitney’s Water owner Bruce Whitney said, “We’ve always run ads in the newspaper and we’ve had a good response on that from the public. We try really hard to keep our money in the valley and the Progress is part of that. We try to support local businesses and love to have them support us back.”
Logandale resident Larry Moses was vice-principal at Moapa Valley High School when The Progress first began. He remembers giving John technical advice when the paper started. Moses actually writes a column for the newspaper today. “I think that Vernon has really modernized the paper,” he said. “It has seen a lot of changes over the years. Technological advances have changed the look and the way the articles are submitted. But the paper still has a great hometown feeling and it covers issues that impact residents of Moapa Valley.”
John Robison, who retired from the newspaper several years ago and now lives in St. George, Utah, said that he is proud of the way the newspaper has continued. “I think Vernon is doing a great job with the paper,” he said. “It’s a big job and I’m happy he’s stuck with it all these years and the paper is still in print. I hope it is around for thirty more years.”