In 1854, St. Mary's Church in Virginia, US, was the scene of a bloody cavalry battle fought between Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant's Union forces and Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, which resulted in 600 casualties.
Today, in St. Mary's, in neighbouring Maryland, 50 miles from Washington DC, an old-time newspaper war has broken out. Three newspapers are engaged in what may be a fight to the death of one or even two of them.
On one side is a blood-and-guts crusading tabloid called St. Mary's Today, edited by Kenneth C. Rossignol, who is also its publisher and secondary reporter. He lays out the pages, and in his spare time sells advertising space.
On the other end of the spectrum is The Enterprise, a conservative bi-weekly community newspaper run by a local chain owned by The Washington Post Co.
And now, James Manning McKay, aged 87, wealthy founder of the McKay’s grocery store chain, tired of being lampooned by the tabloid, has fearlessly launched a feelgood weekly, The County Times printing 10,000 copies "available free on local newsstands and in paper boxes throughout St. Mary's County every Thursday morning." He hopes that within two years he will find 12,000 subscribers prepared to pay for a twice-weekly edition.
"I’ve wanted to start a newspaper from as far back as the 60’s,” said McKay. “But I had a big family to feed and educate and the store to run. Now I find myself in the position where I have the time to do it.”
In the nation's capital, The Washington Post (which indirectly owns The Enterprise) published an article by staff reporter Megan Greenwell, which began:
Seven years ago, another American small town, Sidney, Nebraska was the scene of a newspaper war between the Telegraph and the Sun which ended with a merger.
In a strange coincidence, Sydney, Australia, my home city, supported daily newspapers with those very same names 50 years ago. The Telegraph, for which I was once a staff reporter, has survived, but the Sun has set forever.
Writing before the US merger, Tricia Eller described the battle in an amusing article in the American Journalism Review:
Shortly before the inevitable merger, the Sidney Telegraph published this report of the town's weekend activities: "The Oktoberfest had ordered 500 commemorative mugs for the 25th event and Mug No. 1 was awarded the winner of a raffle and went to Roger Holsinger. There are still some commemorative mugs left and collectors may purchase them at the offices of the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce. The regular mugs sold out, say Oktoberfest officials, and beer consumption was within two kegs of the 1998 Oktoberfest."
Our Australian Sydney also held an Oktoberfest that weekend, after which the Sydney Morning Herald carried a front-page story headlined "Nein to stein blows some of the froth from Oktoberfest," beginning: "Sydney's largest Oktoberfest is at risk of losing the oomp from its oomp-pa-pa next year after authorities banned the use of traditional glass steins."