by Mercedes K. Morris
from The Canal Record - December 1988

"For years a fixture at Isthmian breakfast tables, the Star & Herald bridged the wilderness between international events and Everyman. Facing the sea in a Casco Viejo building, the pioneer paper chronicled mankind's giant leaps, captured forever by the people who produced it daily."

In 1849, three enterprising Americans who were stranded in Panama waiting for a steamer to take them to California gold founded the Panama Star. Two years later, a couple of men on the Star staff quit to found their own newspaper, which they called the Panama Herald. In 1854, after three years of fierce competition between the two papers, they merged to become the Star & Herald.

That was the beginning of the Star & Herald Co. which through years of hard work became a communications emporium. For about 140 years, the Star & Herald informed millions of English-speaking people passing through or living on the Isthmus. Its sister publication, La Estrella de Panama, continues the proud tradition in serving Spanish-language readers.

A year before the union of the Star and the Herald, the Star added a page in Spanish called La Estrella de Panama, which intensified competition with the Herald and perhaps precipitated the merger. The Panama Herald wrote (and had published in a New York paper) that it was the "only English language newspaper in Panama," now that the Panama Star had gone bilingual.

The first years of the Star & Herald presented a problem for publishers because information moved at a snail's pace. A case in point was the initiation of work on the Panama Railroad. Although construction began only a few miles from the city, Isthmian residents were informed about it by a Panama Star reproduction of a story in a U.S. Journal which, in turn, was copied from a British paper that got the facts from a warship visiting the area.

Another problem that afflicted publications was their short life span. In the mid-1800's eight different newspapers could be found at the stands at once, all holding their ground for a while. Then they closed out, one by one.

"Political expedience gave them life only to sentence them to an early death when the political moguls no longer needed them," Albert McGeachy, long-time Star & Herald editor wrote. The motto for the Star & Herald "Open to all, controlled by none," set it apart from the others and helped it survive the political tug of wars.

Not only the motto was different. The Star & Herald survived the last half of the 19th century perhaps because it was constantly changing hands. But in 1893, Jose Gabriel Duque bought the paper after problems between the previous owner's heirs brought on a government seizure. Today, La Estrella de Panama is still owned by the Duque family. Many things at the Star & Herald changed over the years, including the motto. It became, "For the cause that lacks assistance, for the future in the distance, for the wrong that needs resistance and the good that I do."

McGeachy once wrote that the Star & Herald and La Estrella de Panama - like the railroad first and the Canal - were the creation of Yankee enterprise. Their longevity, however, was the result of something McGeachy called "sticktoitiveness."

McGeachy started working at the paper in 1915 and stayed for 53 years. Of those, he was the editor for 35. In recognition of his contribution to the development of the Star & Herald, his portrait was hung in the newsroom. McGeachy won the Marion Moors Cabot award from Columbia University for his editorials, and upon his retirement, was appointed Editor Emeritus of the paper.

Lois Carlos Noli, who left an indelible impression on the publication, also becoming the editor. He was an Associated Press correspondent for 32 years, receiving several awards for news-breaking scoops wired to the United States. For example, the assassination of President Remon was known around the world before it was common knowledge in Panama. For most of the Star & Herald staffers, journalism was a way of life, not just a career. Working together 16 hour days, and seven day weeks, some for more than 65 years, bound them together.

Above all individual accomplishments, it was the dedication - of editors, writers, photographers and many others - which kept the Star & Herald going. They took their readers by the hand and led them through history, from the days of the Gold Rush to the day of the Rush Hour.

[Note:  The Star & Herald suspended publication effective October 5, 1987]

Presented by CZBrats
December 19, 1998
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