The Coastland Times Sells – What’s next for the Dare County paper?
The Future of the Coastland Times Newspaper
It seems as though we’re confronting a number of “end of an era” events on the Outer Banks.
Mike Kelly sold his iconic Nags Head Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern last year, and soon after word of that came out, the notice that the Meekins family had sold the Coastland Times to Outer Banks Newsmedia.
The majority owner of OBN is Steve Stewart, who is also the vice-president of Boone Newspapers with headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Other investor in the OBN group include a number of regional publishers of newspapers.
The Meekins family owned the paper until the day it was sold. It was published under two different names over its history, first appearing in 1935 as Dare County Times.
“COUNTY’S FIRST AND ONLY NEWSPAPER IS BORN TODAY” the first edition published on July 5 declared. “The Dare County Times will work for the Upbuilding and Betterment of a New Dare County,” read the subhead.
It was, for a number of years, the only chronicle of daily life on the Outer Banks. During WWII, it was the Dare County Times that told of blackout drills, air raid drills, and what residents had to do to be safe.
There are headlines that would shock or dismay in the 21st century.
January 5, 1951
BOARD OF EDUCATION DIRECTS ARCHITECT TO PROCEED WITH DARE SCHOOL BUILDING PLANS. And the subhead reads: “A New Building for Roanoke Colored School Proposed.”
When the Park Service began acquiring land for Cape Hatteras National Seashore in 1952, the Coastland Times reported on it.
When the Bonner Bridge opened in 1963 “Far-Famed Hatteras Now Easily Accessible to All Who Visit Dare” the headline proclaimed.
Over time, the Coastland Times coverage became regional, reporting on happenings in Dare County, the Currituck Banks, Tyrell and Hyde Counties.
The reporting focused on what was happening weekly until 1973, then more frequently when the paper began publishing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
As publishers, the Meekins family felt their job was to tell the stories that were occurring in everyday life in the corners of the Outer Banks and neighboring counties
They did take stands in the editorial positions.
They were consistent and fierce critics of the manner in which the state administers and enforces commercial fishing regulations. Editorial written 30 or 40 years ago could have been writing now with no meaning lost.
In 1973, author and developer David Stick spoke to the Dare County Board of Realtors. His speech was an impassioned and eloquent plea to understand the implications of overdevelopment on the Outer Banks. It was a controversial position, putting him at odds with many of the people in the room.
The Coastland Times printed the entire speech. Twelve years later, excerpts from the speech were reprinted in an editorial.
It is, or was, a quaint and very traditional way of newspaper publishing. But it has also for years been the one paper that covers the minutia of life on the Outer Banks; the chronicle of bridge clubs, garden socials and town meetings. The new owners, with backgrounds in community newspapers, will certainly update the look and the feel of the paper, but what the rest of the coverage will be remains to be seen.