Lincoln County News shuts with death of publisher - Albuquerque Journal

Lincoln County News shuts with death of publisher

Longtime Lincoln County News publisher Jose Peter Aguilar died Oct. 1, bringing to a closure the weekly newspaper, published continuously since 1905. (Courtesy of the Aguilar family)

The passing of newspaper publisher Jose Peter Aguilar Jr. on Oct. 1 was also the death knell for the weekly Lincoln County News, published continuously since 1905.

Aguilar, a resident of Carrizozo, was known to his friends as Pete or Peter. He was 77 when he died of a stroke, according to family members.

The final edition of the eight-page newspaper, delivered electronically for the last part of its life, was Oct. 7, in which it was formally announced that there would be no further editions.

Writing in that final edition, longtime reporter Doris Cherry said: “Peter Aguilar was the foundation of Lincoln County News. He was stalwart and loyal, witty and very smart, consistent and patient. In his older years he took on learning how to paste up the paper on computer – and suffered through the high cost of printing to provide the readers with the tangible item many of us had grown up with. But high costs and the COVID-19 brought a conclusion to the printed version of the newspaper.”

And with the death of Aguilar, even the digital version, assembled by Aguilar from home and delivered to its several hundred subscribers via email, has now also been brought to a conclusion.

Cherry said the only remaining newspaper in Lincoln County is the Ruidoso News. A spokeswoman at the Ruidoso Chamber of Commerce also said the Ruidoso News was the only other newspaper she knew of in the county.

“The paper was his life, it was his passion,” said his son, John Todd Aguilar. “He had these dreams of grandeur that, you know, the town would boom and the paper would boom with it. But he always had his loyal readers from back in the day. Even the ones who moved away still wanted their weekly newspaper.”

After graduating from high school, Aguilar began working at the Lincoln County News in 1963, first sweeping up around the offices, which were old even at that time. Over the years, the newspaper changed ownership a number of times, but Aguilar, who had become involved in all aspects of writing and producing the newspaper, remained and continued to work there, said his son.

In 1992, Aguilar and longtime reporter Ruth Hammond purchased the paper from former publisher Chuck Rominger. After Hammond left for health reasons, Aguilar ran the paper for more than a decade with a small cadre of stringers and columnists and the occasional assistance of family members.

About three years ago, he sold the building, according to his daughter, D’rese Arteche. He then moved the newspaper’s operations to his home, although the paper at that time was printed by the Roswell Daily Record in Chaves County. When COVID safety restrictions became necessary in 2020, Arteche said, her father decided to do away with the hard copy edition of the paper and publish an online-only version, which subscribers received via email.

Brent Scott, manager of Smokey’s Country Market in Capitan and a regular reader and advertiser in the Lincoln County News, called the closing of the newspaper “a darn shame.”

“I’ve been reading it since I was a kid. I love reading it and so does my wife,” he said. “I was at a friend’s home recently and he kept a copy of the Lincoln County News from 1992 in which his son had been named the Capitan High School homecoming king. The newspaper gave us news about Lincoln County, and we’re going to lose that now. It’s awful for the local area.”

Arteche said a number of people inquired if the family was going to keep the publication going. “It would just be too difficult,” she said. “It was his life. He lived it and he breathed it. There’s no way to do it without him. He was the Lincoln County News.”

In addition to son Jon Todd Aguilar of Chandler, Arizona, and daughter D’rese Arteche of Carrizozo, survivors include Aguilar’s longtime partner Anne Serna of Carrizozo, ex-wife Candie Aguilar of Carrizozo, brother Patrick Aguilar of El Paso, four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

A private family rosary was said for Aguilar on Friday. His cremains will be buried at Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery in Carrizozo.

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