It’s something when your work rises to the level of a bumper sticker. In Rio Arriba County and the Española Valley, the “Shut Your Trapp” decals refer to the family that founded the scrappy Rio Grande SUN in 1956.
Owners and publishers Robert E. and then Robert B. Trapp have not only stressed watchdog journalism, but successfully sued or settled open meetings or records lawsuits against just about every governmental agency in Rio Arriba County, making their SUN one of the most aggressive newspapers in the state. And it’s been needed. The litany of public corruption in the valley is unfortunately a long one; most recently Rio Arriba County’s last two elected sheriffs are locked up for abusing their powers and a recent county commissioner was handed a felony conviction for failing to disclose campaign contributions.
Española-area residents have shown appreciation for the state’s largest paid weekly newspaper, buying up copies at intersections and stores while the ink is still wet. The Trapps employed countless local folks over the years to distribute papers, splitting the 75-cent cost of each with street vendors, some otherwise unemployed or unemployable.
But others in the community are not so appreciative, throwing rocks through the newspaper’s windows for its exposés. Second-generation owner and publisher Robert B. Trapp considers each one a stone of honor.
Last week the SUN announced it had been sold to El Rito Media LLC, whose owners include several prominent Republicans. The new owners have big shoes to fill. Both Robert B. and his father, Robert E. Trapp, who passed away in 2014, are inductees of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame and past winners of Dixon First Amendment Awards, the top honor given by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.
We hope El Rito Media and new publisher Richard L. Connor will keep the flame lit and not “shut their trap.” The valley and New Mexico need the SUN’s voice and the light it brings.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.