By TAYLOR HARTZ
For 40-years, The Observer has provided its readers with news of local sports, politics, education, and day-to-day life in the town of Southington.
While other news sources have come and gone, The Observer has survived for four decades as a valued source of information and an important part of the community.
Begun as a family-run weekly shopper by Anthony Urillo in 1963, and expanded into a community newspaper in 1975, the paper has served as a publication focused on all things Southington.
“There’s no other place for anyone to read about Southington,” said John Goralski, editor of The Southington Observer. “Since we only focus on one community, we do it in a way no one else can.”
Read by 15,000 Southington residents each week, The Observer has long served as a resource that “is positive and lets the community be invested in their local government,” said editor and publisher William J. Pape II of Maitland Publishing, who purchased The Step Saver and The Observer in July of 2000.
Over the past 15-years, Pape has helped The Observer expande its presence in Southington and surrounding towns, adding weekly editions in Plainville and Bristol.
Pape said that Maitland Publishing, a subsidiary of The Republican American in Waterbury, chose to merge The Step Saver and The Observer to fill a void of community news in areas that were previously under-served.
The paper expanded to neighboring towns, adding the Bristol Observer in 2004 and the Plainville Observer in 2010.
“We felt that there was a real need for community journalism in those areas,” said Pape.
The three editions now reach 45,000 readers each week who take an interest in learning about their community.
Urillo, the paper’s first publisher, worked tirelessly to ensure accurate, unbiased reporting of events in the Southington community – a goal that has been carried into its new ownership.
“Community journalism is about the community,” said Pape. “It’s important for people to care about and be invested in their communities. It’s important for the health of the family and the success of their neighbors.”
Just as Urillo encouraged his readers and staff to be involved and invested in their hometown, Pape recognizes the importance of local stories.
Goralski, a longtime Southington resident, thinks the community focus helps to keep readers informed and maintain the paper’s service as a resource to residents.
“We understand the issues because we are kind of a part of them,” he said. “We know the people. We know the community.”
While Pape recognizes the general trend in the media industry of prioritizing national and international news, he still shares the vision of community values that Urillo had in 1975. He said that he plans for The Observer to continue reporting on what matters to the residents of the Southington, Bristol, and Plainville communities.
“We’re still in there, covering what moves the community forward and informing the residents about what’s important, so they can decide what’s best,” said Pape.