Hostetter a lifetime pioneer (Editorial)

(Jan. 17, 2017) Newspapers, like farms, have several ways of measuring success.
But whether judged in circulation totals or bushels per acre, it’s the people behind the numbers that tell the real story.
One of our “people,” American Farm Publication’s Publisher, E. Ralph Hostetter, added another chapter of his story, marking his 95th birthday on Jan. 14.
Spending most days in his native Cecil County, Md., living in North East, Hostetter, who’s made three round-the-world trips, visiting 117 countries, including traveling to Antarctica, going through the Northwest Passage and to the North Pole on Russian ice breakers, now travels much less, but still carries a sharp wit and sharper memory of his experience.
Hostetter entered the newspaper business as editor of the Cecil Whig in 1947, a job he turned down initially.
He later bought the paper and went on to form Tri-State Publishing Co., building a chain of 13 newspapers from 1957 to 1975, when it was sold to Whitney Communications Corp. of New York.
The two that remain, The Delmarva Farmer and The New Jersey Farmer, were born and bred to serve farmers, an occupation Hostetter has always held in high regard.
“His genuine appreciation of, and concern for, farmers, their families and their livelihoods, has been, to me, the source of much amazement and admiration,” wrote the late John Fulton Lewis, longtime farm editor and former director of media relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, referring to Hostetter as the “farmer’s publisher.”
“Though he has published many newspapers in his time — dailies, weeklies and bi-weeklies — throughout the East Coast from the northern reaches of New Jersey to southern Virginia, Ralph has always deemed it almost mandatory that farm news and information, plus an appropriately positive editorial policy for a healthy agriculture, be provided as a critical service to and for farmers,” Lewis wrote.
Stories of his own, some quite daunting, naturally have accumulated.
There’s one about his family losing their house to a flood in 1936; one about paying for construction of a bathroom in a guest house of Windsor Castle in England; another about becoming an honorary crew member of the USS Pueblo following the Korean War; and even an attempt to start a joint publication to The Delmarva Farmer in post-Soviet Russia.
“So many times in my life I have faced an impossible situation and suddenly the next thing I do, the tide turns,” Hostetter told an associate years ago, in the midst of trying to purchase the Easton, Md., Star Democrat from the ownership grasp of The (Baltimore) Sun.
Farmers surely can relate. Faced with obstacles, challenges, even impossible situations, their independent nature and determination sees them through time and time again.
And they, like Hostetter, each have a great story to tell.