Provincetown Banner | BEKS Condominium (Unit 2).

I am a newspaperman. A morning newspaperman, it should be added, meaning that my idea of day’s peak is nighttime, when all is feverishly being made ready for the presses to begin thundering in predawn hours. So the sight of fluorescent lights burning brightly in the second-floor newsroom of the Provincetown Banner on Tuesday nights has always gladdened my heart. It’s a world I knew, and still revere. The Banner has been the one and only occupant of Unit 2 since the newspaper’s founding in May 1995 by Alix L. L. Ritchie. It seems appropriate, therefore, to use this article to tell the story of the paper and the people behind it, as well as mention the newspapers that preceded it, were folded into it, and have been started in response to it.

25 Years of the Banner in One Minute

The original Banner

The monthly Provincetown Banner and Cape News was published for the first time in June 1856 by Albion S. Dudley and Rufus Conant Jr. at 108 and 114 Commercial Street (old-style addresses, corresponding to waterside buildings at the Turn, roughly where Coast Guard Station Provincetown is today). “It will aim to be tolerant to all religions and sectarian in none; Impartial, not partizan in politics,” the first editorial declared. “It will endeavor to humbly advocate the great cause of Temperance, at all times, but without bitterness, and in a spirit of love. It will be outspoken and fearless in its advocacy of human liberty, everywhere, and not fail to denounce with proper spirit all oppression and tyranny at home and abroad, without radicalism or puerility. In the pay of no party, and the organ of no politician, it can afford to be honest. And honest it will be. … [W]e shall at all times look well to the local interests of the citizens of Cape Cod, and endeavor to make this paper emphatically, a Cape paper.”

The original nameplate.

The final nameplate.

J. W. Emery soon took over the paper and shortened its name. He adapted the United States flag as the emblem of the Banner — a choice with considerable political resonance on the eve of Civil War. He also chose the newspaper’s motto, “Be just, and fear not,” spoken by Cardinal Wolsey to his protégé, Thomas Cromwell, in Henry VIII. In May 1861, within days of the shelling of Fort Sumter by Southern forces, Emery declared: “Some people are still pretending that Slavery has nothing to do with the present rebellion; while everybody knows that it is Slavery alone that has made all the trouble. And either the Slave power most be crippled, or it will cripple the Government of the United States. The dominion and rule of Slavery must be put down.” The Banner would not survive long enough to celebrate emancipation and abolition. It ceased publication in 1862.

The Provincetown Advocate

Duane A. Steele owned the Advocate nearly a quarter-century, until it was purchased by and subsumed into the Banner. The front page comes from the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, Digital Collections, Mass. Memories Road Show, Identifier UASC-0140-0059-0073-0001.

Franklin B. Goss (1831-1906), owner of the Barnstable Patriot, and George H. Richards, a Boston clothier, bankrolled the Provincetown Advocate and Cape Cod Advertiser, which began publishing 2 February 1869 for distribution in Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet. The editor, until 1877, was Dr. John M. Crocker, a worshipful master at King Hiram’s Lodge and a high priest of the Joseph Warren Royal Arch Chapter, another Masonic organization. Goss’s son, Franklin Percy Goss (1852-1926), succeeded Crocker. He was followed in 1880 by Henry H. Sylvester, a trained reporter. At last, in 1881, a Provincetown native, N. T. Freeman, took the editorship and ownership of the Advocate, after buying out Goss’s stock.

Under Freeman (incidentally, not the Nathan Freeman who founded the Public Library), the Advocate moved in 1886 to Marine Hall, 94 Bradford Street, where its steam-powered Cottrell & Babcock cylinder press was installed. “The Only Local Paper in Town,” was its motto. An annual subscription cost $2; the price of a single copy of the Banner today.

A 42-year period of single ownership began in 1886, when Howard F. Hopkins (1864-1928), formerly of the Patriot, bought the Advocate from Freeman. Hopkins gave the editor’s reins to his brother, James H. Hopkins (1861-1896), but took them himself when James died.

The original nameplate.

From 1928 to 1937, the paper was owned by Guy C. Holliday, for whom it was merely a sideline to a thriving retail business: the Provincetown Advocate Post Card Shop. Both the store and the newspaper occupied the building at 265-267 Commercial Street, now the WayDownTown Restaurant, which has retained the beautiful and elaborate storefront from the Holliday period. The presses, in the back of the building, were run by Gustav Aust (1903-1991), who became managing editor in 1931.

Paul George Lambert (1894-1964), perhaps the most consequential figure in the Advocate’s history, and his wife, Dorothy Covert Lambert 1898-1967), arrived on the scene in May 1937. They purchased all of the newspaper’s assets from Holliday except the presses. Those were bought by Aust, who moved them back to the old Marine Hall, agreeing with the Lamberts that he would continue to print the Advocate. As part of the deal, presumably, he was permitted to call his shop the Advocate Press. The newsroom, such as it might have been, was the Lamberts’ home in the picturesque “Oldest Shop,” 220 Commercial Street — alas, no longer standing.

An engraving, added in the 1870s, showed Town Hall atop High Pole Hill.

Lambert held a degree from the Columbia School of Journalism, and stripes from the Manchester Evening News in Connecticut, The World in New York, and The Bronxville Press, in addition to six years’ experience in advertising and three in public relations. He announced his arrival in the issue of 17 June 1937 with a striking departure from tradition: The front page was given over entirely to news articles and columns, with no display advertising. In time, he would champion the building of a municipal airport, in the place of a grassy landing strip; the cleaning from town beaches of human waste and gurry; and the adaptation of a selectmen-town manager form of government. His newspaper paid close attention to the arts, and to the needs of part-time residents who made up a big part of his readership. His own voice came through in the weekly front-page column, “To Fellows and Friends Afar and Abroad.”

A falling out between the Lamberts and Aust in the early 1950s compelled the couple to find new presses at which to print the paper. They bought the former Ford dealership at 200 Commercial Street, a brick building at the foot of Carver Street that today houses Kiehl’s and Toys of Eros. With financial help from their friends Dudley R. and Elizabeth Wood, they also bought their own Linotype machine and press. Not only did the Lamberts print the Advocate, they became jobbers under the name Provincetown Printery — competing directly against Aust.

Town Hall, which burned down in 1877, was erased from the hilltop.

To show that two could play at that game, Aust became the publisher and managing editor of an alternative weekly newspaper, The New Beacon, which was founded in 1948 by John Robinson Small (1913-2010), and remained in business until about 1969 or 1970. In other words, the newspaper that competed directly with the Advocate was printed at the Advocate Press, making it a perfect Provincetown arrangement. (Two fun facts about the New Beacon: Heaton Vorse was its most prominent contributor and Irma Ruckstuhl was the associate editor.)

At the Advocate, Dorothy Lambert worked as a reporter, copy editor, and proofreader. “Editorial responsibility was her husband’s,” her Advocate obituary said, “although she had more influence on it than she would admit.” And she took over the paper entirely at the end of 1964, after Paul died. She ran the Advocate herself until her death in 1967, when Dudley Wood became publisher.

The 1970s.

Malcolm Hobbs, the editor and publisher of The Cape Codder, led a group of investors who purchased the Advocate in 1969. “He had two reasons for the acquisition,” said E. J. “Terry” Kahn III, who served as an editor of the Advocate. “First, to protect The Cape Codder’s market, which covered Truro and Wellfleet but not Provincetown. He believed that a new Advocate owner would prioritize the two towns for market growth. Second, Hobbs had made a major investment in offset printing, and wanted to leverage the new equipment and press by printing the Advocate in Orleans.” The other investors were Kahn’s father, E. J. “Jack” Kahn Jr. (1916-1994), a longtime and extraordinarily prolific contributor to The New Yorker, and an active cultural and social figure in Truro; David H. Luhmann, an executive of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, who had a house in North Truro; and Robert Clurman, the editor of the News of the Week in Review section of The New York Times.

Luhmann left his job at J.W.T. to edit the Advocate. He was succeeded by Dan Hurley of The Cape Codder, who would become the paper’s first openly gay editor. James K. Glassman, who succeeded Hurley in 1971 and spent a year at the Advocate, went on to be editor of Washingtonian magazine, publisher of The New Republic, and president of The Atlantic Monthly. Terry Kahn succeeded Glassman in 1972.

Reporters, editors, and contributors during this period included John Bell, Grace Deschamps, Marilyn Donahue, Hamilton “Tony” Kahn, Tom Kane (whose “My Pamet” columns were collected and published in a book of that name), Richard LeBlond, Howard Mitcham, Howie Schneider, John Short, and Heaton Vorse. Marcie Celiz was a production manager. Jim Gilbert and Greg Katz were later arrivals on the reporting staff.

The final nameplate, under the Steele family.

From 1974 to 1976, the paper was owned by Dan and Janet Boynton, former proprietors of the well-regarded Audio Lab chain of stereo component stores based in Cambridge. Neither had any newspaper experience. Printing, subscription maintenance, and accounting were all handled by The Cape Codder. At some point in the mid-70s, the Advocate shrank in size to a tabloid, from its original broadsheet dimensions. The Boyntons moved the newspaper headquarters in 1975 from 200 Commercial to 100 Bradford Street, the former New England Telephone company switching center.

Duane A. Steele, a veteran of The Springfield Union and of The Providence Journal and its sibling Evening Bulletin, and his wife, Elizabeth H. “Betty” Steele, bought the Advocate from the Boyntons in 1976. Amazingly, Steele was the first editor and publisher of Portuguese descent in the newspaper’s long history. He attended Provincetown High School, served in the Navy, and came close to getting a bachelor’s degree at UMass Amherst. (When the Steeles later divorced, Duane became the sole owner.) He inaugurated the Wellfleet edition in 1978. In 1993, one year before the paper’s 125th anniversary, the Steeles’ son, Peter A. Steele, became the editor of The Advocate, and their daughter, Rose M. Steele, became the general manager. Peter was a 1983 graduate of P.H.S. and an alumnus of Colby College. Rose was a 1982 graduate of P.H.S. and an alumna of Cape Cod Community College and Northeastern University. Duane retained the title of publisher and resumed editing the paper in 1998 after Peter left to establish The Twin City Times in Lewiston-Auburn, Me.

Photo, 2011, by David W. Dunlap.

The Banner

Alix Ritchie grew up in central Illinois and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at New York University. In her early 20s, she was an associate editor of the in-house magazine of the enormous Bell Telephone System. She moved to Provincetown in 1980 and quickly established herself as a presence in local government. She served as chair of the town Planning Board for more than a decade and as Provincetown’s representative to the Cape Cod Commission and the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Council in the early 1990s. A successful investor, she became a benefactor of numerous local organizations, including the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, the Provincetown Theater, and the Fine Arts Work Center.

Ritchie incorporated The Provincetown Banner Inc. in April 1995 as its president and one of four directors, together with her partner, the painter Martha “Marty” Davis; Suzanne Gillis, the founding publisher of the Banner; and Bette Adams. The corporate headquarters was here, in the BEKS Condominium.

Originally, the newspaper occupied both Unit 2 and Unit 3 of the BEKS Condominium. Unit 2 contained the main entrance, reception area, and business manager’s office, on the first floor; the newsroom, on the second floor; and past copies and general storage in the basement. Unit 3 was joined internally to Unit 2 by doorways at the base and top of their abutting staircases. The advertising department was on the ground floor and the art department was on the second floor, with storage in the basement.

Luckily for posterity, almost the entire staff posed for a group portrait, just outside Unit 2 at 167 Commercial. In the back, from the left, were Pat Medina, circulation manager; Sue Harrison, copy editor; Joe Burns, arts and entertainment editor; George Dunlap, senior account executive; Rosette Royale, reporter, then writing as Timothy Burton; Patrice Brosnahan Fryklund, account executive; Margaret Michniewicz, office manager and publishing assistant; Vincent Guadazno, photographer. In the front were Barbara Mullaney, production assistant; Jan Doerler, art director and production manager; Suzanne Gillis, publisher; Hamilton “Tony” Kahn, editor; Mary Ann Powers, account executive; and Mike Andolina.

The Provincetown Banner made its debut on 25 May 1995, at 36 pages, in two colors. (What’s black and blue and read all over?) It cost 50 cents. The nameplate, in a typeface that looks like a member of the broad Garamond family, was designed by Jan Doerler. “AIDS Marchers Seek Strength in Numbers” was the lead story, by Rosette Royale (then writing under the name Timothy XX Burton), with a photo by Vincent Guadazno of a vigil on Commercial Street. “Flickering flames were often extinguished by evening winds, but the memories of people having died from AIDS remained alive,” Burton wrote, in the first lines of the Banner‘s first big story. The off-lead, by George Liles, concerned Barry Clifford’s plans for the salvage from the 18th-century galley Whydah, which had transported passengers, cargo, and enslaved people before wrecking off Cape Cod, under pirates’ control.

Burning the midnight oil — or at least the 8:31 oil — in 2011. Dunlap.

Asked by John Koch of The Boston Globe why she had started a newspaper in a small town that already had one, Ritchie answered:

“There’s so much going on of import and interest that maybe there’s room for more than one paper. It’s an abiding belief in good journalism. I grew up in Illinois writing; I worked for the school paper and college newspaper, went into magazine editing. It may be that the green-eyeshade view of the world gets in your blood, like the circus, and never gets out. … There was a need for coverage that separated news from opinion, and to give people a sense of what’s going on in a positive framework.”¹

In response to Koch’s direct question as to whether she had started the Banner specifically to improve news coverage of Provincetown’s gay community, Ritchie said, “Absolutely not.” But it may not be too much of a caricature to say that Advocate and Banner readers cleft along the lines of the papers’ ownerships: on one hand, multigenerational, Portuguese natives of modest means tied to the town’s fishing industry; and on the other, more affluent washashores, many of them lesbian and gay, whose interest was in the town’s artistic patrimony. The Advocate underscored this point — none too subtly — by declaring itself “Your Hometown Newspaper” in the front-page skyline.

What was evident from Volume 1, Number 1 was that the Banner would devote a good deal of attention to culture and to the environment. Twelve pages — one-third of the entire first issue — were given over to the Arts and Entertainment section, which began with its own full display page inside the paper. (Arts and Entertainment would eventually become a standalone second section.) There was also a dedicated environmental column, the first of which was written by Burton, a former editor of Provincetown Magazine.

Two regular features of the new Banner were spun off into books: Clive Driver’s “Looking Back” column and the “Howie Schneider Unshucked” cartoons on the editorial page.

Hamilton “Tony” Kahn — a son of Jack Kahn and brother of Terry Kahn of the Advocate — was the first editor of the Provincetown Banner. He had been the features editor of The Cape Codder and the Provincetown and Truro correspondent for the Cape Cod Times.

The well-loved cartoonist Howie Schneider (1930-2007) was given his own prominent spot on the editorial page for “Howie Schneider Unshucked.” A book by the same name was published in 2002, with a cover blurb from Norman Mailer: “Howie Schneider’s cartoons are terrific. They hit crude and big, but leave a fine needle so one has the double pleasure of laughing loudly and then being left with a new insight.” A long feature profile called “UpFront” appeared on Page 3, the first of which, by Liles, highlighted Peter Souza, an indefatigable environmental activist and civic gadfly. Howard Irwin wrote the “Gardening” column. Clive Driver (1935-1999), the former director of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, wrote a weekly column on Outer Cape history, “Looking Back,” that yielded a book of the same title, published posthumously in 2004. His first column explored the story of the original Banner.

Several other references were made in the inaugural issue to the 19th-century Banner. In her introductory “Message From the Publisher,” Gillis drew a particularly happy parallel: “Independently owned then. Independently owned now.”

Joan A. Lenane, the general manager and chief operating officer of the Banner, and Sally Rose, its editor for 10 years, at home in 2017. Dunlap.

For a short while, the Banner was composed in cold type and pasted up on layout boards. But it soon moved over to a pagination system in which the newspaper was laid out in its entirety on a computer terminal. The Banner originally used the Quark program, then switched over to InDesign. The actual printing was originally done at The Cape Codder in Orleans. The job was later moved to Marshfield.

1995 to 1999

Sally Rose, who would one day become editor of the Banner, arrived at the newspaper a month after it was launched as a part-time proofreader. A year later, she became a full-time production assistant, along with Kevin “Elwood” Aring. Rose’s partner, Joan A. Lenane, was named the general manager of the newspaper in 1996. (She would go on to become its chief operating officer.) Ritchie replaced Gillis as the publisher in 1996, and John R. Quinn became a staff reporter. The Banner began dipping its toes into the World Wide Web through an unwieldy URL (typical of the time), provincetown.com/village/newsclips/news.html.

The year 1996 was especially eventful, since the Banner was named a Weekly Newspaper of the Year by the New England Press Association (now the New England Newspaper and Press Association), the very first time it was eligible for the distinction. It also cited for general excellence and Ritchie won as a columnist.

Left: George Dunlap, the Banner‘s original senior account executive, in 2019. Dunlap. Right: Rosette Royale, one of first two reporters, in 2019. His Banner byline was Timothy XX Burton. Photo by Kwai Lam.

John Andert, who would later become a production assistant at the Banner, inaugurated the “Washashores” cartoon strip in 1997. It has turned out to be the longest running feature in the paper, still going strong at this writing in 2020. The characters include Moses, whose face is perpetually obscured by an enormous glossy comma of dark hair; Roger, stable and sensible; the sweet and beefy Otis; and the wisecracking Salma, with beehive hairdo, cat-eye sunglasses, and an ever-burning cigarette. The strip has tackled many controversies with a wry, whimsical air. It’s always clear that the Washashores love Provincetown — faults, foibles, and all. Moses’s complaint in the very first strip of 6 March 1997 resonates today: “Provincetown has become a haven for the privileged! Largely gay & lesbian in this case, but privileged nevertheless. Meanwhile, the artists, Bohemians and working people, gay, straight or otherwise, who give P-town its true diversity are being driven out by inflated housing and limited income opportunities.” Yet he stayed.

The first “Washashores” strip, by John Andert, appeared on 6 March 1997.

Perhaps the closest the young newspaper came to not publishing was Tuesday night, 10 February 1998, when the Whaler’s Wharf artisans complex, the abutting Handcrafter store, and most of the Crown & Anchor were consumed in one of the most damaging and spectacular fires of modern Cape Cod history. The fire was detected around 6:30, at exactly the hour that the Banner production staff was readying the week’s issue for publication. Unit 2 suddenly went dark, as the fire department shut off power to the area around Whaler’s Wharf.

Ritchie and Kahn were at a hearing in Town Hall. An emergency evacuation was ordered. Kahn returned to the office while Ritchie — with true journalistic enterprise — tried to get as close to the blaze as she could by going through the lot around the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, entering from the back. That brought her just across the street from the scene of a blaze that other spectators were watching from Dennis, 20 miles away.

The Banner‘s archives — which include those of The Advocate, thanks to Duane A. Steele — are the single most important historical repository in town. Collectively, they tell the story of Provincetown day by day from 1869 to the present. Photos taken in 2018 by David W. Dunlap.

Banner employees noticed that — miraculously — the Sandpiper Beach House, only about 15 feet to the west, was still energized. “Once we realized we were not going to get power back and that it was still on next door, I think then several of us had the idea to ask them to let us run an extension cord (heavy duty of course),” Ritchie told me in 2020. “We were able to power a very minimal amount of equipment to get the pages done.” Elwood, the production assistant, doubled as chief photographer this evening, getting some spectacular pictures of the fire. Guadazno was shooting for the Cape Cod Times, but still managed to process a roll for the Banner in his darkroom at home, where there was power, before hightailing it to Hyannis.

There was no time to redo the inside pages, so coverage of the fire was limited to Page 1 and the back cover, Page 40. There was only one long article, credited to Harrison, Burton, and Kahn. A week later, the Banner ran an eight-page advertising supplement with notices thanking the firefighters from businesses all over town. The newspaper turned the proceeds from those ad sales over to the Provincetown Firemen’s Association.

One of the first — if not the first — issues in full color, in August 1998.

An unusual touch in the Whaler’s Wharf presentation was that the photographs were reproduced in two colors, so that flames were rendered as shades of red, while the surrounding scenes were in black-and-white. (In contrast, the competing Advocate featured four-color photographs of the fire.) But the days of duotone came to an end later in 1998. The Banner began printing in full color, and in two sections.

There was also inaudibly distant thunder in 1998. Liberty Group Publishing was founded in Downers Grove, Ill., by Kenneth Serota, with 160 community newspapers. Also, the Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm, was founded in New York City by Wesley R. Edens, Rob Kauffman, and Randal Nardone. The fates of Liberty and Fortress would eventually be tied to one another, and then to that of the Provincetown Banner.

Anyone trying to follow the Banner on the web could be forgiven their confusion in early years. Its URL changed to provincetown.com/village/banner/banner.html and then to provincetown.com/banner.

As the 1990s came to a close, Laurel Guadazno began writing “History Highlights,” Zel Levin began “Avid Reader,” and “Around the Bend,” a weekly digest, began appearing regularly on Page 2. Reporters, contributors, and stringers included Elsa Allen, Heather Baukney, Mary Ellen Butler, and Mike Iacuessa, Kaimi Rose Lum, a graduate of Williams College with a degree in English language and literature/letters, began working as the Wellfleet stringer. Sue Harrison succeeded Joe Burns in 1999 as the arts editor.

Left: Sue Harrison, at the 2010 rededication of the Pilgrim Monument, played many roles at the Banner, including that of arts editor and web editor. Right: Katy Ward in the newsroom in 2018. After GateHouse laid her off seven months later, Provincetown had no full-time reporter. Both by Dunlap.

2000 to 2008

A 130-year newspaper tradition ended as the new millennium began. Duane Steele sold The Advocate to its young rival and competitor. “My time to go is long overdue,” he wrote in a valedictory essay. His children, Peter and Rose, “told me to sell the paper when the time was right for me,” Steele said.

“I asked Alix Ritchie, who was the only possible buyer, why she didn’t buy The Advocate sooner. She said she thought I wouldn’t have sold it to her.

“I said to her in that conversation just hours after the sale had closed that I would have sold The Advocate to her in a New York minute. You earned your spurs, I said to her. You paid your dues. you did a wonderful job with the Banner. You and your staff created a fine newspaper out of nothing. You deserve to own The Advocate.”

Steele’s wife, Mary-Jo Avellar, a member of the Board of Selectmen (as it was called then), was more frankly ambivalent. “I have mixed feelings about it,” she said of the acquisition. “There are a lot of people who will miss The Advocate, because it’s been the voice of the community for 130 years.”

Ritchie insisted it would continue to be. “The most important thing is that this community’s newspaper is going to be locally owned and independent,” she told the Banner.

Technically, The Advocate was acquired by the newly formed Provincetown Ventures L.L.C., a partnership of Ritchie; the Provincetown Banner Inc.; and Stephen L. Mindich, chairman of the Phoenix Media Communications Group, publisher of The Boston Phoenix (and the husband of Judge Maria Lopez of Superior Court).

“In today’s environment of big company media consolidation,” Mindich was quoted as saying in the Banner, “it is gratifying to know that the tradition of the Advocate will remain preciously looked after in the hands of committed private, local ownership instead of being subsumed by some great media giant.”

The Banner newsroom in 2018. Dunlap.

Jackson Lambert’s “Jackson Hole” column and cartoon moved over from the Advocate, where it had begun in the 1970s. Other features introduced in the early 21st century included “From the Advocate Archives”; Carolyn Miller’s “The Third Eye” horoscope; Walter Bingham’s “BridgeHands”; and Susan Seligson’s “The Walking Fool.”

Elizabeth “Liz” Winston joined the staff in 2000. One of her early assignments from Kahn was to interview Christopher Busa, the co-founder of Provincetown Arts. “I sat on an old office chair he dragged from a corner. Chris bounced on an untethered yoga ball,” Winston recalled in a tribute to Busa. “We talked — he talked, anyway — for more than an hour while I scribbled notes with a ballpoint pen into a lined, spiral-bound reporter’s notebook.” Today, Winston is the editor and executive director of the Provincetown Arts Press.

Rose was named associate editor of the Banner in 2000, the year that Lum formally joined the staff as a full-time reporter, covering Truro and the Cape Cod National Seashore. A year later, Mary Ann Bragg, with a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, joined the reporting staff. And a year after that, Ann Wood of The Cape Codder joined the writing staff. She graduated from Bennington College. Her writing had been published in The Boston Globe, the New Haven Advocate, and the Post Road literary magazine. All three reporters listed on the masthead from 2002 to 2005 — Lum, Bragg, and Wood — would go on one day to become overall editors of the Banner, as would Rose. (Garrett Gray was also briefly on the reporting staff.)

The Banner website in July 2007.

The new title “web editor” was added to Harrison’s portfolio in 2001, coinciding with the introduction of a proper website: provincetownbanner.com. The main newspaper still looked plenty healthy enough, though. Under its new nameplate — Provincetown Banner and The Advocate — was a 60-page, two-section giant that sold for $1.

A bigger paper required bigger quarters. The painter Marty Davis, a director of The Provincetown Banner Inc. and Ritchie’s partner, bought Unit 4 of the BEKS Condominium in 2002. Doorways were opened internally to connect it with Unit 3, which was already joined internally to Unit 2. The office of the general manager (later chief operating officer), Joan Lenane, was on the ground floor. The second floor was used for storage. The floor below street level opened up to a balcony with a harbor view and was used for staff meetings and parties. The Advocate‘s archives had been moved into the basement of Unit 3.

The art department, in Unit 3, was bustling under Barbara Mullaney, the marketing and design manager. Patricia J. “Patti” Bangert joined Rob Phelps and Conny Hatch as a full-time production assistant in 2002, as did Andert, who was part-time. Phelps moved over to become the copy editor in 2003. The next year, Beau Jackett began as a part-time production assistant. He would later be named graphic designer. Judy Jailbert, proprietor of the Iona Print Gallery, joined as a full-time production assistant in 2006.

The blue building with a faux clock tower is Unit 3, where the advertising and art departments were located. The white, gable-fronted building at left is Unit 2, where the newsroom has been since 1995. Dunlap, 2018.

The Banner is currently limited to Unit 2. It once encompassed Units 3 and 4 of the BEKS Condominium.

The legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts in May 2004 gave the Banner the opportunity to publish a second “Wedding Planner” advertising section. (The first had come out in February.) The year marked a far more consequential milestone. Kahn stepped down after a decade of editing the paper. He was replaced briefly by John J. Harvey, the founding publisher of the free Cape Cod Magazine, out of Mashpee.

Five years after acquiring The Advocate, the Banner dropped its name from the front-page nameplate, though you can still find this legend on the masthead today: “Incorporating The Advocate, The Provincetown Advocate, and The Wellfleet Advocate.”

In 2005, Sally Rose was named editor of the Banner, its third. Like Kahn, she would spend a decade at the helm. Rose earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, with an emphasis on zoology, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a master’s degree in science and environmental journalism from New York University. She was an associate editor at Random House-Knopf in New York from 1989 to 1994, editing science and nature books for children.

As for the other editors-to-be: Wood left in 2005, after the publication of her novel, Bolt Risk; Lum was named an associate editor of the Banner in 2006; and that same year, Bragg moved to the Cape Cod Times, where her beats included Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, and Orleans.

Reception area. Dunlap, 2018.

Among the many visitors to the Banner‘s office over the years, perhaps the most notable was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who stopped in for an interview in October 2006. Diminishing federal housing aid, Kennedy told the Banner staff, posed a threat to the town’s character. “You’re in danger of losing the real fabric of the community, which is so much a part of the charm of Provincetown and the area.”

Banner editors asked Kennedy’s thoughts on same-sex marriage in the two years since the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court that the state “failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.” The senator answered: “My sense is the world hasn’t fallen in in Massachusetts since the decision. People are living and respecting people’s rights. I think this is going to be an issue where 20 years from now, it isn’t even going to be a question. And it certainly makes sense to me.”

At the same time of Senator Kennedy’s visit, but 375 miles away, the new GateHouse Media company was preparing an initial public offering of 13,800,000 shares of common stock, at $18 a share. GateHouse was the creation of the Fortress Investment Group, after it bought Liberty Group Publishing for $527 million in 2005, then moved its headquarters to Fairport, N.Y. At the time of the I.P.O., GateHouse already owned 423 community publications.

Then it went shopping for more. Lots more. Among them, in 2008, was the Provincetown Banner, for an undisclosed sum.

Though Rose remained as editor and Lenane as chief operating officer, Ritchie stepped down as publisher. Her place was taken by Mark Skala, head of GateHouse Media’s Cape Cod publishing group, which by then included The Cape Codder, the Harwich Oracle, The Register, the Sandwich Broadsider, the Bourne Courier, and the Falmouth Bulletin.

Ritchie’s farewell was published in the paper of 29 February 2008:

“Community journalism used to be defined as a community newspaper, but now in the 21st century, it is a lot more than that. It’s new media; it’s daily; it’s inventive new ways to link news and reaction to the news, community needs, businesses and customers. … It is, therefore, with great excitement that we announce that the Banner will now be part of the GateHouse family of newspapers. We will be able to do more to meet the needs of our readers and our advertisers, while at the same time being part of an enterprise dedicated to the concept of community journalism and to serving this very special and unique place. They have the resources to keep the source of your community news on the cutting edge, out here on the edge as we are.”

GateHouse had appeared to Ritchie to be sincerely committed to community journalism, and she thought it could help fill positions as staff members retired, moved up, or moved on — especially since it was getting harder and harder to find local journalists (because journalists were having a harder time finding affordable housing in Provincetown). Ritchie believed it was in the Banner‘s longterm interest to be part of a larger organization.

Newsroom. Dunlap, 2018.

Tony Kahn, for one, did not buy it. “The principles and the promises of the Banner’s birth have been abandoned, along with the good citizens of Provincetown,” the founding editor wrote in an op-ed piece, “Selling Out the Provincetown Banner,” which appeared on 7 March in The Boston Globe.

“Another small weekly newspaper gets gobbled up by a faceless media giant from out of town. No big deal, right?

“Maybe, but when it’s a newspaper that made its name as an independent upstart committed to keeping corporate predators at bay, there’s added sadness — particularly if you were part of a small group that gave life to that newspaper and saw it through its rough-and-tumble early years. … While outgoing Banner owner Alix Ritchie assured the public and staff that nothing would change under the new regime, it was clear that everything already had. Soon the suits will be calling the shots.”

Among the changes that were obvious to readers were the replacement of the quirky and individualistic provincetownbanner.com website, and its ever-growing electronic archive, by GateHouse’s one-size-fits-all Wicked Local aggregator and advertising site, wickedlocalprovincetown.com.

Pru Sowers interviewing Paul Mendes in 2010 about his salvaging of bronze plaques by William Boogar for “Pieces of Provincetown’s History Rediscovered.” Dunlap.

Behind the scenes, the Banner was given responsibility for producing The Nantucket Independent after its acquisition by GateHouse. Subsequently, Irene Lipton, Ewa Nogiec, and Elizabeth “Betsy” Zanello came aboard as part-time production assistants, joining Mullaney, Jailbert, Andert, and Jackett in the art department.

In the year of the GateHouse purchase, there were three staff reporters: Pru Sowers, Marilyn Miller, and Melora North.

2009 to 2019

Having far more fun with Letters to the Editor than seems possible, the filmmaker Matthew Sandager and the actor James Lescene created mini-dramas on YouTube in 2009 based on complaints that came in from Banner readers: “Pointless Theft of Balloons,” “Rangers and Nature’s Call,” and “Rude and Inconsiderate.”

The Banner won a Publick Occurrences award in 2009 from the New England Newspaper Association for the series “Shifts, Myths and Truths,” with reporting principally by Sowers. It was, the judges said, “a look at how Provincetown businesses might thrive in a downturning economy — plus rebuttals from business owners who can’t find good help.” (The award, named for the first newspaper published in America, recognizes the “very best work that New England newspapers produce each year.”)

There were numerous new features in the first half of the 2010s: Beata Cook’s “This, That and the Other” column of lovingly told reminiscences with contemporary implications; Elspeth Hay’s “Cape Tables” food and recipe column; Tony Avalone’s fishing column, followed by Capt. Rich Wood’s “Fishing the Tip,” and Capt. Mike Rathgeber’s “On the Waterfront”; and Loren King’s “The Reel Thing” movie reviews. To the cartoon well on the editorial page, where Howie Schneider once presided, came Sage Stossel’s “Lines in the Sand” and Kathleen Fitzgerald’s “If It Fitz.”

After North was promoted to assistant editor in 2010, only two full-time reporters remained on staff: Sowers and Miller. That was nothing, however, compared to what happened next door in the art department. First, GateHouse pulled the plug on The Nantucket Independent. Then it transferred the design and layout of the Banner to the Center for News and Design, its hub production facility in Austin, Tex. With that, seven full-time and part-time workers were out of jobs. And Unit 3 was no longer needed. (Unit 4 had been given up earlier.)

Beata Cook, Banner columnist, in 2016 at her post in the Grace Hall Parking Lot. Dunlap.

Capping off years of acquisition and accumulating debt, GateHouse Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013, listing assets of $433.7 million and liabilities of $1.3 billion, 52 percent of which was owned by Fortress. In the restructuring, a new parent company, New Media Investment Group Inc., was created.

Through increasingly tough times, arts coverage at the Banner was maintained. The position of arts and entertainment editor, unfilled after Harrison’s departure in 2010, was revived in 2012 under Rob Phelps; followed in 2015 by Wood, after she returned from being editor of the Advertiser Democrat in Norway, Me., and managing editor of several Sun Media papers in western Maine. In 2016, she was succeeded by Howard Karren. A Brown alumnus with an M.F.A. in film from Columbia, Karren had been an editor at Premiere Magazine, Sony Style, People Weekly, Preview Magazine, and New York Magazine. He had written a Banner column, “This Week’s Rent,” since 2006. He also co-owned the Alden Gallery and was the curator of the Provincetown Film Art Series.

Kaimi Rose Lum, a 15-year-veteran of the paper, was named the Banner‘s fourth editor in 2015. During her tenure, Edward Miller came aboard as the associate editor, armed with an A.B. (1973) and Ed.M. from Harvard. In 1973, he had co-founded the Harvard Post, a weekly in Worcester County. Five years later, he wrote How to Produce a Small Newspaper. Neil Vecchione joined as the classifieds manager. Lum stepped down in October 2016 after her second daughter was born.

Left: Kaimi Rose Lum, the Banner’s fourth editor. Right: Ann Wood, the fifth editor. Photographs courtesy of Lum and Wood.

With that, Ann Wood was named the Banner‘s fifth editor. She came with a trophy case’s worth of awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association — for arts and entertainment reporting, business and economic reporting, environmental reporting, human interest writing, local personality profiles, obituary writing, “right-to-know” reporting, and pictorial photography. In her tenure, she would eliminate the sports page and the individual town pages, after GateHouse cut the staff down to a single reporter, Katy Ward.

A highlight of her editorship came in October 2017. The Banner won the prestigious New England Newspaper of the Year award — in the category of weekly newspapers with a circulation between 4,500 and 8,000 — from the press association. Criteria included quality of reporting and writing, use of photos, design and presentation, online offering, and overall utility and value. It was the second time the Banner had won this award.

At the end of the year, however, Wood stepped down, after what she described to me as “many conversations with GateHouse higher-ups, problems with the press, and cuts.” Miller was appointed acting editor. At this time, the Banner reported a total paid distribution of 4,025 copies: 1,740 from counter sales and through local carriers; 1,250 through the mail to Barnstable County; and 1,035 by mail outside Barnstable.

There isn’t space on the walls of the Banner reception area for all the awards it has won from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. (Dunlap, 2018.)

K. C. Myers was named the sixth editor of the Banner in 2018. She graduated from Drew University with a bachelor’s degree in English/psychology. She was a reporter at The Cape Codder from 1993 to 1995. After a brief stint at The Springfield Union News, she returned to the Cape in 1995 and joined the staff of the Cape Cod Times, which was acquired by GateHouse in 2013. Erik Yingling also joined the Banner in 2018 in ad sales.

Not long after Myers’s arrival, the Banner won its third Newspaper of the Year award. Then, in February 2019, it cleaned up at the New England Better Newspaper Competition, coming home from Boston with seven awards: ¶ Arts and Entertainment Reporting (1st Place): Sue Harrison, for her profile of Salvatore Del Deo, who “lives physically and spiritually in this story.” ¶ Arts and Entertainment Section (1st Place): Howard Karren, editor. “From fine art to photography, from theater to film, from music to storytelling, the Banner leaves nothing out.” ¶ Commentary (2nd Place): Edward Miller, for his essay about the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. ¶ Headline Writing (1st Place): Miller. ¶ Headline Writing (2nd Place), Karren. ¶ Obituaries (3rd Place), Ann Wood, for hers of Dr. Wilsa Ryder, which “captures the many accomplishments of Ryder while also tastefully portraying the pain her family experienced.” ¶ History Reporting (2nd Place): Katy Ward.

Just three months later, Ward was laid off by GateHouse. The Banner played the story, by Miller, as its lead, noting that Ward’s departure reduced the news staff by 25 percent. “We will miss our colleagues and friends — good people who dedicated themselves to keeping our readers informed,” Peter Meyer, GateHouse’s Cape Cod publisher, said in a memo. However, he said, “It is imperative that we build a sustainable business model for quality, local journalism.” Ward’s abrupt dismissal left Provincetown without a full-time reporter for the first time in 150 years.

K. C. Myers on a deadline night in 2018. (Dunlap.)

This unhappy development only strengthened the resolve of Miller and his wife, Teresa Parker, the founder and director of Spanish Journeys, to start a locally owned newspaper for the Outer Cape, an improbable undertaking for which they had quietly begun preparations at their home in Wellfleet.

Banner readers were chafing. Alice Brock, a longtime subscriber and a well-known Provincetown artist, wrote on Facebook on 8 July 2019 that GateHouse was about to break the last straw in its management of the Banner. “Last year, they raised the price and discontinued the senior discount,” she said. “This year they have begun to charge $5 as a ‘printing fee,’ insisting I pay by computer. … It sure ain’t our ‘Hometown Newspaper’ anymore. If Provincetown is not making a profit, they should ‘unload’ it to a local person who loves and respects our community.” Fifty-seven people, many of them residents with deep roots in town, “liked” Brock’s post, which was followed by 23 comments, some of them even angrier than her original posting.

Miller resigned from the Banner in July, followed in September by Myers and Karren — the entire editorial staff, apart from Guadazno. In September, a prototype issue of Miller and Parker’s Provincetown Independent was published. Regular weekly printing began on 10 October.

Left: Howard Karren, the arts and entertainment editor, in 2018. (Dunlap.) Right: Edward Miller, the associate editor, in 2018. (Dunlap.)

GateHouse turned to a Banner veteran to pick up the pieces at 167 Commercial Street. Mary Ann Bragg of the Cape Cod Times became the seventh Banner editor in October 2019. She had (with Doug Fraser) won the 2018 Publick Occurrences award for reporting on the prospective extinction of the North Atlantic right whale. She had also broken a story earlier in 2019 about a new effort by the district attorney’s office to identify the 1974 murder victim known as the “Lady of the Dunes,” through analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms in her DNA.

“As she takes the helm of the Banner, you will see more innovative and in-depth reporting than ever before,” the editorial of 10 October promised.

“But more important than her strong journalism experience, Mary Ann has a passion for the community she calls home.

“Much has been said about corporate ownership, but the truth is, the Banner is run by local people who love Ptown and are personally invested in the well-being of the Outer Cape.

“We are committed to being the voice of the people and to maintaining the Banner‘s deep roots that were seeded many years ago. As Mary Ann will tell you, she is the proud steward of a community institution whose true shareholders are those of you who live in this very special place.”

Left: K. C. Myers, the Banner‘s sixth editor. (Dunlap.) Right: Mary Ann Bragg, a veteran Banner reporter, and the newspaper’s seventh and current editor. Photo courtesy of Bragg.

Also in October, the Banner regained a staff reporter in the person of Alex Darus, a recent graduate of the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in Athens.

Yet the tumult wasn’t over. In November, New Media Investment Group, the parent of GateHouse, bought the ailing Gannett newspaper chain for $1.1 billion, to create the largest U.S. media company by print circulation. The merged company, headquartered in McLean, Va., assumed the much better known Gannett name, making the Banner a Gannett paper, along with USA Today, the Detroit Free Press, the Providence Journal, The Record, The Arizona Republic, and hundreds more. Still, Paul Bascobert, the chief executive officer of Gannett Media Corporation, insisted: “Our mission is to connect, protect, and celebrate our local communities.”

The first issue of The Provincetown Independent came out in September 2019.

2020 and beyond

As these words are written, in August 2020, March feels like a million years ago. So does a front page with a promising headline across its width — “Provincetown 400 Public Events Outlined” — over a postcard-pretty publicity photo of Mayflower II, jumping to a half-page of listings. Three weeks later, the front page story, by Bragg and Darus, was, “Shelter in Place Ordered With Two Covid-19 Cases,” and it jumped to a page of answers to frequently asked questions like “What is an ‘essential’ business?” and “Can I still go outside?”

Moses and Roger face the new reality in a John Andert “Washashores” strip from 2020.

Because the end of the pandemic is impossible to forecast from here, it would be foolish to try to guess how the Banner — or The Independent, for that matter — will ultimately fare. But it is possible to note that the novel coronavirus accelerated the retirement plans of Vincent Guadazno, the longest-serving Banner staff member.

“With the pandemic, I feel unsafe going around,” he explained, quite reasonably, in the summer of 2020, a full quarter century after he joined the Banner, and nearly 60 years after he first set up shop in Provincetown; not as a photographer but as a jewelry-maker, fabricating designs by Dale Elmer. They specialized in earrings and rings. At first, in 1963, they occupied a shop in the Crown & Anchor Motor Inn, renting from Staniford “Stan” Sorrentino. After several successful seasons, they took over the nearby building at 241 Commercial Street that had formerly been the Wood & Wood clothing shop. They renamed it the Handcrafter Gallery.

Guadazno grew up in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan and, like many artists, alternated between Provincetown in the summer and New York City for the rest of the year. He’d been interested in photography since boyhood, when he had a box camera. But he began learning professional techniques in the mid-1960s while sharing a loft with Walter Jackson on East 29th Street. (This was before he married Laurel.) Guadazno and Jackson figured out how to photograph jewelry to best effect — no easy feat. Their studio included a darkroom, so Guadazno was ready in the 1970s when the artist Ewa Nogiec approached him at the Handcrafter to say that Provincetown Magazine was looking for someone to run its darkroom.

Vincent Guadazno with K. C. Myers in 2018. Dunlap.

After Gary L. Chefetz sold Provincetown Magazine in the 1980s, Guadazno began working for Duane Steele at The Advocate. He also shot for the Cape Cod Times and The Cape Codder. “You freelance for everybody,” he said. In 1995, he was named photographer for the brand-new Banner.

“I loved meeting people,” he told me, as he summed up his career in news photography. “Jewelry work is really lonely. It’s just you, at the bench.” Not that Guadazno was a gregarious grandstander when he was on the job. Far from it. He always preferred to work unobserved and unobtrusive, in the classic journalistic tradition. Still, it’s probably safe to say that most town residents figured out the identity of this modest character who turned up at any moment of importance, decade after decade. Sometimes, in fact, he was too well known for his own taste.

“I stopped photographing the kids jumping off the wharf,” he said, “because they were aware of who I was and what I did.” Guadazno did not want his presence to distort the reality of the scene.

Guadazno covering the Town Meeting of 2011. Dunlap.

When I asked what his least favorite assignments were, I fully expected Guadazno to say governmental meetings and hearings, which seldom offer much in the way pictorial possibilities. So he surprised me when he mentioned the “Manor” — the name still used by long-timers to refer to Seashore Point, successor to the Cape Cod Manor nursing home.

“What I really hated was anything at the Manor,” Guadazno said, “because I’d run into people whom I remembered when they were younger, and they were not the people they used to be. They’d say to me, ‘I know you but I don’t know how I know you.'”

Twenty-five years after founding the Banner, Alix Ritchie took time toward the end of the summer of 2020 to consider the future of journalism on the Outer Cape (a phrase, by the way, that has been credited to John Short of the Advocate):

“There is a question as to whether a diverse and robust newspaper can survive here financially without another source of income. I never took any income from the paper and invested more when necessary. I’m not sure who else would do that. (Indeed, I took no profit from the sale. I distributed what profit there was after paying back the initial investment to the full-time employees at the time of the sale.)

“With 20-20 hindsight I might not have sold to GateHouse, but would have eventually had to sell, and I’m not sure that anyone else would have been able to assure the survival of a robust paper either.”

As they say in our business, MORE TK.

Hamilton Kahn wrote on 27 December 2022: I just saw your online Provincetown newspaper saga for the first time, and I think you did a good, fair, objective job. Having heard recently that the Banner may be on its last legs, I felt a deep sense of mourning, which I have had ever since I was forced out of my job by Alix Ritchie, who clearly had other plans, and they weren’t good ones. She broke promises to me and to the Outer Cape communities we served. That said, I think we put out as good a small weekly as there has ever been (excuse my lack of modesty) while we could, blessed with an amazing place to report on at a critical time in its history. I am glad and proud that it exists as an excellent historical record and will not be forgotten. Everything changes.

¶ Last updated on 29 December 2022.

167 Commercial Street on the Town Map.

Also at 167 Commercial Street:

Nickerson-Rogers house.

BEKS Condominium overview.

Field Guide ADV | BEKS Condominium (Unit 1).

David Marshall Datz P.C. | BEKS Condominium (Unit 3).

BEKS Condominium (Unit 4).

BEKS Condominium (Unit 5).

BEKS Condominium (Unit 6).

Former Ruth Gilbert Real Estate | BEKS Condominium (Unit 7).

Thumbnail image: Photo, 2018, by David W. Dunlap.

In memoriam

• Gustav Aust (1903-1991)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 171476012.

• Franklin B. Goss (1831-1906)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 91702777.

• Franklin Percy Goss (1852-1926)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 124462010.

• Howard F. Hopkins (1864-1928)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 52906778.

• James H. Hopkins (1861-1896)

Find a Grave Memorial No. 186736293.

¹ “The Interview: Alix Ritchie,” by John Koch, The Boston Globe, 14 March 1999.

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