Sentinel by the Decade

The Question Mark Sentinel

Out of Darkness Comes the Light

Final Edition

Question Mark Sentinel Presses To Go Silent After Today

After continuous publication for 90 years, our historic paper has published its last edition. A look back at this beacon of light for Question Mark and the Southeast Ohio Region, by our publisher Ben Fortune.

By Ben Fortune | September 25, 2022

Friends and fellow citizens, it is a historic and tragic day for the town of Question Mark. After ninety years of continuous publication, The Question Mark Sentinel has published its very last edition today. I would like to begin my final editorial by thanking all of the reporters, photographers, copyeditors, and other staff for their incredibly hard work during this difficult moment.

As anyone with a heartbeat has noticed, the world around us continues to shudder at the monumental changes taking place every second, every day. When this paper first started publication in 1932, it was after local police learned of a conspiracy to murder and replace Mayor J R Bullard. Samuel Linholm Sr., having served as a foreign correspondent during the Great War, sunk his family’s wool and textile fortune into opening The Question Mark Sentinel on July 4, 1932. As he remarked in his first editorial as editor and publisher, the paper’s mission was to shine a light “on the shady, backroom dealings and corrupt practices” of what he called “Question Mark aristocrats, robber barons, politicians, and power-grabbers,” and hold all of them accountable.

The paper’s first year of publication sent shockwaves through the community and surrounding region and led to several arrests, including that of Lt. Mayor Gabe Hartford, who was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and defraud the town of its right to elect its own government officials.

The Sentinel was instrumental in supporting the community as it faced enormous challenges under Sam Lindholm Sr.’s tenure as editor, including confronting the Depression, The Second World War, and both The Korean and Vietnam Wars.

In 1981, Sam Sr. retired and passed the editorial baton on to his son, Sam Jr., who believed the paper needed to do more than simply report the news. It was Sam Jr.’s mission to make The Sentinel “a way for the people of Question Mark to explore the uncertainty and beauty of the entire, unknown world.” Since then The Sentinel has become a part of the very foundation of this town and region, reporting on key issues and shaping the public’s understanding of Question Mark’s place in the larger national and international conversation from politics to industry to technology to entertainment, with an emphasis on the sometimes-overlooked human stories that usually go unnoticed in other big city papers.

When Sam Jr. stepped down in 2009 and asked if I was interested in taking over the paper, I was 31 years old. I was an outsider, a Black man from Chicago who had not grown up in this town and came here out of graduate school because it was one of the few daily papers that was still hiring. Somehow The Sentinel gave me a place and a purpose and allowed me to enter the complicated, fascinating world of this town, which I have come to care about deeply. When Sam Jr. passed away in 2020, his wife, Samantha, gave me his old press pass. I still carry it with me to this day.

Before he passed on, Sam Jr. and I talked about the internet and how dangerous he thought it could be, not just for the newspaper business but for the American experiment of self-rule. I told him I thought the internet might be the one thing that would save the news business as it gave people without privilege the opportunity to document the truth of their own lives. He conceded the point but then reminded me that since the invention of the printing press, people have used technology to enlighten but also to acquire power, to lie, to cheat, and to steal. And I am afraid to say I now believe Sam was completely right. The internet and social media are no different than the printing press, only vastly more efficient tools that seem frighteningly good at targeting our sense of uncertainty and anger and fear. Without the internet and social media, Donald Trump would be just another washed-up real estate heir. Without the internet and social media, there would be no January 6th insurrection. Without the internet and social media, no possible second term for a madman whose only interest is the accumulation of more and more power.

The internet has changed us but I still have not given up that it can change us for the better as well.

The Question Mark Sentinel stands as a beacon of truth and a voice for the community. We are your newspaper, your neighbor, and your ally. Together, we write not just stories, but the history of Question Mark, Ohio. Join us as we continue to ask important questions and fearlessly seek the answers.