M.E. Sprengelmeyer is the creative and practical force behind the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. A former Washington correspondent for the Rocky Mountain News, he lost his job when the paper closed in February 2009. From there, he turned his attention to a rather different, yet, vitally important pursuit: Ensuring that the 2,744 residents of Guadalupe County have a trusted, reliable local news source.
He will be a central character in “Fit to Print” for several reasons. The primary reason is that during this time of shrinking newsrooms, he has taken it upon himself to pursue civic-minded journalism. And that’s no abstraction. Sprengelmeyer writes, edits, photographs and even delivers his newspapers. He drives nearly 90 miles each week on the back roads of rural New Mexico at 3 AM picking up copies of the Communicator, which has a circulation of 2,000, from his printing press. He covers the whole town, from city council meetings to local business. He works with a minimal budget and is partial to scribbling page layouts on paper plates.
While his misfortune as a laid-off reporter is important to his story, our focus is on his relentless defense of thorough local news during the most challenging time for newspapers in history. His struggle is a microcosm of many of the issues facing newspapers: the income has slowed to a trickle, the staff is cut to the bone, and reporters are scrambling to do more with less.
Sprengelmeyer does it because journalism is what he knows and loves. Period. His story is a quixotic journey into one man’s pursuit to breathe life into a newspaper in an era when most publishers are fleeing the industry. Add to this the visually arresting backdrop he finds himself in: A sleepy southwest town on the the Llano Estacado or “staked plains” of eastern New Mexico and west Texas. Sprengelmeyer’s story is compelling personally, socially and visually.