Cross to bear

First a clarification – The Durango Telegraph is not a Christian publication. Anyone who’s made it this far into the pages already knows that, but I want to make that fact abundantly clear from the get-go. Now for a little light blasphemy.

Let’s turn the clock back to early 2002. “Goldmember” was ruling the silver screen, ‘N Sync was still plaguing the airwaves and two of us seized an opportune moment (post-9/11 during the largest wildfire in Durango history) to start a new local newspaper. One of our earliest challenges in that fateful year was selecting a name for this new animal. Over several late nights and more than a few shots of reposado, we jumped between tags like The Durangoan, The Durango Review, The Durango Press and (after a few more ounces) more colorful options like The Durango Rag, The Free Radical and a very fleeting Durangonad.

Eventually, we landed on The Durango Telegraph, a decision driven by our shared love for Horse Gulch and the local monument that is our telegraph line (erm, I mean telephone line as the powers that be corrected us all recently). The wisdom of “Telegraph” quickly became obvious in the weeks before our first issue as several future fans appeared out of the woodwork. Going only on the name, they eagerly applauded an “old-fashioned” approach to Durango journalism and welcomed the arrival of a more conservative media voice to temper our liberal-soaked streets. We could only grin our appreciation and nod dumbly in response.

The next step was coming up with an emblem for our baby, an image by which Durango would come to recognize its newsprint newbie. For this duty, we turned to designer extraordinaire and fellow free radical, Andrew Wracher. After explaining that we wanted to veer as far from “old-fashioned” as possible, Wracher got down to it and started generating images that would convey a sense of “Telegraph.” A not-so-minor glitch haunted the design from the beginning.

“A telegraph line is the obvious choice for the logo, but there’s a pretty major issue we should discuss,” he confided. “Any image of a telegraph pole is going to resemble a crucifix, and I’m fairly sure that’s not your target audience.”

And so Wracher fattened up the bottom of our pole (thanks it needed it), threw on an extra crossbar to alleviate Christianity confusion and added some art deco mountains and an abstract river to the mix. “Here it is. My fastest design to date,” he announced as he showed off the stamp.

I was immediately smitten. The finished product was bold, unique and popped off the page. The final price tag – $60 – also met with my approval. When you start up a business for the price of a mid-range used car, you take the pennies wherever you can find them.

To my eye, Wracher had deftly dodged the religion bullet, and the design didn’t seem even vaguely Born Again. Maybe just maybe, someone could mistake it for a Russian Orthodox cross but what are those odds? The Moscow Patriarchate hasn’t blown through Southwest Colorado in decades. Plus, Russian Orthodoxy is kind of cool in an eerie Rasputin way. Who doesn’t love dark and kinky mysticism? Could be good for sales, I assured myself.

So it was that we stamped Issue No. 1 with our discount design and rolled out into the gauntlet of small business ownership. For each of these nearly nine years, that telegraph pole has been tattooed on the paper’s flag, on our newspaper boxes and on business cards, fax cover sheets, advertising contracts and Durango Telegraph stationary. The symbol has not gone unnoticed.

Approximately once every few months, I’ve heard some variation of the following comment: “When I first saw the Telegraph, I assumed it was Christian propaganda,” a fan shared just last week. “I love the paper, but you guys might want to revisit your logo.”

Yep, despite best efforts, our emblem has inspired a bit of confusion (though we’re still waiting on the conservative Christian community to rally around our experiment). While we always appreciate constructive criticism here at the world headquarters, I’m afraid we won’t be canning the logo anytime soon.

The truth is that this pagan is still smitten with our telegraph pole. And you can load me onto the hellfire express (I’ve already done my time at Purgatory), but I daresay that the King of Kings might approve of our weekly. As a favorite bumper sticker says, “Jesus was a hippie.” I suspect that when the Second Coming rolls through the Four Corners and J.C. putts through town in his microbus, he’ll go as far as to pick up the T and browse our pages for a little local guidance. I’m also fairly certain that the Alpha and Omega will not mistake our logo for his trial on Golgotha Hill.

As this little adventure known as the Telegraph approaches its ninth birthday, it goes without saying that we’ve defied the odds. I can’t explain why our unusual recipe has worked in Durango or why our numbers continue to climb while much of the newspaper industry treads water. I do know that the words “minor miracle” and an image of that funky telegraph pole flash to mind. You never know. Maybe we’ve had a little help from on high.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows