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Member Spotlight — Dundalk Eagle — April 25, 2013

Member Spotlight: The Dundalk Eagle

Location/Website: Dundalk, Md.; www.dundalkeagle.com

Twitter/Facebook: @TheDundalkEagle; Facebook.com/dundalkeagle

Publication Schedule: Weekly, published every Thursday.

Focus & History: Mention the year 1969 in just about any U.S. newsroom and you’re bound to hear a story or two about Neil Armstrong, the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon and cars like the Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang.

But in Dundalk, Md., 1969 was the year the Eagle landed. Perhaps printed is a better word, because May 15 was the day the first edition of the Dundalk Eagle rolled off the presses. That first edition was led by the story of Emala Lake in Stanbrook allegedly being polluted by a local refuse company.

As Dundalk grew, the Eagle did, too. Construction of the Patapsco Federal Building was a big story in that first year. And by the summer of 1969, the annual Fourth of July celebration in Dundalk had become almost a rite of passage for city residents, a tradition for adults to pass on to children.

The original publisher of the Eagle was Kimbel E. Oelke, who founded the paper with his wife, Mary. The paper’s first Oelke-penned byline read, “Dundalk Now Has Its Own Newspaper.”

The initial startup cost was $20,000, and 10,000 copies of the first issue were distributed for free throughout Dundalk and Edgemere. The Eagle has built a reputation for making ordinary citizens feel important. Wedding announcements, obituaries, student honor rolls, church announcements and recreation league results are the Eagle’s stock and trade.

The paper is still owned by the Oelke family, and the current publisher, Deborah Cornely, is Oelke’s daughter. Cornely served as managing editor before advancing to associate publisher after her father’s death in 1998. In 2010, Mary Oelke, Cornely’s mother, passed away and Cornely ascended to her current title. The Eagle's original homespun flavor is still apparent, too. Two features that were staples in the paper’s launch are still printed weekly: DunTalk, now called Talk of the Town, collects tidbits about local folks, and Mystery Beauty continues to perplex and amuse readers.

"The best thing about Deborah is she let's the editorial staff work," editor Steve Matrazzo said.

What’s New: “We’re trying to do new things with our website, and keeping our content fresh for our readers,” Matrazzo said. “Uploading breaking news and engaging social media has become a priority.”

Balancing the expectations of maintaining an electronic platform for breaking news while not undercutting the printing project is a constant part of the Eagle’s evolution, Matrazzo said.

Ironic, huh? The late Louise and Sam Couper were the first subscribers to The Eagle when it began taking subscriptions soon after its first publication. They lived on of Flagship Road. Former Eagle columnist and copy editor Diane Pinter and her family lived in the Couper's former home.

The cost of an annual subscription when Couper jumped onboard? About $1. When paid subscriptions reached 500, the paper was allowed a second-class postal permit so the Eagle could be delivered by mail. Today, an annual subscription costs $16.96 for a print or online subscription. Out of county/state readers who prefer the printed product pay $26.50.

The Eagle, with a total circulation of 18,000 — including a paid subscriber count of more than 10,000 — touts itself as Baltimore County’s largest paid subscription weekly.

National Acclaim: Matrazzo, 50, took national honors this week when he won the Sigma Delta Chi (SDX) award from the Society of Professional Journalists as the winner for general column writing. It’s just the fifth time in SDX history in which a non-daily newspaper has won an award in a category that includes daily publications.

“I didn’t even enter journalism until 2006, when I was 44,” Matrazzo said. “I think there’s this idea that whatever you’ve achieved by 45 or 50 is what you’ve achieved, and you’re just supposed to ride it out until you retire. I can tell you dreams still exist.”

Matrazzo was honored for columns offering commentary on economic issues, criticizing government secrecy and defending facts in the face of falsehoods.

Matrazzo has previously won awards from MDDC, the National Newspaper Association and the Maryland chapter of the SPJ. He and the other Sigma Delta Chi honorees will receive their awards at a banquet at the National Press Club in Washington June 21.

Alumni: Current Maryland Gazette/Annapolis Capital staff writer Sara Blumberg is a former Dundalk Eagle writer.
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