The residents of Fallon and bordering communities are afforded new choice in literary fare with the arrival of the Fallon Star Press. After fielding a March prototype edition, the free weekly paper made its debut on area newsstands on April 2. Editor Anne Pershing, a former editor of the competing Lahonton Valley News, says she’s not sure how long the paper will remain free but offered an estimate of three months.
Churchill County has a rich newspaper history. A newspaper that moved from mining camp to mining camp operated in Fallon for a time as the Fallon Courier. In the 1960s, the Fallon Citizen operated for several years. Long time residents best remember the Fallon Eagle and the Fallon Standard, which eventually merged into the Eagle Standard.
In turn, the Lahontan Valley News acquired the Eagle Standard and still carries its flag on the front page. Reno television newsman Ed Pearce, who grew up in Fallon and once wrote for the Citizen, says, “It was unusual for a small town to have two competing newspapers like that, the way Fallon so often did.”
Lahontan Valley News Editor Steve Lyon said he believes his publication is not threatened by the presence of a new competitor.
“Absolutely not,” he said. Before the merger of the Eagle Standard and the Lahontan Valley News, “Fallon was a two-paper town until the ’70s.” The News thrived in spite of that competition, Lyon said. The News is a member of the Swift chain of papers, which includes Carson City’s Nevada Appeal and the Gardernerville Record Courier.
Residents may recognize the new newspaper’s format, since it is Reno Gazette-Journal-like in appearance—not surprising, since the Star Press is owned by Gannett, which owns the Gazette-Journal. Gannett is the nation’s largest newspaper chain.
The Gannett label is not shown in the new paper. Pershing explained the reason the logo doesn’t appear is because “the Star is owned by a separate business entity, and it was widely publicized by Gannett prior to its release that the Star is a Gannett Communications publication.” Moreover, the Star Press web page is posted on the Gazette-Journal page.
Customers at a Fallon coffee shop were enthusiastic about the appearance of the new newspaper. A general tone of confusion did prevail, however, regarding why the RG-J would go to the trouble and expense of creating an entirely new publication, expressly intended to serve Fallon, when the Reno newspaper appears to enjoy a healthy readership in the Lahontan Valley in its present form.
However, Gannett has a long history of aggressive competition with other newspapers and has previously created a separate edition of the Reno newspaper to compete with Swift’s Gardnerville and Carson City properties. Its practices have been criticized as predatory and even resulted in serious legal actions against the chain around the nation, some of which were successful.