Our Towns

Hubbard Soaring Eagle Keeps Town’s History Alive

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HUBBARD, Ohio – It wasn’t easy for Mary Ann Lark to start a newspaper.

Writing was always one of her avocations, she says, but she had no experience in the business.

Then there was the competition. Hubbard had four newspapers when she started hers, the Hubbard Soaring Eagle, in the autumn of 2006.

On top of that, she needed to secure the funding so she could get the free newspaper printed.

But after a year of discussions with Robin Zambrini, now editor of the paper, she jumped in, starting by talking to businesses throughout the city about advertising in her fledgling weekly.

“I told them I’d been shopping with them for years and that I was looking to start a newspaper,” Lark says. “When I asked them if they wanted to advertise, they all said yes.”

And so the Soaring Eagle was born. The first issue was delivered Nov. 2, 2006, to City Hall and businesses that advertised. Lark writes the “Blast from the Past” column every week, while Zambrini covers City Council and school board meetings. The rest of the staff are volunteers who cover community events, sports and just about everything else that happens in town.

On the staff are a retired police chief, a high school student who reports goings-on at Hubbard High School and an eighth-grader at St. Patrick School. The last, Lark notes, began writing for the paper in fifth grade.

“It’s a great learning experience for them. If there are any mistakes, we tell them about it. I notice that as they get older, they do get better at writing,” she says. “And people like to read that and see what’s going on in the school. It may just be a little column saying, ‘We’re doing this,’ but it tells them what’s happening.”

Support from the readers has rarely been lacking, the editor and publisher say. After the sports photographer moved away a few years ago, Lark put an ad in her paper to find a replacement.

“I was expecting maybe one or two responses,” she says. “But we got five in the week after it ran.”

And for Zambrini, having volunteers eager to report has proved a godsend.

In addition to her responsibilities at the Soaring Eagle, she also works full time in a marketing job in Greenville, Pa., where she lives. If no one else is available to cover a story, it becomes hers.

“It’s a labor of love for all of us. It has to be,” Zambrini says. “We’re always happy to have people come forward.”

The coverage by the Soaring Eagle and its reporters hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Mayor John Darko regards both of the town’s papers as the best form of communication between Hubbard residents and the government.

“They do a great job of letting everyone know just what goes on at all of our meetings, all of our events and throughout town. It’s especially important this time of year with all the fish fries,” Darko says with a laugh.

And everyone has his own favorite part of the paper or favorite story. Lark writes her column by scouring through old articles, yearbooks and mementos for interesting facts and tidbits from Hubbard’s history.

Among the piles of books, papers and miscellany in the Soaring Eagle office in downtown Hubbard are copies of the first issue of The Hub, the Hubbard High School newspaper, and invitations to the first Hubbard High School commencement in 1890, when two students graduated.

“Everyone enjoys it, it seems,” Lark says. “Everyone likes to read about and remember growing up and looking back at what happened.”

Zambrini adds, “History is a big deal in Hubbard, so we try to concentrate and put effort into adding the history to our paper.”

Two stories stand out for the editor of the paper. The first is when Clay Cole, host of The Clay Cole Show, which ran from 1959 to 1968, visited his hometown. The Rolling Stones were guests on his show during their first American tour. The second was a story in 2009 on Hubbard native Michael DeSantis, a super centenarian – 110 years old.

“I never thought I’d start a story by saying someone remembers when ships all had sails,” Zambrini recalls.

On top of the local distribution to City Hall and businesses, Lark mails about 100 copies every week to former residents who want to keep up with their hometown.

The mailing range, she says, stretches from coast to coast, literally. She sends copies to California and Maine.

Of the loyal reader in the Pine Tree State, she says, “He’s over 100 and lived there for a long time, but he’s from Hubbard and wants to know what’s going on here.”

As for what the Soaring Eagle aims to accomplish, Lark says its mission is simple:

“A lot of people don’t get out to everything, so we at least tell them what’s going on in their community. This paper is about what’s going on right here.”

Pictured: Among the most popular segments in the Hubbard Soaring Eagle, says publisher and founder Mary Ann Lark, are the community calendar – Hubbard Happenings – and her Blast From the Past column, which recounts events and tales from the city’s past.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.