It seems hard to imagine now, but when founded 100 years ago, The Pilot and its newspaper kin were the sole form of telling folks what was going on in their world.

The first radio broadcast, out across the airwaves of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had just occurred three weeks prior to Stacy Brewer’s first edition of The Pilot, dedicated then to “the Upbuilding of Vass and Its Surrounding Country.” TV’s first rudimentary images were still five years yet to come.

No, it was newspapers that told the stories of a community, and Moore County had quite a few newspapers back then to do the job. Brewer had worked on the Carthage Blade and the Moore County News. The Pinehurst Outlook and Sandhill Citizen were all going concerns at the time.

More would come — and go. But over time, The Pilot pressed on, first from Vass, then from offices in Aberdeen and Pinehurst before settling in 1941 on West Pennsylvania Avenue in Southern Pines.

You can’t fully tell the history of Moore County this past century without The Pilot also being part of that story. The Pilot, now beginning its 101st year, and its six publishers have been integral components to much that we take for granted today: the Weymouth Center, the Sunrise Theater, The Country Bookshop, the continued preservation of Horse Country, the strength of our downtown business districts.

An ‘Ambition to Help’

Newspapers, first and foremost, have a mission to serve their community. They do that principally with news and advertising. In that first edition on Nov. 26, 1920, Stacy Brewer and editor Bion Butler set forth the paper’s purpose to be an investment in the future of Moore County.

“As to the paper that will be an ordinary village newspaper, not very pretentious, paying attention to its field, which is the country round about Vass, and with the ambition to help in the stimulation and further development and progress in this community,” that first edition declared.

“No hard and fast rules are laid down for the policy of the paper, it has no rigid ideas of what it will do. The truth about any new thing is that it follows the road, and often where there is a turn in the road it follows the turn.”

There have been many turns in that road over the years, some steered by The Pilot, some directed by other forces. The paper’s owners, always local residents, were notable community leaders. In their own ways, Brewer, Nelson Hyde, James Boyd, Katharine Boyd, Sam Ragan and — for these last 24 years — David Woronoff have used the prestige of their positions to grow the community and improve life in the Sandhills for the betterment of all.

Of Continuous Service

“One hundred years later,” Woronoff said recently, “Stacy Brewer would be pleased and proud that we’ve very much kept his ethos of community service alive and well.

“In fact, I believe the goodwill that emanates from our core purpose distinguishes us in a crowded marketplace and has propelled the paper for these many years.”

That the community and The Pilot have grown successfully together all these years is not to be taken lightly. That is not the case today in thousands of communities large and small across the country. Hundreds of newspapers have closed or are mere shadows of their former selves, done in by a digital age and consumer patterns unfaithful to the ethos of community. Major metropolitan areas find themselves today without a newspaper at all, its residents forced to rely on a patchwork of websites or social media posts for even the smallest bit of news. And so these places grow more isolated and less informed.

But not here. The Pilot — as newspaper and enterprise — continues on, growing in new ways each year. Because The Pilot has never forgotten its original purpose and vision of “paying attention to its field” — serving the community.

In year 101, that mission goes on.

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