By official vote of the North Dakota Press Association, the closing of the ABM site here was the state's top news story of 1975. Hal Doherty had the story, from an unimpeachable source, a year early.

But Doherty, the publisher, ace reporter and columnist for Langdon's weekly newspaper, the Cavalier County Republican, didn't print his big scoop.

"Congressman [Mark] Andrews [R.-N.D.] warned me about it in August '74, but he said it was secret," Doherty explains. "If I have to be responsible for what's said in a secret meeting . . . well, maybe they do that at The Washington Post and The New York Times, but out here we respect a guy's confidentiality.

"So I waited and reported it in '75 with everybody else."

The incident reflects the philosophy that guides Doherty in producing the folksy, casual paper he distributes each Thursday to 3,500 subscribers throughout Cavalier County, a 1,500-square-mile area along the Canadian border in eastern North Dakota.

"You big-city guys don't understand," Doherthy says. "A newspaper in the country isn't ready for the news. The people all know the news. We're just a service organization."

Among the "service announcements" included in an average 16-page edition of the Republican are weekly menus for the county's public schools, meeting schedules for scores of fraternal organizations, agricultural tips and a plethora of milestone announcements, including births (under the headline "More Population"), marriages (headlined "Exchange Vows"), deaths and birthdays of county residents who are 85 or older.

There also are news stories written by Doherty, a staff of four in Langdon and 30 correspondents around the county. But here, too, the publisher's standards vary somewhat from those of a large, daily paper.

"I've never understood this rush to get news in the paper right away," Doherty says. "If we've got something that we want to print, we put in in when we get around to it."

Crime news in the Republican is played in inverse relation to its severity. Reports of petty vandalism and minor theft are standard page-one fodder. But when the county had a murder five years ago, Doherty wrote a brief story for an inside page.

"We didn't want to splash that murder," he says. "You don't do that in a small town. We're not here to aggravate people's tragedies."