Former and current publishers, editors, reporters, carriers, advertisers, and other contributors to the success of The Times-Gazette over the years gathered at the newspaper offices on Gov. Trimble Place Monday for an open house to share memories and relive old times.
Earlier in the day, about 150 guests, including subscribers, advertisers, former employees and other well-wishers, visited the offices from late morning to early afternoon, enjoying food, tea, lemonade and cake, and sharing their memories. By 6 p.m., current and former staff members braved the heat and construction work on Trimble to pose for a photograph on the occasion of the newspaper’s 200th anniversary.
Taking a stroll down The Times-Gazette’s Memory Lane reveals the publication starting with an entrepreneur who was an apprentice to a disciple of Jefferson, overseen later for almost half of the 20th century by a dedicated publisher, and shepherded into the 21st century by publishers and editors taking on the challenges of new technologies, including rapidly-evolving print and digital challenges.
Moses Carothers, the man who gave what was then called “Hillsborough” its first newspaper, was a native son of the Old Dominion. He was born in 1792 – just 19 years before John Alburtis became the editor of the Martinsburg Gazette, the first newspaper established in Berkeley County, Va. (now part of West Virginia).
Shortly after Alburtis took over the Martinsburg paper, young Carothers became an apprentice to learn all he could about the newspaper business from one who was a disciple of Jefferson and the Virginia School of Democracy, as well as one of the noted editors of his day.
What brought Carothers to Hillsborough in 1817 is lost in the mists of time. After talking with the leading citizens of the town and receiving support from the people of the town and county, he was determined to start a weekly newspaper. He was able to obtain a subscription list of over 500 subscribers.
Cary Allen Trimble, an enterprising young merchant and businessman in Hillsborough and a good friend of Carothers, was going east to Philadelphia to purchase a stock of goods for his store. Carothers made him his agent to purchase the necessary equipment needed to start his newspaper.
The original press was a Ramage, similar to one used by Benjamin Franklin, made mostly of wood. It would only impress a half a sheet, and the practice was to impress half the sheet, then relax the handle, run the second half under the platen, and print it. The office was located on Short Street, now known as Governor Foraker Place, in a building owned by Allen Trimble.
The premier edition of the Hillsborough Gazette and Highland Advertiser appeared on June 18, 1818, as Highland County’s first newspaper.
After nearly nine years, Carothers sold the paper in 1827 to William H. Allen, and moved his family to a farm near East Monroe where he spent the remainder of his life. Carothers remained active in public life, serving as a Highland County commissioner and, later, a state senator. He died Dec. 1, 1843, at the age of 51.
‘Dike’ and Harold
The newspaper saw a number of owners, publishers and editors through the years, and a list as complete as possible appears elsewhere in today’s paper. Many made particularly significant contributions; for instance, Ambrose Hough served as editor of the Gazette for 30 years, from 1884-1914.
But none served as long as H.E. “Dike” Barnes. Barnes began his newspaper career at the age of 13, delivering the Hillsboro Dispatch. By 15, he could operate a linotype, set type and covered sporting events. Barnes and Lillie Ayres, although officially little more than “helpers,” were skilled enough to publish the paper when the editor was called away on other business.
Barnes attended Ohio State University’s College of Journalism, and worked part-time on the Columbus Dispatch. He edited OSU’s The Lantern. He returned to Hillsboro in 1923 to edit the newly-formed Peoples Press. In 1928, the Peoples Press merged with the Hillsboro Gazette, forming the Press Gazette.
With that, Dike Barnes began his long career as publisher and editor of this newspaper, a role that would span 45 years. During his tenure, the paper moved from its original location on Gov. Foraker Place to 209 S. High St., where it was located from 1956 to 2011.
Barnes was active in both industry and community affairs, serving as president of the Ohio Newspaper Association and a member of the Ohio State School of Journalism advisory board. He was active in civic affairs in Hillsboro, including the Hillsboro Rotary Club. He worked until a stroke in 1973 ended his 60-year newspaper career. He died in 1983.
A contemporary, and later co-worker with Barnes for 27 years, was Harold Powell, who was a Hillsboro newspaperman since 1945, and who became editor of the Hillsboro’s News Herald in 1955.
Powell worked with Barnes when the papers came under the same ownership. He became editor of the Press Gazette in 1973, after the News Herald was discontinued. Powell implemented the first dark room, along with taking and developing the newspaper’s own pictures. His wife, Betty, also worked at the newspaper for many years, including as a proofreader.
In a recent interview, Betty Powell described both Barnes and her late husband as “newspapermen.” She said they both cared about fairness and accuracy, but also kindness.
Harold Powell passed away in 1977 at age 56. Dike Barnes’ widow, Mildred, wrote a fitting tribute to Powell upon his death, saying her husband “has said many, many times that no publisher in the world had a better editor than he had in Harold… Harold was a dedicated journalist, fair-minded, loyal, and led an exemplary life and was a kind and loving husband and father.”
Among former publishers (or, as the same basic role was sometimes defined, general managers) surviving today is Jim Hardin, who began his career as a part-time sportswriter at the Press Gazette in 1972 at $1.65 an hour. He served as the newspaper’s general manager from 1978-1986.
Hardin, a 1965 graduate of Hillsboro High School who now resides in Jefferson, Ohio, fondly recalls staff members like editor Rick Tuttle, ad manager Mike Mayhugh, who recently passed away, and the late Don McCullough, a longtime graphics department foreman and typesetter.
“They were great people,” said Hardin in a phone interview last week. McCullough could be gruff, but cared as much about the final product as anyone, said Hardin.
“He would always so no to the last hour, then say yes,” Hardin recalled.
In 1983, Hardin was also responsible for giving a new, untested local resident named Gary Abernathy his first shot in the newspaper business. “I take full credit for that,” Hardin said.
Two years later, Hardin also hired a young woman named Sharon Hughes, giving her a chance as an advertising representative. More than three decades later, Hughes is still at the paper as its media sales director.
“Sharon is the best advertising person I ever had,” Hardin said.
Hardin, who was instrumental in starting the Festival of the Bells, noted that after operating as a daily newspaper for many years, the decision was made in 1985 to take the newspaper to two days a week, filling it with all-local content, dropping coverage of state, national and international news.
“We dropped the AP wire,” recalls Hardin.
Shortly after Hardin took over as general manager, the newspaper was faced with stiff competition for advertising dollars in the form of a new, free weekly “total market coverage” (TMC) publication started by Phil Roberts — the Highland County Shopper.
“Phil was a good operator,” said Hardin. After suffering the loss of ad accounts to the Shopper, Hardin recalls winning a couple back – important grocery accounts Bob and Carl’s and Great Scott — a move he said led to Brown Publishing purchasing first the Press Gazette, and then the County Shopper.
When the two publications began operating under the same ownership — not to mention under the same roof — the transition was a challenge for two staffs that had previously been professional adversaries. Roberts was named publisher of both products in 1986, and Hardin was transferred to Eaton, Ohio, where he eventually became chief information officer for the company.
In a guest column for The Times-Gazette, Roberts recalls the transition from his vantage point.
“These publications were highly competitive rivals and needed to be combined as one working unit,” he writes.
“At this time in my career I had to learn an entirely new occupation style by dealing with an editorial content publication,” Roberts writes. “The County Shopper was an advertising-only based publication. By merging these two publications, Brown Publishing saw a lot of growth happening in the community.”
Roberts, who served as Times-Gazette publisher from 1986-2002, faced another big task in the mid-1990s – merging the Press Gazette with the Greenfield Daily Times (with the name changed to The Times-Gazette), after Brown Publishing purchased the Greenfield newspaper from the Schluep family. Looking back, Roberts calls it “another new challenge to solve.”
Former Greenfield Daily Times editor Ron Coffey writes in a guest column about the newspapers in Greenfield, Lynchburg, Leesburg and New Holland once published by the Greenfield group.
“The news staff worked hard to cover the local news accurately and fairly,” Coffey writes. “Whether we wrote about the blizzards of 1977 and ‘78 or a team’s tournament run, we had a sense that we were creating a record of the life and times of the communities we served.”
Coffey recalls his routine covering Lynchburg, Leesburg and New Holland, writing, “My duties included writing, photographing and editing the news of the three communities. I attended all sorts of meetings and events, wrote feature stories, and edited what others wrote. I was on the road a lot (a roundtrip was about 100 miles) and worked ridiculous hours, motivated by fear of failure.”
In 2002, Roberts was replaced by Rory Ryan, who had previously served as Times-Gazette sports editor and, later, editor in the 1990s. After stints at other newspapers, Ryan returned and served as publisher and editor of The Times-Gazette from 2002-2009 before purchasing the Highland County Press.
Pam Stricker served as regional publisher with Brown Publishing for about 14 years, including roughly two years as day-to-day publisher of The Times-Gazette from 2009-2011. In a guest column, she recounts the often-jarring collision of old world and new world when she worked in the Hillsboro office.
“I remember one day while I was working in my office at The Times-Gazette when these two different worlds seemed to collide,” she writes. “I was pounding away on my laptop while taking a call on my Blackberry when an Amish family pulled up in front of my window in their horse-drawn buggy.”
After a change in ownership, Stricker was tasked in 2011 with relocating the newspaper from its home at 209 S. High Street.
“We moved The Times-Gazette from its location on South High Street to the current location on Governor Trimble Place,” writes Stricker. “The old city building that had housed the police and fire station was transformed into a much-improved home for the paper thanks to the collaboration with Drew Hastings and his mother, who offered interior design expertise.”
In 2011, Stricker, in her role as regional publisher, hired Abernathy – who had left the Press Gazette in 1991 — to return to the newspaper where he got his start, and he continues serving as publisher and editor of The Times-Gazette.
Abernathy recalls that his first duty was to oversee the completion of the newspaper’s move to Governor Trimble Place that had begun under Stricker, a move that happened mid-week and necessitated smoothly continuing the publication of two consecutive editions of the paper without interruption, something he said was only possible due to the dedication of the entire staff.
Abernathy said the advent of websites and other digital platforms has forced newspapers to embrace new ways of delivering information and advertising. But he said the lessons of the past demonstrate that an adherence to fairness and accuracy never go out of style.
“There’s more information available in more ways than ever before, but newspapers, whether in print or online, will always be where people turn to separate fact from fiction if we do our jobs right,” he said.
Today, The Times-Gazette is owned by AIM Media, which operates newspapers and their associated digital platforms in Texas, Indiana and Ohio. The Times-Gazette is currently part of an AIM southern Ohio regional group, and Bud Hunt serves as regional publisher.
“It’s an honor to be associated with a newspaper celebrating two centuries of providing news, sports and advertising to readers across Highland County,” said Hunt. “Congratulations to The Times-Gazette, and to both the past and current staff for continuing a tradition of excellence tracing back to its beginning in 1818.”
Abernathy says the newspaper stands on the shoulders of everyone who came before, starting with Moses Carothers and his dream in 1818 of starting a newspaper in Hillsboro.
“When you read the list of owners, publishers and editors appearing elsewhere in today’s newspaper, you appreciate the fact that had anyone dropped the ball or not given the health of the paper their full attention and energy at any point over the past two centuries, we wouldn’t be here today,” Abernathy said. “They, and everyone else ever associated with this newspaper, including ad reps, circulation staffers, carriers, reporters, graphic artists, typesetters and, later, paginators, deserve a level of appreciation that words can’t properly convey, other than to say, ‘Thank you.’”
Portions of this story were taken from profiles included in the Press Gazette’s 175th special edition in 1993 overseen by former editor Liz Johnson with contributions from historian Jean Wallis. New interviews were conducted to augment that history, as well as relating events that occurred since 1993.