Some things I learned while putting together the special section marking the 125th birthday of the Times-News, which will be published on Wednesday:
1. The first editor of what would become the Times-News was married for 34 years but no one knew he had a wife.
2. One of the newspapers started in competition with what would one day be the Times-News but quickly failed was called the Burlington Daily What Is It. (This is an obvious example of how important the name might be when it comes to a product’s potential success.)
3. The Times-News has had editors that fought in the Civil War, World War I and World War II.
4. When the Titanic sank in 1912, the newspaper, which wasn’t a daily at the time, didn’t have anything about it for a couple of days, and even then put the story on an inside page. Back in those days, news didn’t travel at nearly the speed it does today. Early reports about the unsinkable ship striking an iceberg and going to a watery grave were sketchy and scant. (An example, really, of how much things have changed in the past 100 years.)
5. David Rutledge, the boss here when I was hired in 1984, was the first publisher in Times-News history. Up to that time the newspaper only had editors, owners and general managers.
6. Robert M. Lyons was the first Times-News publisher — or executive — who was not a North Carolina native. (Best I can tell, anyway.)
7. News via wire services about world and national events once dominated the newspaper’s pages. (There’s a lot more local news now than there was in say, 1965).
8. I once bought a beer and a burger in Beaufort from a former Times-News editor. (Well, I didn’t learn this one from putting together the special section. Pretty much knew it when I walked into the Royal James Café.)
9. The paper that became the Times-News was sold in the late 1800s for $200. (And people think newspapers are going cheap now.)
10 An early editor left the newspaper because he found the entire business “too exhausting,” and couldn’t make any money at it. He also told friends that being controversial was starting to “get on his nerves.” (An example, really, of how little things have changed in the last 100 years.)
11. From 1937 to today, the newspaper has only had eight editors. A pretty amazing record when you stop to consider exhaustion, money and nerves.
Yes, on Wednesday the Times-News turns 125. Some people in our office have had the date marked on their calendars for quite some time. In fact, Don Bolden, our editor emeritus, first mentioned it to me last summer. But we didn’t get around to really planning for it until sometime in February or March. By newspaper standards, this kind of meticulous preparation is unheard of. Usually, we simply wing it two days in advance.
For this occasion, we tried something different. A group that included Bolden, managing editor Jay Ashley, publisher Paul Mauney, advertising director Mike Little, sales manager Serena Bowman, marketing director Michele Terry, production manager Darryl Ayers, and circulation director Todd Benz began to meet and plan a course of action for the newspaper’s birthday. A banner was devised for the front page, a website featuring the area’s history and our historic front pages was developed and events for the public were scheduled. We centered our efforts on the theme: “Our history is your history” so our readers would be involved. I asked local historian Walter Boyd to help compile a history of the Times-News that will be included in our special section on Wednesday.
And perhaps most importantly, we decided to count down the 125 days to July 25 with a daily look at events and people that shaped this community during the life span of the newspaper. Bolden, Ashley and graphics editor Linda Bowden took a lead role in providing this ambitious 125-part series.
That’s right, a 125-part series.
The series has had some unexpected pleasures. First and foremost is the great interest readers have in it. The feedback we received on this feature has been phenomenal to say the least. Nearly every day we get a positive comment in some form or another about it.
That has to be some kind of record.
This coming week we have several events planned. Monday, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is playing at Williams High School. Tickets are still available and will be on sale at the door. Wednesday we publish our special section. The edition that day will also include a photo essay and a story looking at a history of people who have delivered the Times-News.
And on Thursday we will have a public open house where anyone in the community is invited to stop by our office on 707 South Main St. It’s from 3 to 6 p.m. There is no cost.