This article, written by Associate Editor Steve Keller, appeared in the front page Sun Corner column in our Two Year Anniversary (print) Edition on April 14, 2007. It is permanently archived here to give our online Telegram readers a sense of the publication's history, our 125+ year track record of local ownership, and our commitment to Jackson and Vinton Counties both now and in the future.
Those of us who are blessed and proud to be working at The Telegram are preparing to celebrate the second anniversary of what I'll call The New Telegram. We are blessed and proud because we're all part of a team that is most likely one of - if not THE best - teams of "newspaper people" ever assembled in these parts.
There are those who like to refer to The Telegram as a new newspaper, but they are wrong. The Telegram is a very old newspaper that now wears a new face.
I've told this story in bits and pieces before, but I'll add a little detail this time since the two year mark is something special. It tells our readers, and others, that we are here to stay. Even from the first day of our new venture, we were here to stay and as we continue to grow and prosper in virtually every way a newspaper can, we have a lot of which to be proud.
But, let's get to the history of this old newspaper.
First and foremost, The Telegram has been locally owned since its inception in the 1880s. The paper began as The Coalton Times, then the owners moved it to Wellston and it became The Wellston Republican, and then, in 1893, it became The Wellston Telegram, In the mid-1990s, I changed the newspaper's name to The Telegram, reflecting a very solid two county circulation.
There are those who feel that local ownership is not good. They are wrong. No matter how that issue is rationalized or twisted, they are wrong. When it comes to newspapers, local ownership is tied to success because the emphasis is on local people, local news, a commitment to everything local, and a commitment to the betterment of the area served. That cannot happen when the ownership is in a faraway town or state and doesn't have a clue as to what is good, or not good, for the people and communities served.
Every newspaper in Jackson County and Vinton County that has been successful has been locally owned and that fact goes back many, many years to a time when all papers were locally owned.
Do not be fooled by ideas to the contrary. When it comes to newspapers, and to many other businesses, local ownership is of primary importance.
That said, and as a historical reference, Benjamin Griffith started this newspaper in Coalton and was the first owner. He sold the paper to H. V. Speelman and Frank Smallwood and they were responsible for moving the paper to Wellston. As a note of historical importance, Speelman entered government service and ultimately served as Treasurer of the United States.
Speelman and Smallwood sold the paper to Mrs. E. E. Burton and her son Elmer G. Hull, who changed the name to The Wellston Telegram. Hall became editor and business manager until 1898 when the paper was sold to the family of the legendary John Sylvester, then a student of journalism at The Ohio State University. The life of John Sylvester is a story in itself, but is too long to explore here.
The Sylvesters owned the Wellston Telegram until 1964 when Larry Townsend took over. In 1972, G. B. "Bernard" McKinniss took over and owned it until January 1981 when I purchased the paper and operated it for 24 years.
That made me the 7th owner and Alan Stockmeister became the 8th owner when I sold the newspaper to him in January 2005. While the paper was sold in January, it wasn't until April when production of the new Telegram actually began. It took that long to buy just the right equipment, hire the right people, and develop the right business plan. From January through April, The Telegram was put together in Wellston just as it had been for years with very few people even aware of the sale.
When I bought the paper in 1981, we still did some typesetting by hand but quickly went to computers. Those computers were nothing compared to the equipment we use today. Everything is digital now, a technology that did not exist in 1981, and since that time the entire way of producing a newspaper has changed.
Some things have not changed. First is our commitment to being Local, Local, Local. Second is the commitment to being ethical and honest in all business practices. Thirdly, journalists are human and make mistakes, but the challenge is to not make an error of fact. But if it happens, you apologize, correct the error, and continue to focus so it won't happen again. Fourth, be fair to all sides of an issue in all you do and treat all parties with respect even if you disagree with what they are saying or doing.
The Telegram has always had the reputation of being ethical, honest, and fair and still does.
Good things continue at The Telegram. In 2005 when I sold the paper, we had a staff of three. We now have a staff of nearly 20 which doesn't include one group of very important people -- our carriers. In 2001, The Telegram started a website which was a very popular addition to the paper with readers and old friends from around the world corresponding through it. That was dropped at the time of the sale, but will soon return in a form so strong it will eclipse the old site.
Then there are the state awards we have won and the kudos we continue to receive from a variety of people and organizations in a variety of places. Our circulation continues to grow every week to a point that does the heart of this old journalist good. That's all pretty impressive taking into consideration that this journey was started just two years ago.
We have now expanded into Vinton County and have received a reception there that has surpassed even my wildest dream. It really does make sense to cover both counties since each complements the other.
If it sounds like I am blowing my own horn, or the horn of The Telegram, I guess I am. Those of us who work at The Telegram have become a close-knit family and a well-oiled machine when it comes to serving you, our readers, with our "all local" approach to all things. We are proudly producing a quality newspaper just for you, and that's exactly what you deserve.