Green_Bay_News-Chronicle

Green Bay News-Chronicle

The Green Bay News-Chronicle (originally known as the Green Bay Daily News) was a daily newspaper published in Green Bay, Wisconsin, from 1972 to 2005. The paper was owned and operated by Denmark, Wisconsin-based Brown County Publishing Company during much of its existence, and competed with the larger and more established Green Bay Press-Gazette. The Gannett newspaper chain, the Press-Gazette's parent company, owned the News-Chronicle during its last year of existence.

History

The Early Years

The News-Chronicle launched on November 13 1972 as The Green Bay Daily News. The International Typographical Union went on strike against the Press-Gazette, unhappy with the hot-lead-to-computer typeset changeover and other new technologies that the Press-Gazette and other newspapers were acquiring at that time, which the union feared would cost their membership their jobs. The Daily News was formed to bring in money for the strikers and to support their cause.

From 1972 to 1976, the Daily News consistently lost money in its head-to-head competition with the Press-Gazette (both newspapers were distributed in the afternoon at the time). Wealthy local businessman Victor McCormick, who had a personal dislike for the Press-Gazette, would become a major investor in the Daily News and remain an active voice in its operations until a 1976 heart attack forced him to end his financial support.

Frank Wood Takes Over

With the Daily News on the verge of bankruptcy and owing one of their creditors enough money to have them pull the plug, that creditor--Brown County Publishing Co., publisher of several weekly publications in Northeast Wisconsin and the Daily News' printer--agreed to buy the Daily News. The company's owner, Frank A. Wood, made the purchase feeling that the Green Bay community could still benefit from two daily newspapers.

Wood's first major change to the paper had already taken place three years earlier (at the time Brown County Publishing began printing the paper), when the Daily News moved from afternoon to morning publication. After the purchase, the paper would be rechristened the Green Bay News-Chronicle (the hyphenated name referencing Wood's weekly paper, the Brown County Chronicle). Wood also revamped the paper from broadsheet to a tabloid format, which made it easier to read at the breakfast table. The cosmetic changes also pertained to Wood as well; after purchasing the paper, he started to grow a beard and vowed not to shave until the paper had a break-even month. It took 21 months and a 13-inch beard before the News-Chronicle turned a $125.81 profit in November 1977.

Content-wise, Wood brought editorial cartoonist Lyle Lahey over from the weekly Chronicle to the daily News-Chronicle. Lahey and his cartoons were a prominent feature of the News-Chronicle's Opinion section right up until the paper's closing. The Opinion section also featured a lively array of local columnists with various viewpoints; Curt Andersen, Ray Barrington, Warren Bluhm, Michelle Kennedy, Bill LuMaye, Yvonne Metivier and Sid Vineburg were among those who wrote columns for the paper through the years. (Both Bluhm and LuMaye were noted Green Bay radio personalities.)

The News-Chronicle would gain a niche audience with its local sports coverage, including reportage on the sport of bowling. Wood decided to market subscriptions to the local bowling community, promising that their sport would receive better and more prominent coverage in the News-Chronicle. The move paid off with a substantial increase in subscriptions from area bowlers, as well as the paper earning several awards from bowling organizations for its in-depth coverage of the sport.

The Battle with Gannett

By the mid 1980s, the paper had just started to make an occasional profit when Gannett (which had bought the Press-Gazette in 1980) started to make life difficult for the News-Chronicle, which at the time had a circulation of 15,000 compared to the Press-Gazette's 100,000. By virtue of its worldwide presence, Gannett could afford to sell their advertising at a much lower price in order to stifle or kill competing papers such as the News-Chronicle.

Wood had long disdained Gannett and its operation of the Press-Gazette, but felt that the conglomerate's tactics went too far. He would respond by calling on longtime friend and Santa Fe Reporter editor/publisher Richard McCord to document for the News-Chronicle the tactics Gannett used to rid their competition in other two-newspaper towns. In November and December 1989, those findings were printed in an award-winning two-week series titled "It's Now Or Never", which chronicled the alleged abuses by Gannett and moves that the News-Chronicle had made to counter the Press-Gazette's tactics. McCord later wrote a book about Gannett's abuses and the News-Chronicle series, titled The Chain Gang: One Newspaper Versus the Gannett Empire (University of Missouri Press, 1996).

"It's Now Or Never" served as a battle cry for the News-Chronicle in its efforts to survive and remain a 2nd voice in the Green Bay newspaper market. In terms of being a "call to arms" to local readers, however, the series proved to be too successful. The increased attention the series provided, along with subscription incentives, resulted in a deluge of subscription orders. The increase overwhelmed the paper's circulation staff; many subscribers would become unhappy with the poor customer service that resulted, and they would drop their subscriptions after they ran out.

Advancements in the 1990s

Thanks to an upgrade at the paper's Denmark printing facilities in the mid 1990s, the News-Chronicle would add full-color photography and graphics to the paper. A major redesign in 1997 (one of several during that decade) gave the paper a full-color front and back page. The paper's sections would also undergo redesigns, including the Friday entertainment section "Rave!"

The News-Chronicle launched a Web site in September 1996, greenbaynewschron.com, getting on the Internet ahead of its competition. The entry was timely, as the Green Bay Packers' run to Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII would give the paper and its sports coverage worldwide attention.

By 1998, the Press-Gazette would change from an afternoon to a morning newspaper, first changing subscriptions in outlying rural areas to morning distribution and then gradually doing the same for Green Bay metropolitan area subscribers. This would cause both newspapers to once again go head-to-head for subscribers and readership.

In 1999, the News-Chronicle would begin a Sunday edition which would be distributed as part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, requiring subscribers to take the Milwaukee paper if they wanted the News-Chronicle's Sunday edition. The move was seen as increasing the visibility of the Green Bay paper. After a few months, the News-Chronicle also sold its Sunday edition separately, and the joint venture started to dissolve when the Journal Sentinel changed distribution in the Green Bay area from its regular Sunday edition to an earlier, less-complete edition.

At the same time, the News-Chronicle also added a Sunday supplement, This Week, with writing from other newspapers owned by Brown County Publishing.

The End of the Line

Wood's printing operation and other successful weeklies provided the profits to cover the News-Chronicle's losses. But by 2004, the then-76-year-old Wood finally ran out of steam. A downturn in the commercial printing market, as well as no set plans for succession within the company, led Wood to sell his operations--and to the most unlikeliest of buyers. On July 23 2004, Wood announced he had decided to sell the News-Chronicle and his other weeklies to Gannett for an undisclosed price (though that price had been rumored to be $3.2 million). Wood would keep ownership of his printing business as well as an automobile sales publication.

Many of the News-Chronicle's employees (and undoubtedly many of its loyal readers) were stunned at the announcement, but Gannett had said they would keep the status quo for the short term. Although the News-Chronicle continued to publish as a separate paper, and received printing and technological upgrades as it was switched to Gannett facilities and presses, its circulation and advertising functions would gradually be merged with that of the Press-Gazette.

The News-Chronicle's ownership by Gannett couldn't reverse the paper's failing health, as advertisers decided to spend their advertising money with the larger Gannett newspaper. On May 26 2005, Gannett announced that the paper would cease operations with the June 3 2005 edition. The News-Chronicle had been the longest-running "strike paper" in newspaper publishing history, and the only one to have survived as long as it did since the end of World War II. Most of its remaining employees were offered jobs at other Gannett publications in the area.

References

  • "It's -30- for the N-C," Green Bay News-Chronicle, June 3 2005 (reposted at )

External links

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