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DECEMBER 28, 2011 |


The Newport Miner Chronicles

The Miner Celebrating 100 years of Pend Oreille County


Newspaper arrives before most institutions By Fred Willenbrock Of The Miner


efore most businesses (except the tavern) or organized government,

printers looking to make a buck out West packed a press on a wagon to the center of any growing group of pilgrims. They made money printing advertising, legal notices and announcements with some news slipping in. Community newspapers evolved both in content and technology over the decades. The Newport Miner followed the mold in the 1800s and throughout history to what it is today.

The Newport Miner is believed to have started as the Newport Pilot in 1897. Some historical writers say these were the same publication, but others – noting the change in numbering – think not. If the 1898 issues were not missing, we would probably have the answer. M. P. Stevens was the editor/publisher of The Pilot in 1897 and 1898. W. R. Herbert was the editor/publisher of The Miner from 1899 to July 30, 1900, when he took a position with a job printing house in Spokane. The Miner on July 7, 1900, announced that the Talmadge Brothers had taken charge of the paper and would continue its publication. Warren E. Talmadge was listed as editor. During these early days, the newspaper was printed by a few people on a letter press. Simply put, type was hand gathered one letter at a time with wood engraving for art. With ink rolled on, it was pressed onto one sheet of paper at a time. There were various sizes and types of presses but the principal was the same. It was a slow and labor-intensive process. But one of these presses and someone who knew how to use them provided the only mass communication for the region. The magic of this seemed to lure individuals to The Miner as it changed hands many times, or more likely was the fact that there were easier ways to make money in the growing town. Brothers Warren and Charles Talmadge bought four large parcels of land, known as government lots, from the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1898 and proceeded to plat “Talmadge’s Addition to the Town of

Newport, Idaho,” which essentially was all of downtown Newport, Wash. They operated the Newport, Wash., Land Company in a small building near the Great Northern Railway tracks. The building also housed The Miner for a time. Talmadge relinquished the position of editor to E. W. Burrows on Feb. 12, 1901, but a month later, on Feb. 9, 1901, H. S. Swenson became editor. Swenson and Clyde C. Henton were copublishers from Aug. 10, 1901 until June 20, 1907. Hal Talmadge was the editor from June 20, 1907, to Sept. 21, 1907. An old article states that Henton planned to install a second-hand press he had purchased in 1905, but he died before the project was completed. In 1907, to make way for the new Idaho & Washington Northern Railroad, The Miner built a new office further north on Washington Avenue. A few weeks earlier, on Sept. 21, 1907, Fred L. Wolf from Elkader, Iowa, had taken over as publisher, a position he would hold for 38 years. Wolf would prove to be one of Pend Oreille County’s best promoters and benefactors. Sometime in the 1950s the first big innovation in printing arrived in most print shops like The Miner. Before that, some changes in the way type was set occurred. Instead of gathering it by hand, a machine would put the lead letters into the form for printing, following a crude typewriter. Linotype made the job faster, but by today’s standards it was like a telegraph to an iPhone. Back in Wolf’s day, since it was so time consuming for a few people, including the publisher himself, to set the type, they worked with what news they had each day and printed it. So


Newport Miner publisher Fred Wolf operates a linotype machine in The Miner office in the early 1900s.

sometimes a story about a social event would end up on the front page while a big news story was found inside. For most of his tenure, The Miner was a black and white sea of words with little art or pictures. Many of his personal crusades made the front page of The Miner. Wolf has been called the “Father of Pend Oreille County.” He was an all-around citizen activist since first coming to Newport to take the helm of the paper. The county division was his first major local cause. He also served three terms in the state House of Representatives, starting in 1919.


Above: Newport Miner Publisher Hal Talmadge is pictured in the Miner Office. FILE PHOTO

Left: The Miner staff and customers pose in front of The Miner office on Washington Avenue next to the current library.

History of The Miner • 1897 - The Newport Pilot begins its run with M. P. Stevens as editor • 1899 - Aug. 19, The first issue of The Newport Miner is published with W. R. Herbert as publisher • 1900 - July 7, the Talmadge brothers take the helm of the paper • 1901 - Feb. 12, E. W. Burrows takes over • 1901 - Feb. 9, H. S. Swenson buys the paper with Clyde C. Henton helping out • 1907 - June 20, Hal Talmadge is publisher • 1907 - Sept. 21, Fred Wolf begins his 38-year career of running The Miner • 1945 - Dec. 1, Freeman Frost takes over • 1964 - Oct. 1, Gerald E. Carpenter buys the paper • 1977 - Jim and Sherry Hubbart are co-publishers • 1986 - September, Fred and Susan Willenbrock buy the paper


| DECEMBER 28, 2011

He pushed for an improved highway through Newport including a bridge over the river, and all the way into the 1950s, he set off the first blast to build Albeni Falls Dam and lived to see its completion. Wolf passed away Oct. 29, 1957, at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane at the age of 80. “Fred Wolf had done more for this town and county than any other individual in its history, and the list of his achievements for the community will probably never be equaled,” wrote 1950s Miner publisher Freeman Frost. Wolf had sold The Miner at the end of 1945 ending a 38year career with The Miner. The new owner, Freeman S. Frost, was from Gooding, Idaho. Local pictures started appearing more often with the change of ownership and the end of the war. The change was noted a couple months into Frost’s ownership. Offset printing became the most dominant form of commercial printing in the

 1950s. This was in part due to industry improvements in paper, inks and plates. These improvements allowed for greater speed and plate durability. The majority of modern day printing is still done using the offset printing process. A cylinder was wrapped with a metal plate that was pressed against ink and water rollers. Just below the metal plate cylinder was a blanket cylinder. Below that was an impression cylinder, which fed the paper against the blanket cylinder so that the image could be transferred. While the basic process in offset printing has remained the same, some modern innovations include twosided printing and using large rolls of paper fed into the machines. Also direct to plate from computer technology is now used. Freeman S. Frost was editor/ publisher from Dec. 1. 1945, to Oct. 1, 1964. Featured in the book “Pend Oreille Profiles” by Lee Taylor, Frost said during the Depression

when he was forced to leave college and go back to work, he sold newspaper subscriptions part time. “Customers paid for subscriptions with chickens, vegetables, old roosters and beetle-stung potatoes. I did my own cooking and never asked for any pay as long as I had enough to get by. “Mostly women subscribed to the weekly papers. I’ll never forget the husband who phoned and said, ‘my wife has a subscription with your paper, but she died last week and won’t be needing it any longer.” Gerald and Beverly Carpenter purchased The Miner from Frost in 1965. They cited pressure from other interests as a chief reason for their decision to end their 12year proprietorship in 1977. Carpenter had been active in real estate development and taught full time at Spokane Community College. Co-publishers Jim and Sherry Hubbart from California took over from the Carpenters in 1977. Jim, 50 at the time, was

Long-time employee worked through changes in technology, publishers By Don Gronning Of The M iner


n 1961, Lee Smith was just out of high school when he heard about an opening

at The Miner. “I was working at Pat’s Picture shop at the time,” Smith remembers. The ad salesman for The Miner came by and suggested that Smith go down and apply for a job. So Smith did. That began a career in printing that lasted more than four decades, all at The Newport Miner. Smith saw the newspaper industry change dramatically in the time that he was at The Miner. He worked for four different publishers. “When I first started, I was a printer’s devil,” Smith said. A printer’s devil was an apprentice who did a variety of tasks, from mixing ink to taking out the trash. Building a newspaper was far different in those days. Individual letters were cast in metal and arranged in lines. The lines were adjusted for space and then put into a rack that made up the page. The letter-filled rack would weigh as much as 50 pounds. Ink was rolled over the top and the page was printed on newsprint. “We printed our own paper in those days,” Smith said. They would hand feed the pages into the printer, one sheet at a time. Then they would turn the page over and print the other side. “Most of the time we printed eight-page papers,” Smith said. Adding more pages meant quite a bit of work, involving two extra people. Reporters and correspondents would hand write their stories. They would then go to the typesetter, who would type the stories on a linotype machine. The linotype machine was 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Typists would type on a keyboard that bore little resemblance to today’s keyboard. The top three rows were for lowercase letters, with the next three rows for capitals and another row for dingbats, the ornamental characters that were used for spacing and decoration. The letters were grouped so that commonly used words could be easily typed, such as the word “the,” which could be typed with one movement. By the time Smith retired in 2003, printing of the newspaper bore little resemblance to the way it was made four decades earlier. A few years after Smith started, reporters started writing with manual typewriters. Each desk had a bottle of rubber cement and reporters would cut and paste their stories together, handing off to the typesetter, who typed them again. Jump forward to the early 1990s, when reporters and editors moved to McIntosh computers. The paper was first laid out electronically, using a page layout program, although in the end the page was pasted onto layout sheets and a negative was shot of the whole page. Digital cameras replaced the film cameras and eventually the whole paper was laid out

and electronically transmitted to the printer. Smith also worked for four of The Miner’s publishers. “All the owners were funny,” Smith said. He started out working for Freeman Frost. “He took a lot of photos,” Smith said. He remembers the annual Christmas pictures of the Frost beagle, with its long ears. Frost was just an ordinary person, Smith said. “He really wasn’t like a boss,” he said. Frost would take a month off in the summer. “He’d just tell us to make sure the paper got out,” Smith said. Frost sold the paper to Jerry Carpenter in the mid 1960s. “He was into real estate,” Smith remembers. “He would sell five-acre parcels for $25 a month.” Carpenter also taught FILE PHOTO community Lee Smith worked at The Miner for college 40 years. courses, including courses in journalism. Since he was away so much, his wife and son handled much of the newspaper business, Smith said. “One day I took off my apron and told him, ‘you try this on, I quit,’” Smith said. “He asked why. I told him I had too many bosses.” In the end, Smith didn’t quit. The paper was sold to Jim and Sherry Hubbart in 1977. Hubbart was a big city newspaper and ad man from California. He wasn’t afraid of controversy, and the stories reflected it. He wasn’t always beloved by some of the subjects of his stories. That didn’t bother him much, though, Smith said. “He always said, ‘if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen,’” Smith remembers. “He would say, ‘this is my paper and I’ll run it the way I want to.’” The current publisher, Fred Willenbrock, took over in 1986. Smith said the first time he met Willenbrock, he thought he was a new reporter. Smith didn’t know the paper was for sale. In fact, every time the paper changed hands, the staff was among the last to know, he said. “It was always a shock to the employees,” he said. But Willenbrock was indeed the new publisher, Smith’s fourth. “He was the best editorial writer of all of them,” Smith said. No matter whose name was on the masthead as publisher, Smith said the paper was really owned by the community. “The Newport Miner belongs to Pend Oreille County,” Smith said.


A ‘Miner’ mix up More than 112 years ago, the first issue of The Newport Miner appeared on the streets of Newport and around Stevens County. (There was still no Pend Oreille County at the time.) Or at least that is the indication from early copies of The Miner and other early historical writings. There are no known remaining copies of the first issue. Writings at the Pend Oreille County Historical Museum in Newport state that the first issue was dated Aug. 19, 1899. The first issues that are known to exist are both at the museum – June 30, 1900, and July 7, 1900. These are the last two issues of the first year of publication. The second year of publication began on July 14, 1900, making one question the authenticity of the August startup date. An article published in The Miner back in 1945 stated that the first year of publication was 1902, and that apparently has been accepted as the actual date, even though published information showed otherwise. Most weekly newspapers are numbered by the year, with the first issue known as Volume 1, No. 1 and the second issue a veteran daily newspaper reporter with an eye for news and photography. He had been director of creative services for an advertising agency before bringing the family to Newport. Sherry, then 36, had a background in retailing, sales and business administration. They also took over The Gem State Miner, which circulates in West Bonner County, Idaho. It was started by Carpenter’s 21-year-old son Eric. They continued the tradition of Miner publishers, pushing their adopted communities toward better economic days. Both were involved behind the scenes from recruiting a newsprint mill to the community to filling the empty keyboard manufacturing building in Newport. Community newspaper technology was really starting to evolve. Most of it was in the “pre-press” work. Primitive computers were used to make type on photosensitive paper, replacing the hot metal. Stories at The Miner were first typed on manual Royal typewriters and someone would then enter the words on film. It was pasted on paper and photographed by a giant camera. The negative made the plate for the press. This meant that better quality and timeliness of news was increasing in rural communities The Miner covered. Jim Hubbart, who also

being Volume 1, No. 2, on through issue 52. The Miner uses a slight variation, going with “First Year” instead of Volume 1. This is possibly a chicken versus the egg situation, since most of The Miner’s numbering errors occurred in the first seven or eight years. Assuming the July date is correct, what should be the Tenth Year, No. 1, is actually listed as the Eighth Year. An exhaustive study as to where the errors were made has not been done because of the fragile condition of those early publications, but this accounts for the lost years on The Newport Miner’s nameplate. But actually, there is still another error. The Miner “Year” now flips over in late February, instead of in July or August. This is because publishers faithfully have included 52 weekly issues in each year of publication. But every two to four years, one of the publication dates falls on a “Fifth Wednesday.” When that happened, there should have been 53 issues for that year. Over the better part of a century, The Miner’s new year has backed up nearly five months.

served as editor, was not afraid of controversy or covering hot stories. In a note to Hubbart, Robert Mathews, the infamous leader of a white supremacist group,

Hubbart wrote: “1985 was a year that began in anticipation and ended in apprehension.” When Fred and Susan Willenbrock, both 34 at the time, arrived in Newport


Freeman Frost became publisher of The Miner in 1945.

The Order, killed by FBI agents, wrote: “Over the past several years you have shown journalistic integrity and courage through your willingness to treat my letters fairly and impartially even though they were extremely controversial …” The Miner staff had earned awards during the decade. One judge wrote: “It is obvious J. E. Hubbart is not afraid of controversy.” In what was his last “Year in Review,” column before retiring in January 1986,


Beverly and Gerald Carpenter purchased The Miner from Freeman Frost in 1965.

to take the reins of The Newport Miner, they didn’t know if they were in their new community’s low point or high point. The couple from the Seattle area was about to own their first newspaper. They officially took over the business in September 1986. Around them, Keytronic was selling their building, the paper mill was on hold, Albeni’s sawmill was on strike, federal agents were still chasing white supremacists around and unemployment was in double digits. Willenbrock was a University of Washington journalism graduate who had managed newspapers in the Seattle area. He said Hubbart told him this was the newsiest place he had ever worked. Susan had worked in education and youth programs and was only planning to help out part time at The Miner. She has never given up full time work in most departments. Husband and wife teams were once common in all community newspapers, including The Miner. When the Willenbrocks took over, Hubbart had been SEE MINER PAGE 12A


hospitalized a year earlier with a heart attack and as he put it in his final editorial: “You got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Willenbrock wrote: “Several have let us know that some tough economic storms have hit. One of the first men I met was leaving town.” But he went on to say that becoming the publisher of a community newspaper is like becoming a guardian. “It’s only temporary, with a beginning and end. And during your time, you can only hope the newspaper serves the community, readers and advertisers.” Hubbart wrote: “We pass the torch to a young and capable publisher who we feel confident will carry on a long and proud tradition at these newspapers.” That ended his nine years at The Miner. Willenbrock, who remains the current publisher, become the seventh and second longest on the job. He served as president of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association in 1996. Just a few years after arriving, Willenbrock started to dramatically change the technology used to produce his newspapers. Typewriters were replaced by typesetting word processers. Every few years, these were replaced by next generation computers, eventually morphing into typesetter and layout tools. Just as equipment was bought, it became obsolete. The darkroom and chemicals haven’t been used for years

and photography is done by digital cameras downloaded to computers. Computers were networked and very little paper changed hands. Pages are emailed to the press. Quality and timeliness reached unprecedented levels by 2000. It allowed more color, which was absent until the late 1990s. More special sections were added and expanded. Today, The Miner also publishes a website, has mobile applications, digital video, and connects with readers via social networks including Facebook and Twitter. During the years, the staff has earned numerous awards from peer groups and organizations for their work in news writing, advertising, opinions, photography and community service. In 2009, the newspaper earned the general excellence award from the Washington Newspaper Publisher’s Association going up against much larger newspapers. That same year, the paper earned the community service award for promoting the renovation the Newport School District’s sports stadium. Just like publishers of the past have done, The Miner, its owners and its staff have their hearts in this community. They champion its causes, watch out for their best interests, and along the way, tell the story of its people. Editor’s note: The story was compiled from a history of the early Newport Miner written by former reporter Mike Denuty, from the pages of The Miner and from the memories of current and past employees.

The History of The Miner  

A history of The Miner Newspapers, the finale in the Centennial series, celebrating 100 years of Pend Oreille County