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NOV 04- NOV 12, 2014

Say Goodnight to the Tonawanda News; Local Institution Gives Up the Ghost

By Mike Hudson

November 04, 2014

The banner and top of fold headline of Sept. 12, 1942 Evening News, later known as the Tonawanda News.

When you’re in the newspaper business, seeing any paper cease publication is a bittersweet thing, even though it might present new opportunities for the one you happen to be working at. So it’s with sadness we note the passing of the Tonawanda News, which announced last week it will close its doors on Jan. 31 after 134 years of publication.

Founded on April Fools’ Day, 1880, as the North Tonawanda Daily News by Dr. George S. Hobbie, the paper served the thriving western terminus of the Erie Canal, then one of the fastest growing and most prosperous regions in the nation.

Hobbie had come to the area to work for a weekly paper known as the Tonawanda Index, and it wasn’t long before opportunity presented itself.

The owner of the Index, Hobbie later wrote, had rather “lost it,” and was not paying any particular attention to business affairs. Hobbie was left to run the failing publication. He hadn’t been paid in six months, he wrote, but stayed on, “as I had nothing else to do.”

One day, a group of local merchants showed up at the Index office hoping to buy advertising. Hobbie, who must have been quite the cool customer, convinced them to bankroll him in a new publication instead.

“(On) the first day of April, 1880, the momentous issue appeared and was, of course, at once branded by everybody as an April Fools’ joke,” he wrote. "I think that some thought the second and third issues might be classified that way; but as they appeared promptly at noon every day, people soon became convinced of our good faith, at least.”

Later, Hobbie sold the paper to Charles E. Hewitt, who passed the paper down to his son, Charles Jr., following his death in 1942. When Charles Jr. died, the family sold the paper to legendary Pennsylvania newspaper publisher George Sample who held it briefly before flipping it to the Alabama-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. in the 1990s.

According to North Tonawanda History Museum Executive Director Donna Zellner Neal, “The paper we have in recent years called the ‘Tonawanda News’ was known as the Daily News when it was founded. Over the years it became known as the Evening News, the Tonawanda Evening News, and the Tonawanda News. As a youngster, while it was called the Evening News, it was always referred to as ‘the Tonawanda paper’. Of course, we also then had the wonderful Buffalo Courier-Express and the Buffalo News, which were called ‘the Buffalo papers’ and were referred to by adults in my family as ‘the Courier and the News.’

“Although it had disintegrated in the last decade into a ghost of what it once was, at one time it had almost 15,000 in paid circulation. In my review of old archival records this week, I saw that the local paper listed its daily circulation proudly at the top of the page and, I noted that, on Jan. 22, 1953, the paid circulation was 10,550.”

As of last week, when it announced its closure, the circulation of the Tonawanda News was under 5,000.

Recent years have been tough ones for newspapers, particularly urban dailies with union workers. Some of the biggest papers in the country have ceased publication. The rise of the internet, with its’ promise of making all information free, combined with shrinking advertising revenue and circulation based on the economic plight along the Niagara Frontier, sounded the death knell for the once proud Tonawanda News.

A Western New York institution for 134 years, her presses will go silent on Jan. 31.During that time, untold numbers of fine writers, editors and printers passed through her doors.

Some of the Reporter's staff had roles there too. Senior Editor Tony Farina was their news editor during the middle1960s. I was a staff writer during the 1990s. Editor Frank Parlato was a stringer during the 1980s. Reporter Publisher Peter Mio was the News’ publisher from 2008 until 2014.

The News provided many generations of Lumber City residents with the news of the day. Now she’ll be relegated to the morgues of the local public library and historical society. No one with curiosity in their hearts and printer’s ink running through their veins can take any joy in that.






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Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina