04/07/10 — The News-Argus is 125 today

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The News-Argus is 125 today

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on April 7, 2010 1:46 PM

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The front page of the first edition of the Goldsboro Daily Argus, printed on April 7, 1885. The page contained public meeting notices, society news, commodity prices, ads for cigars and hats and a reminder that subscriptions to the new publication were still available.

Grover Cleveland had just been inaugurated as the 22nd president. The United States flag carried only 38 stars. Mark Twain had just published his new novel, "Huckleberry Finn." A practical automobile wouldn't be invented for another year. The zipper was still 10 years away.

It was into this world that The Daily Argus began publication, 125 years ago today.

And the Argus, named for the mythological 100-eyed beast that never slept, has been delivering the news to Wayne County readers ever since.

A little figuring shows that's more than 39,000 newspapers, complete with births, deaths, marriages, politics, war, crime, sports, photographs, editorials, columns, features, comics and stories written to capture the human element in the news, not just the cold, hard facts.

Today's News-Argus is a result of the merger of the Argus with the Daily News, a competitor, in 1929.

The Argus was founded by Col. Joseph Robinson, who was its first editor. J.M. Nash was its publisher.

The first edition was four pages, with notices about the next meeting of the board of aldermen, an upcoming ball sponsored by the young men of the city and horse races to be held on the edge of town. It noted the balmy weather and contained railroad schedules, a couple of jokes, prices for cotton and cattle and ads for hamburg hats, cigars, coffins, clocks, other newspapers, ladies' clothing "at slaughtering prices" and also contained what was likely the paper's first typo -- "readres" instead of readers in one column.

The Daily Argus was published as a morning newspaper until 1922, when it became an afternoon publication.

In February of that same year, another Goldsboro newspaper was founded, The News, by Roland Beasley, John Beasley, Matt H. Allen, R.E. Powell, W.W. Minton and John D. Langston, with Langston as president, Roland Beasley as editor and Powell as reporter.

In 1926, Henry Belk, a native of Monroe who had studied journalism at Duke University and Columbia University, joined The News as its editor.

Talbot Patrick purchased controlling interest in The Daily Argus from Col. Robinson in May 1929 and in September of the same year he bought controlling interest in The News, merging the two papers that month. The first edition of The Goldsboro News-Argus hit the streets on Monday, Sept. 23, 1929.

The name News-Argus was decided upon because it was considered easier to say than Argus-News.

The newspaper, which had first operated out of a building on West Chestnut Street, later moved to a location on South James Street, and in 1934, to a brick building on North James.

Patrick served as publisher until October 1953, when the newly chartered Wayne Printing Co., bought the newspaper. Hal H. Tanner became the new publisher and president of the company. Belk was named vice president, Carmadge Walls secretary-treasurer and Elizabeth Stroud assistant secretary-treasurer

A native of Savannah, Ga., Tanner grew up in Kentucky and graduated from the University of Kentucky. He had worked on newspapers in South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas prior to coming to Goldsboro. His father, Thomas, also had been in the newspaper business.

Eugene Price started at the newspaper as a reporter and succeeded Belk as editor, guiding news coverage until the 1990s.

Among the reporters who got their start at the newspaper was Eugene Roberts, a Wayne County native who later worked as a reporter for The Detroit Free Press and The New York Times and eventually became the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, leading its staff to 17 Pulitzer Prizes in 18 years.

The newspaper moved to its present location at 310 N. Berkeley Blvd., on May 11, 1970. The facility, the first home the paper had that had been designed specifically for newspaper production, also allowed The News-Argus to switch from the old style of printing, known as "hot type," to offset printing. Headline and copy typefaces also were changed.

The building was designed by Conrad Wessell and built by F and J Construction of Fremont. The facility, which sits on seven acres of land, was expanded in 2003 to improve production and delivery capabilities.

Tanner served as publisher until Jan. 1, 1984, when he became chairman of the board, and Hal Tanner Jr., who had previously served as general manager, took over the reins of publisher. Hal Tanner III was named general manager in 2000.

Today, The News-Argus, like every newspaper everywhere, is adjusting to life in the Internet age. With an award-winning Web site, the newspaper is making the leap from the days of the horse and buggy to the 21st century, still relying on the same formula that has kept the paper at full throttle all these years -- hard work, an ear for the news and an eye that never sleeps.