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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Remembering newspaper history in the Tri-Valley

By Barry Schrader.................................January 19, 2006

Every three years in January there is a gathering of journalists who once toiled in the Tri-Valley in the most competitive newspaper market in the country. This reunion is a chance to reminisce about the “good old days” and remember friends and competitors who are no longer around.

When I say this is the most competitive media market in the country I am not kidding. Where else will you find two competing dailies, two weeklies, a radio station, a shopper, and two local magazines--all crowded into a valley of some 200,000 residents?

People are very fortunate to live in a community where they have choices in subscribing to local papers, or, like me, read all of them just to see who scoops whom or how the same meeting is covered by three or four different reporters. Plus you can watch your favorite city council or school board on local cable television.

Anyway, getting back to the oldtimers reunion, a tradition that was begun 25 years ago and continues on a tri-annual basis--we get to share “war stories” about our past bosses like the late Dean Lesher, the late Floyd Sparks, and Joan Kinney Seppala (who is still very much alive).

Does anyone remember the oldest living editor of the Herald? He now resides in Monmouth, Oregon and is moving to Vancouver, Washington with his wife Patty this week. Dublin Chamber manager Nancy Feeley and I reminisce about him on occasion as he was the first (unpaid) secretary of her Chamber back in the late 1960s. His name is John Oliver, who will be 86 years old this year. He started as a stringer (correspondent who was paid by the story or by the column inch) at the Herald in 1966. John probably holds the record for the greatest variety of assignments at the paper, as he covered every part of the valley (except he never encroached on Kitty Archibald’s beat which was P-town). He worked his way up to editor in 1970, a post he kept for two years. He then became associate editor, a position he occupied until 1985 when he retired.

John will likely be remembered as the nicest guy anyone ever met in newspapering. He didn’t fit the mold of the hard-hitting, gruff, get-the-story-at-all-costs newsman depicted in the movies. And close behind John in the “oldest living” category is Art Henry who was editor of the Herald when his family owned it and now at age 79 lives in Southern California.

Also a record holder in local media history is Tim Hunt who began at the Herald in 1968 while a senior at Amador High. He moved through the ranks to sports editor, city editor, editor and then associate publisher, racking up a total of 38 years so far in valley journalism.

Here’s a trivia question for you: Which paper has had the most female editors over the years? It is the Valley Times, whose editors have included Marie Felde, now Director of Media Relations for UC Berkeley, Karen Magnuson, now a newspaper editor in New York, and Kelly Gust (whose spouse is columnist Pat Craig) who has been editor there for the past eight years.

I just found out by talking with Jerri Long of Pleasanton that she was the first reporter hired on the newly-created Valley Times in 1971 when it opened offices on Village Parkway in Dublin. The new editor Don Keller transferred her from the Contra Costa Times (aka The Green Sheet) as she was a Pleasanton resident and knew the valley well.

Going back further, who was the first female news reporter hired by the Pleasanton Times (later merged with the Valley Times)? It was Pat Widder who worked for publisher-editor John Edmands about five years until 1975. She is now on the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune and shared some fond thoughts about her old boss when we talked on the phone. And I can’t overlook Pat Lane who wrote for the Independent for 17.5 years, then the Herald for four more. Previous to that she did some special sections articles for the Pleasanton Times, as she recalls. Another woman journalist who wrote for both the Independent and Herald is Joan Boer, adding up to 24 years in newspapering locally.

Now let’s look at another record—a man who served as editor of no less than four newspapers in the East Bay, one of them twice. It is Ernie Hines who began his career with the Hayward Daily Review, served a short stint as editor of a new paper in Fremont called the Argus, then moved to the San Jose Mercury. Next he was named editor of the Valley Times in 1984-85, then the Contra Costa Times from 1985 to 1990, then moved to the Herald in 1991, was laid off, but came back as editor of the Herald again from 1996 to 2000. Ernie is now retired and enjoying life back in his home state of Nebraska with his wife Jane.

Turning to the Independent we find someone who has served as editor longer than anyone else in the valley. It is Janet Armantrout who has been on the staff since its early days in 1964 and has held the top editorial position for at least the past 15 years. And of course her boss, Joan Seppala, has been a newspaper publisher longer than anyone else in the valley except for the Henry family (Arthur, Maitland and Art) who owned the Herald from 1899 up to 1960 when they sold control of it.

There just isn’t space this week to mention other newspapers that came and went here—such as The Sunolian, Southern Alameda County News, Village Pioneer, Tri-Valley News, The Echo, Livermore Enterprise, and Livermore Journal. So they may show up in a future column.

***

We’ll take a break from history mysteries awhile so I can catch up on my research.

 

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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