The history of local newspaper publishing in Greenwich is a story of the birth, death and consolidation of numerous publications from 1877 to present day.
During colonial times, some people engaged in writing "newsletters" to provide news and information. Then in the 1800s, people began to publish newspapers in nearby communities. Local residents relied on The Stamford Advocate and Port Chester Journal for news.
In November 1877, the Keeler Brothers, who published The Tablet (a weekly in Roslyn NY) started The Greenwich Observer. They promised to provide local news on farmimg, fishing, crime, neighborhood gossip and mail service. The paper solicited news from the public since the Keelers considered them "the eyes and ears of the community".
The Observer was not that profitable and fell on tough economic times. In 1878, William Keeler bought out his brother, and in 1880 it was sold to The Port Chester Journal. John K. Mead purchased The Observer and consolidated it with The Greenwich Graphic in February 1883. The Graphic was established in December 1881 by Erwin and Lucian Edwards of New Haven. It cost 5-cents a copy, and covered local, county, state and news from Washington DC. It was rated one of the best country weeklies in Connecticut. This consolidated paper was the only paper available for 5-years.
Robert J. Walsh, the brother of Judge James F. Walsh, started The Greenwich News in February 1888. He was the son of a blacksmith. After college, he became a prominent lawyer and member of the Republican Party. At one time he served as a state office holder. Walsh used the paper to push for municapl improvements such as electricity and water service, as well as the installation of trolley lines.
Two other papers about this time were less successful. The Opinion started in 1889 and lasted only a year. The Investigator began in 1909, but folded after only a few weeks. A group categorized only as "friends of the GOP" broke into the printing room and destroyed equipment that would have been used to paint a rather unflattering picture of Judge Robert Walsh!
From 1888 until 1910, The Greenwich News and The Greenwich Graphic were the prominent papers in town. In October 1910, Norman Talcott founded The Greenwich Press. Talcott was a socialist and veteran journalist. He worked for one of the most respected papers in Boston. He promised Greenwich a fair and unbiased publication. The publisher used the paper to challenge corruption and the political machine entrenched in Greenwich. Talcott was responsible for getting Lincoln Steffens to speak at the Town Meeting about voting corruption. Unfortunately, Talcott lacked sound business sense and encountered financial difficulties since he could not attract enough advertising. He was forced to resign; but in September 1915, he started Our Town. This paper floundered and lasted only four years. Apparently, Talcott was not cut out to be a newspaper man.
By 1915, The Greenwich Graphic and The Greenwich News had consolidated. Strangely enough, the Graphic just stopped publication and there was no announcement of a merger. A newly formed Greenwich Publication Company started publishing The Greenwich News & Graphic. This signaled the era of a stronger, effective publication. In 1917, John Rodemeyer, a prominent member of the Rotary Club was named editor. Under his command, many improvements were made. The news office moved to 20 East Elm Street, where it remained until the turn of the century. He started publishing the paper 6-days a week. A United Press teletype machine was installed to catch news stories from around the country and the world.
John Rodemeyer retired in 1935. Ted Yudain, reporter for The Stamford Advocate who covered the Greenwich "beat", took over as editor. He introduced a local opinon column and published controversial editorials. Several other papers devloped around this time to compete with The Greenwich News & Graphic. These included The Daily News-Graphic, The Greenwich Press, as well as two out of town papers - The Port Chester Item and The Stamford Advocate. Ironically, these two papers had their offices above Finch's Drug Store on Greenwich Avenue.
Falling on hard times, and probably due to the effects of the Great Depression, The Greenwich News & Graphic declared bankruptcy. Mr. Albert W. Johnson, the head of a Canadian gold mining company, bought the newspaper in 1936. On Novemebr 18, 1937 The Daily News - Graphic became The Greenwich Time. Wythe Williams was named the news editor and General Manager. He had been a foreign correspondent in Europe, and was an expert on diplomacy and international politics. As a reporter, he had covered every major battle in World War I. When he worked for The London Times, Wythe was the first newsman to get the text of The Treaty of Versailles. Not only did he predict the outbreak of World War II, but he also predicted the point at which the Nazis would strike.
Wythe expanded the scope of The Greenwich Time to include national and international news. He was committed to making the paper recognized nationwide and worldwide. The paper developed a reputation for predicting what would happen in foreign affairs and politics. He apparently angered Hitler's right-hand man, Paul Josef Goebbels, since Goebbels was heard on short wave radio denouncing Williams and The Greenwich Time! After 3-years, Williams resigned as editor to pursue a career in radio.
Niver W. Beaman , who had worked for The Philadelphia Record and had won a Pulitzer Prize with The Waterbury American and Republican, took over as editor around 1939. He focused on bringing attention back to local news. On August 5, 1942, Greenwich Publishing Company bought The Greenwich Press and folded it into The Greenwich Time. Some readers lamented this moving, saying the independent voice had succumbed to the politics it had struggled against. Beaman resigned.
In 1945, Ted Yudain was re-instated as the editor. He had gained a great deal of influence in the county and state by serving on several committees which studied Civil defense, the Merritt Parkway and United Nations site. Yudain raised the status of the paper with his emphasis on local politics and controversial issues. Yudain left in 1963 to become editor of The Stamford Advocate; but there is no doubt he left his mark on the flourishing newspaper. Greenwich native Charles Pirro became the next editor. He had worked his way up from a cub reporter. Well-known amongst local civic groups, he was determined to have the paper focus on local news.
Ownership of the paper also changed hands many times during the remainder of the 20th Century. In 1956, a group of prominent citizens including Prescott Bush and James Linen took over the paper. Two years later, in 1958, the Gillespie Brothers, publishers of The Stamford Advocate, bought the paper. Then in 1977 The Greenwich Time and The Stamford Advocate was sold to the Times-Mirror of Los Angeles organization for $21 million in stock.
As the Milennium approached in 2000, the Chicago-based Tribune bought the Times-Mirror Corporation. The paper experienced difficulties with revenues and the Tribune decided to cut its losses by selling it. Surprisingly, one group that was interested in buying The Greenwich Time was the UAW (United Auto Workers) ! The union employees wanted to buy Southern Connecticut Newspapers. Merrill Lynch and Citigroup were hired to investigate the feasibility of such a sale. Eventually, an arbitrator stepped in and ruled such a sale would violate the UAW contract.
Overtues were also made by McLean VA-based Gannett Newspapers and a Media News Group. Gannett offered much less than what the Tribune was asking for the publication. In May 2007, talks finally broke off.
Finally, the paper was sold to the Hearst Corporation for $62.4 million in Novmeber of that year. It was a joint venture with the Media News Group. In April 2008, the office moved from its long-time home at 20 East Elm Street in Greenwich to 1455 East Putnam Avenue in Old Greenwich.
Today, The Greenwich Time is more of a regional paper in the age of increasing digital publication. Managers hope to appeal to a larger market by covering news in a wider area. Generally, print versions of magazines and newspapers have begun to disappear. After all, news can be updated and distributed more quickly online. The cost to publish electronically is also cheaper since it requires no paper - unless the reader needs to print something out. There is also no need for huge presses, paper, trucks or people to publish the paper. The nature of newspaper publishing has changed forever.
Personally, I miss the days of buying The Sunday Greenwich Time and spending all day reading the various sections - the arts, business, comics, sports, society, travel, theater, etc. My family used to gather in the livingroom, and we'd exchange the different pullout sections as we finished. Sometimes it took me all week to finish it; but it was something to look forward to on Sunday morning. This is one tradition I'll surely miss.
SOURCE: Greenwich: An Illustrated History; Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich and Greenwich Time; 1990.