A history of newspapers in Blyth
The Citizen, the newspaper that now serves as Blyth’s hometown paper (shared with Brussels), is at least the fifth newspaper to serve the community.
Still, the paper has a history all its own, being one of the few community-owned newspapers in the country.
The Citizen was born from the ashes of The Standard, the longest-running of Blyth’s newspapers, beginning in 1892 and continuing until 1982 when it was amalgamated with The Clinton News-Record.
The Standard had in turn been built from the ashes of a number of previous newspapers some of which went on to become more successful in other county communities.
According to research contained in Blyth: A Village Portrait , Blyth’s first newspaper was The Review which was founded in January 1877 by M.L. Aldrich. The newspaper only lasted until March when it was shut down. Aldrich managed to get it going again in August of 1879. By then he had competition with The Huron Record being founded in 1878.
These were colourful free-wheeling days in the newspaper business and apparently the publisher of The Record, a Mr. Wighton and his editor R. Phillips, were found guilty of slandering Aldrich.
The Review won the battle of attrition when The Record ceased publication in November 1880 with the equipment being moved to Clinton to print the Clinton Record.
By then Aldrich had moved on to the Goderich Signal in October 1879, leaving J. T. Mitchell to publish The Review. By 1884 The Review has ceased publication and the equipment was moved to Wingham to publish The Vidette.
Next came The Advocate in 1884 which lasted until January 1887 when the equipment was moved south to Exeter. Shortly thereafter, the equipment of another defunct newspaper in Exeter was moved north to Blyth and The Standard was born.
There was a string of editors in a short period of time until J. H. R. Elliott bought it in October 1910. He ran the paper until 1934 when he turned it over to his assistant, Albert “Shorty” Robinson. Robinson may not have been the best editor and publisher and he certainly wasn’t the longest term, but he may have created the biggest legend of all the newspaper’s editors before he sold in 1938.
Robinson was notoriously slipshod in his production and in the days of hand-set type, the paper was often a sight to behold. Doug Whitmore recalls that at one time a copy of Robinson’s Standard mounted on the wall of The Globe and Mail press room in Toronto as a hilarious example of how not to produce a newspaper.
Unfortunately, not much evidence remains of the Robinson era. Not only did he not keep files of the copies he produced, but he destroyed many of the copies produced before he had bought the paper.
In 1938 Robinson sold the newspaper to Ken and Gladys Whitmore.
The Whitmores rebuilt the reputation of The Standard. Unlike Robinson, many recall Ken Whitmore fondly.
When his parents arrived, Doug Whitmore says, the newspaper was still being typeset by hand. They installed the first Linotype to automatically set the metal type.
Ken Whitmore’s Standard was a small-town friendly newspaper, often with a sense of humour. In the Feb. 11, 1948 issue, for instance, he tells the story of fireman Harvey McCallum who mistook the 7 a.m. ringing of the town bell with the fire bell and lept out of bed and raced to the fire hall to start the engine of the fire truck.
In 1958 Ken Whitmore died and his son Doug joined his mother in keeping the newspaper going. When she died in 1971, Doug and his wife Lorna decided to sell the newspaper and concentrate on commercial printing.
In the early 1970s a revolution was going through the newspaper and printing industries. Traditionally newspapers combined publishing and printing operations. The equipment used in printing the newspaper in the early part of the week, was used for printing flyers, letterhead, etc. the rest of the week.
But printing a newspaper was a complicated, time-consuming effort with type assembled from a Linotype machine which poured molten lead into moulds to create lines of type. The newspaper would be printed two pages on one side of the sheet of paper, then turned over and two more pages would be printed on the back.
The late 1960s brought the “web” press to small newspapers with one central printing press printing all the newspapers. Instead of taking days to print an eight page newspaper, a 24 page newspaper could be printed in hours.
What’s more, instead of hard type, a photographic process was used which meant anything on paper could be photographed and put on the press.
In November 1971 this technology came to Blyth with the purchase of The Standard by Jill and Keith Roulston. The new offset printing process allowed more use of photographs in the newspaper, something that was difficult in the old “lead” days. In 1975 new computerized typesetting equipment improved the look of the paper.
The Roulstons sold the newspaper late in 1977 to A. Y. McLean of McLean Brothers Publishing in Seaforth who also operated The Huron Expositor and The Brussels Post. He and his daughter Susan White operated the three papers until 1982 when they were sold to Signal-Star Publishing in Goderich. The Post became part of The Huron Expositor and The Standard part of The Clinton News-Record.
But over the next three years people in Blyth and Brussels missed having newspapers of their own and in 1985 nearly 50 shareholders came together to finance North Huron Publishing Company Inc., which published the first issue of The Citizen on Oct. 23, 1985. With two villages of nearly-equal size to support it, the newspaper has been successful since.
Publisher during that time has been Keith Roulston, aided by his wife Jill. Roulston served as the first editor until turning that job over to Bonnie Gropp in 1991.
In 1991 the company also acquired the farm publication The Rural Voice which had been started in Blyth in 1975.