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May 27, 2009 > History: Publishers and Editors Who Made a Difference

History: Publishers and Editors Who Made a Difference

It could be argued that all publishers and editors made a difference in the lives of local people in their day. Here is our list of a few who were special.

W. W. Theobalds and Albert Lyser formed W. W. Theobalds and Co. in 1875 to publish a newspaper at Washington Corners (now Irvington). Volume I, No. 1 of their Alameda County Independent was dated June 5, 1875. It came out every Saturday, cost $3.00 per year and gave local merchants an opportunity to advertise their merchandise and services. Theobalds explained that the name of the townsite was Washington Corners, but he championed the local practice of dropping the last word and calling it only "Washington."

Everell Calkin bought The Alameda County Independent and changed the name to the Alameda County Reporter. The paper survived several changes of ownership but died with the fire that nearly destroyed Irvington in 1887. William Kay launched The Alameda County Express, later taken over by Adeline E. Knapp who became the first woman publisher and editor in our area.

E. B. Thompson began publishing The Washington Press in 1891. The building where the paper was printed was reported destroyed by fire in 1894, but Thompson continued operating. Historians remember him especially for his Special Illustrated Edition of The Washington Press published in 1898. It was printed "for the purpose of making known to the outside world the value and diversity of the resources of Washington Township." Thompson's stated aim was "to help contribute to the upbuilding of all enterprises in the township."

Chris Runckel was principal of Decoto School. He owned an orchard there and foresaw the water shortage. He became editor of the Washington Press in Niles and wrote many articles and editorials about the water problems. He proclaimed that people in Washington Township should unite and form water companies to protect the local water supply. The History of Washington Township noted that Runckel "began to roar when wells began to run dry and turn to salt and continued to roar until he sold out in 1917." He urged people to form a county water district. He led a mass meeting in Centerville in 1911 when he wrote "The Press now makes its final appeal to the people of Washington Township to arouse themselves and make themselves heard." Runckel helped form the Alameda County Water District in 1913.

J. T. Fonte established The Township Register in 1908 "devoted to the interests of Washington Township." The Advancement Edition published in 1910 is one of our valuable historic documents. The paper had many owners, but the most colorful was Norman Parks who "struck terror into the hearts of wasters" during the 1930 depression days.

Miles Smith started the Washington News at Centerville and published it for 24 years, until he sold to George H. Oakes in 1945. One of the most useful publications of
The Washington News was the special 1947 issue celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Mission San Jose edited by George H. Oakes.

Stuart Nixon bought the Township Register in 1952 and published it until 1954 when he formed a partnership with George H. Oakes and his son, George P. Oakes, merging their papers. They launched the News Register in 1954. The names of the other papers vanished, leaving only the News Register.

The first edition was the largest paper ever printed in Washington Township. The weekly grew and became a daily by 1963 with a Sunday edition and a special Newark edition by 1964. It soon became the most influential and widely read newspaper in Washington Township. The staff grew from 10 in 1956 to over 100 in 1966 with the third largest payroll in Fremont.

Stuart Nixon wrote a number of editorials in his position with the News Register. He was a valuable leader in the movement to incorporate the area that became the City of Fremont, contributing his knowledge and skills as an experienced newspaper editor. He served as campaign chairman of the Citizens Committee and the paper printed the necessary legal papers. Nixon served as Fremont's first Recreation Commission chairman and was named Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 1957. He sold his interest in the News Register to Oakes in 1959 and withdrew from the arena. The paper was sold to Abe Kofman then to Floyd Sparks. The last issue of the News Register came out April 29, 1972.

Viola Johnson began publishing the Newark Argus in 1960 to represent the community's point of view. Floyd Sparks purchased the paper in 1965 and expanded it to a daily. A Sunday edition was added, and it grew to a circulation of some 35,000 by 1993. The Argus has survived several changes of ownership, a number of editors and some difficult economic times to its present position.

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