When Small Newspapers Were Great—And Many Communities Had Two of Them

By Jack Limpert

Here’s a 1960 letter sent by the editor of the Middletown Daily Record to United Press International, telling the news service that the newspaper’s readers expected good coverage of both spot news and serious issues. Middletown is a community in the Hudson River Valley north of New York City; its population is 27,000. The city’s surviving paper is the Times Herald Record.

The letter asked UPI for better coverage of:

America’s economic progress, in broad terms as it applies to the individual. Income distribution. Automation and other technological changes.

The progress, or lack of progress, of new and underdeveloped nations, and the status of democracy within such nations.

The current population explosion—and its implications throughout the world.

All aspects of the Cold War, especially those which indicate any changes in the policies of either side. The so-called neutral nations. The role and future of the United Nations.

Control of outer space. Nuclear testing. Dangers of fallout. Atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

The conflict between the cost of defense and foreign aid and the need for a rising standard of living.

Changes and improvements in individual participation in party politics.

Education, including curriculum, teacher training, school control, administration, financing.

Civil rights.

Youth problems. Juvenile delinquency. Dating.

Court and prison reform.

Medical costs. Science and medicine.

Consumer protection.

The arts and the intelligent use of leisure time. Participant sports.

Religious thought.

Mental health problems.

Labor unions: democracy, honesty, bigness.

Farm problems.

We must constantly remember that, while fires and accidents and police stories may be our bread-and-butter items, our readers expect us to give them intelligent, well-written coverage of the big subjects.
I sent the letter to Ron Cohen, a UPI veteran. His response:

That paper always was a terrific client. When they called to ask for something we jumped, knowing their news judgment was so spot-on that whatever we produced surely would find a larger audience among our subscribers.”

From Mike Feinsilber, with UPI for 25 years and the AP for 25 years:

The other interesting thing about this paper, if my memory is right, is that it is/was a tabloid, one of the few serious tabs I know of. I think one of the two papers published in York, Pennsylvania, was a tabloid and, of course, Newsday is one too. So the term “tabloid journalism” doesn’t always apply.
Some Middletown newspaper history from Wikipedia, including these notes about former employees:

Avrom “Al” Romm (1926–1999), named city editor of the Daily Record in 1957, became the Times Herald-Record first managing editor after the merge in 1960, a position he held until he was named editorial page editor in 1976. His youngest son is climate expert Joseph J. Romm.

Malcolm Browne, who later won the Pulitzer Prize covering the Vietnam War for the Associated Press.

Manny Fuchs (1924–2005) joined the Daily Record in 1957 and became chief photographer in 1960.[7] He was a concentration camp survivor who became a photojournalist.[8] Before and during his stint at the Record, he photographed Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, Tennessee Williams, and Ben Hecht, among others. In 1966, he went to Vietnam to take pictures of hometown soldiers in the war zone. In addition to his photojournalism assignments, he was a patient teacher[9] but hard taskmaster. After retiring, he and his wife returned to her native France and lived in Paris, but came back to Middletown, where they lived until his death in 2005.

Hunter S. Thompson was another notable former employee. The future creator of gonzo journalism was fired by Editor A.N. Romm after “kicking open the office candy machine with his bare feet – again.”


  1. Nice to see a comment by Mike Feinsilber — have missed his blog posts of late!

  2. Mike Feinsilber says

    As far as I can untangle it, the paper traces its roots to the 1850s, when the Middletown Press started publishing as a Whig paper and later merged with the Daily Times, founded in 1891. Its modern history is a microcosm of the commodization of newspapers, once the proudly independent products of proudly independent publishers.

    In 1951, the paper was purchased by Ralph Ingersoll, who is best known as the founder of the 1940s left-wing PM, a New York City daily which carried no advertising (and thus was short-lived).

    In 1956, the Times-Herald got a competitor, the Middletown Daily Record. Ottaway Newspapers, a chain, took ownership in 1959 and, the following year, absorbed the Record. The paper became the Times Herald-Record.

    Ottaway in turn was absorbed in 1969 by Dow-Jones, which made the paper part of its Local Media Group. In 2007, Rudolph Murdoch’s News Corp. took over Dow Jones. Five years later, Dow sold its Local Medial Group, which included Middletown, to Newcastle Investment Corp. Newcastle is an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group, a diversified global investment manager with assets, as of last June 30, of over $70 billion.

    The Times Herald-Record has a circulation of about 80,000.

Speak Your Mind