The Oct. 31 issue marks the final print edition of the Commerce Journal.
The announcement was made to the public in the Oct. 24 issue that the Journal will now be merged with the Herald-Banner, with a section devoted to Commerce content being published every Thursday. The website and Facebook page for the Journal will continue to operate and be updated regularly.
Founded in 1889, the Commerce Journal has been covering the area for more than 130 years. C.W. Goff was the first editor and publisher.
Current Publisher Lisa Chappell said in the original announcement that Herald-Banner Publications was not “abandoning our coverage of the community.”
“Changing from a stand-alone publication into a merger of the Herald-Banner is a move that will allow us financially to continue covering Commerce news on a regular basis,” Chappell said. “We are proud of our history as the newspaper of Commerce and are honored to continue to do so just in a slightly different format. We are grateful to the community for the continued support we have received for 130 years.”
Readers reacted to the news on social media.
“I grew up watching my Grandma read your paper. Makes me sad. End of an era,” one Facebook reader said.
“Thank you for all the wonderful years you covered our town’s news and events, especially for your support in covering our school district’s students achievement,” read another.
Community leaders were asked to share their thoughts on the change as well.
Dick Latson, owner of Latson’s Print Services, has many fond memories of the Journal, with his family formerly owning the paper in the 1950s and ’60s.
“My father Bill Latson and his business partner Carl Hyatt bought the Commerce Journal in the mid ’50s from Sterling Hart and ran the paper until 1966 when it was purchased by the Hart Hanks Corporation. I began working at the Journal at the age of 12 as a floor sweeper and ‘racking slugs,’” Latson said in a written statement. “The back room, or composing room in those days was filled with the thick smokes and smells of a combination of melting lead, cigarettes, cigars and ink fumes. It was also very loud. Chases (forms) of metal type being slapped onto the marble stones of the imposing tables to test the lock up. There was the almost constant hum and rhythm of the meshing of metal gears that powered the mechanical marvel called the Linotype machine. A truly amazing piece of machinery that revolutionized the printing and publishing industry back in the day.”
Latson continued: “This printing press was huge and heavy consisting of two ‘beds’ in which the forms (a tight and justified page of the paper) would lay. Each form was a page of the paper and each bed had 4 forms, which meant eight pages were generally printed at a time. So with each form weighing approximately 80-90 lbs., you now have an idea of the massiveness of this press. When it was running, one had to yell to be heard over the noise and the vibration could be felt along the whole block of downtown.”
He also remembered prominent reporters that passed through the Journal, “clanking out their stories on the Royal manual typewriters.”
One writer was Oscar Adams, whom Latson remembers as a local farmer who was hired at the Journal “after he sent a letter to the editor chastising the president of the Greyhound Bus Company for not making good on the delivery of bull semen to his expectant cow. It was so humorous and well written they invited him to write a column for the Journal. The column was named File 13 and became very popular. Adams went on from the Journal to own several papers in the Metroplex suburbs of Hurst and Irving.”
Then there was Bruce Hineman, whom Latson remembered as someone who would “sleep with his camera at the ready and with a police scanner on, ready to jump out of bed at all times of the night to photograph a fire or a wreck.” Hineman went on to become the executive secretary of the Texas Teacher Retirement System.
Latson also stated that the former Journal offices downtown would have a chalkboard displayed in the front window which would be updated with election totals as they were phoned in. He says that some elections would create “quite a crowd.”
He added that he became nostalgic about the importance of a small town paper.
“For this old guy I will miss the last vestige of that hometown publication,” Latson said.
Former Journal editor and current Texas A&M University-Commerce professor Dr. John Mark Dempsey also gave his thoughts.
“My grandparents lived in Commerce, and I have fond memories of reading the Journal when I was a child,” Dempsey said. “My older cousins, Suzanne, Rick and Mike Maples, were frequently in the paper for one thing or another. For example, in the summer of 1964, when Commerce had a serious water crisis, the ‘football boys’ helped dig a ditch for a pipeline, and I remember Rick’s picture being on the front page, down in the hole, shovel in hand.”
He added: “The Journal has a great history. Sterling Hart was a great newspaper man, and the Journal was for many decades at the very center of daily life in Commerce, at a time when small towns were of necessity more self-contained. I’m glad to hear the Journal will continue online and on social media, and I hope the print edition can be revived some day.”