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A History of The Virginia Gazette
1736-1765: The Colonial Period
1766-1779: The Revolutionary Era
1780-1929: The Dormant Period
1930-2002: Modern Times
1736-1765: The Colonial Period
If there is nothing as fragile as news, the fragility of newspapers themselves runs a close second. Hundreds of newspapers have begun with great ambition, only to merge with others or fold from bankruptcy.
With that knowledge, William Parks might be the most astonished person of all to learn that his Virginia Gazette survives intact nearly 270 years after he published the first four-page edition on Aug. 6, 1736.
The Gazette encountered its own hard times and ceased publication several times, notably during the 1800s, and the number of years of publication totals closer to 210. But in 1986 the Gazette marked its 250th birthday as the oldest newspaper in America published on a non-daily basis. Until it expanded to twice-a-week publication in June 1984, the moniker was simpler: Americas oldest weekly.
Newspapers were a long time coming to colonial Virginia. English law precluded any printing by the colonists for years after Jamestown was founded in 1607. The royal governors did not allow any printing until 1690, and even then printers were governed by royal instructions which required a license and the governors permission.
One of those governors, Sir William Berkeley, put it bluntly. "I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both."
An enterprising fellow tried anyway.
In 1682, a printer named William Nuthead arrived at Jamestown, then the capital. He set up his press and began to publish the acts of the recently adjourned Assembly. He also printed several other papers about which nothing is known.
Nuthead was called before the governor and the council, where he was ordered to stop the presses "until the signification of his Majesties pleasure shall be known therein." Within months that "pleasure" was known when a royal order was issued that "no person be permitted to use any press for printing upon any occasion whatsoever."
With that definitive ruling, Nuthead packed up and returned to his native Maryland. Printing was nonexistent in the colony for nearly 50 years thereafter.
Government policy eventually eased and a more tolerant attitude prevailed. In 1730 William Parks moved from Annapolis to Virginias new capital, Williamsburg, to open a branch office. Parks had only three years earlier founded Marylands first newspaper, The Maryland Gazette.
Parks was an eminent printer. Before arriving in Maryland he operated printing shops in three locations of his native England Ludlow, Hereford and Reading.
An accomplished printer of job work and newspapers, it is a wonder that Parks waited six years before publishing his first Virginia Gazette. Perhaps like virtually every other colonial printer he wanted to build a base of printing operations on which to found the paper.
Its possible the trial of John Peter Zenger in 1735 had an influence on Parks. Zenger was the publisher of the New York Weekly Journal who was charted with seditious libel for his disrespect in print of the Crown. A jury freed Zenger and "There were huzzahs in the hall," according to one report.
If Parks was struck by Zengers zeal, he did not reflect it in print. His own sheet was devoid of outright political criticism, and journalism historian Edwin Emery does not list Parks among the top ten leaders of the pre-Revolutionary press.
Nonetheless, Parks had an effect on Williamsburg. Right from the start his Gazette had the professional touch of a master craftsman. The earliest edition in existence, No. 6, is full of accounts from England, including news of the ministry, unrest in Persia, and this juicy crime item:
"We have an Account from Bristol, that last Wednesday Morning, one Mrs. Norman, who kept a Huckster Shop on St. Phillips Plain there, was found murdered in her own Shop, in a very dismall manner, she having several Marks of Violence about her Head, which, in all probability was the Cause of her Death, of of which a large Quantity of Blood issued."
News in the Gazette was taken largely from letters written abroad and recently arrived in the hands of the printer himself or friendly readers. Information was also taken from English papers and other colonial sheets.
There was not much local news in Parks Gazette. What little there was appeared primarily in advertisements of recent ship arrivals, shops opening, runaway slaves, deserted spouses, and strayed horses.
By todays standards The Virginia Gazette of 1736 would look gray and ponderous. There were no headlines, no photographs, no fancy page makeup. But there was news, and for a town that never had a newspaper before it was welcome.
It was also well produced. The writing was clear and to the point, though modern readers may find it difficult to plod through the long "s" formation that resemble an "f."
There were few typographical errors, which is a statement any newspaper then or now would like to make. But it was even more difficult in the 1700s. There were six variations of the "s" ligature, and most nouns were upper-cased regardless of whether they were proper nouns.
Advertising was crucial to The Virginia Gazette. Parks ran an "Advertisement, concerning Advertisements" on Oct. 8, 1736, which concluded with this promotion:
"And as these Papers will circulate (as speedily as possible) not only all over This, but also the Neighboring Colonies, and will probably be read by some Thousands of People, it is very likely that may have the desird Effect; and it is certainly the cheapest and most effectual Method that can be taken for publishing any Thing of this Nature." The same holds true today.
A typical day for William Parks had him working ten hours, perhaps more if he was printing his weekly Gazette on his sheet-fed handpress. It was a laborious process of setting the type by hand, picking letter by letter from a box of matrices.
Once the type was set it was locked into place in a metal form. The type was inked and paper was laid across. The form was rolled into the press, where the pressman "pulled" an impression by yanking with both arms the big handle of the press. This pressure forced the press to screw down on the paper and imprint the type on the paper sheet. Around 200 sheets an hour were printed this way, then hung to let the ink dry.
Hours were dictated largely by daylight, although some type was composed by candlelight. This led to errors and an occasional mishap in which trays of painstakingly set type were "pied" or spilled.
Colonial printers were hampered by a scarcity of type that slowed the printing of books because only a few pages could be set at a time before the letters were reused.
Weather frustrated many a printer, Parks included. Winter cold slowed the mails on which the Gazette was so dependent for news. When no dispatches arrived, Parks would offer that as an excuse for printing a shorter sheet. Spring and fall were the busy time during which the General Court convened in Williamsburg. Summer and winter were comparatively dull, and this is reflected in the Gazettes of the period.
Censorship also posed problems, and from three sectors: the English government, local authorities, and an offended public.
The last major problem faced by colonial printers was a shortage of paper. This was handmade stuff, consisting of ground-up rags. It was tough and durable but varied in quality.
During 1736-1744 Parks imported his paper from Pennsylvania, except for finer stock shipped from England for publishing books and other more permanent pieces.
In 1743 at the urging of Benjamin Franklin, Parks set about building his own paper mill in Williamsburg. Over the next four years Franklin sold Parks 11,382 pounds of rags. Appeals were often printed asking readers to save their old clothes for paper-making purposes. Old shirts, caps, dresses, handkerchiefs and gowns were brought and subsequently returned to the reader in a different form.
Parks watermark, with the distinctive "WP" and crown, was later recovered during the restoration of Williamsburg. It remains perfectly intact more than 200 years later, despite the intricacy of the watermarks fragile wires.
By 1776 the paper mill in Williamsburg had apparently ceased operations, and printing paper was being imported from Philadelphia by water. It was risky and uncertain, since colonial ships were fair game for British men-of-war.
In early 1750 Parks sailed for England on a business trip. During the voyage he was seized with a fatal attack of pleurisy and was buried at journeys end in Gosport, England.
The stature of William Parks in journalism history can be measured in part by the number of "firsts" to his credit:
Add to this his diversity, energy and penchant for excellence, and one realizes what a giant Parks was in pre-Revolutionary times.
- First newspaper in Maryland.
- First public printer in Virginia.
- First newspaper in Virginia.
- First publications of literary works in Virginia.
- First paper mill south of Pennsylvania.
- First postmaster of Virginia.
Lawrence Wroth described it best. "The establishment of four pioneer newspapers in as many towns, the publication of the collected laws of two American colonies, the fostering of literary tradition in these colonies by his encouragement of native writers are projects that speak clearly of unusual enterprise in one who after all was a provincial printer, or as we should describe him nowadays, a country printer."
1766-1779: The Revolutionary Era
If there ever was a heyday for newspapers in Virginia and Williamsburg, it was during the Revolution. Albeit partisan, The Virginia Gazette and other colonial newspapers reported well the news of the growing unrest between the Crown and the colonies.
Fully 10 years before the Declaration of Independence, there appeared carefully worded accounts. The repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1776 brought great rejoicing to the colonies and was covered locally in The Virginia Gazette on June 20, 1776.
"On Friday last, a good deal of Company being in Town at the Oyer and Terminer Court, our Gratitude and Thankfulness upon the joyful Occasion of the Repeal of the Stamp Act and the universal Pleasure and Satisfaction it gives that all Differences between the Mother Country and her Colonies are so happily terminated, was manifested here by general illuminations
Following the death of William Parks in 1750, his associate in business, William Hunter, bought the printing shop and with it the Gazette. Hunter went on to distinguish himself in the tradition of William Parks.
He served jointly with Benjamin Franklin as deputy postmaster general for all the colonies. He also printed in 1754 the first published writings of George Washington, "The Journal of Major George Washington," who at the time was 22 years old.
Hunter was the brother-in-law of John Holt, noted printer of Connecticut and New York in Revolutionary times. Hunter died in 1761 and was succeeded by another brother-in-law, Joseph Royle. Hunters will stipulated that Royle manage the business for himself and Hunters infant son, William Hunter Jr.
Already things were heating up politically and competitively. A loyalist clergyman, the Rev. John Camm, could not get his pamphlet printed because the printer, Royle, objected to its "Satyrical Touches upon the Late Assembly."
Yet when Col Richard Bland set out to reply to Camms pamphlet, Royle was a willing printer.
This selective suppression of views went badly for Royle. There grew a controversy between him and The Maryland Gazette over accusations that Royle refused to print attacks on the local government.
At the urging of Thomas Jefferson and others, William Rind moved from Annapolis in 1766 to set up a rival Virginia Gazette.
Jefferson recalled years later that "we had but one press, and that having the whole business of the government, and no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper."
Royle died shortly before Rind came to Williamsburg, and it turned out to be a fortuitous death for the new fellow. Rind was elected public printer by the House of Burgesses, giving him an economic foothold in the form of printing documents and laws. As it turned out, the Assembly three years later spread the wealth to both Gazettes when it ordered them to print a large volume of the Acts of Assembly then in force.
Alexander Purdie succeeded Joseph Royle as publisher of the original Virginia Gazette. In 1767, Purdie took into the business John Dixon, who by marriage was related to Royles widow.
Purdie, dissatisfied with the partnership, withdrew to set up his own Virginia Gazette. The first issue appeared Feb. 3, 1775.
If the reader is confused, imagine how confused Williamsburg readers were 200 years ago. By early 1775 there were three separate Virginia Gazettes, all operating in town and all under the same name.
There was Dixons Gazette (the original), Rinds Gazette and Purdies Gazette (the newest).
They all carried pretty much the same news in largely the same format, four to eight pages weekly. The easiest way to tell them apart was by their mottos. The original Gazette was known to be "Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign an Domestick." Rinds Gazette promised it was "Open to all Parties but Influenced by None." Purdies declared "Always for Liberty and the Publick Good."
Nor were these three the only Virginia Gazettes. By 1809 a total of 24 papers in the state had used the term Virginia Gazette in their flags.
The reason is simple.
"Gazette" in Britain specified "official record" and lent real authority to any periodical with that name. In the colonies, the Assemblies ordered their resolutions and proclamations printed "in the Gazette" or "in The Virginia Gazette" for public attention and consumption.
But it was not specified which Gazette was to get the business, leaving it up for grabs in Williamsburg among three papers. A printer calling his paper, say, The Williamsburg Bugle, was automatically eliminating himself from any government income.
Dixon did not run the original Gazette alone when Purdie left. Dixon went immediately into partnership with William Hunter Jr., son of the late printer. Together they continued their Gazette until the end of 1778. Early in 1779 Hunter joined the British forces and left Williamsburg.
Dixon then entered into partnership with Thomas Nicolson and revived the Gazette in February 1779, but it was not to last for long at least not in Williamsburg. When the capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780, the printers followed.
Rinds paper was taken over upon his death in 1773 by his wife, Clementina. She thus became the first woman printer and editor in Virginia, and is credited by at least one historian as one of the 10 pioneer women journalists in America.
By 1775 John Pinkney took over as manager and then in 1776 as owner of Mrs. Rinds shop and paper, but he moved to North Carolina early in 1777 and died in August that year. This marked the end of the second Virginia Gazette.
The third Gazette operated by Alexander Purdie continued after his death in 1779. His nephew, John Clarckson, and one of his printers, Augustine Davis, ran it until the end of 1780 when it ceased operations because the capital had moved.
Printers fortunes indeed everyones rose and fell with the legislature. As the Revolution intensified, so did government action, and in the brief 14-year span of 1766-1780 three Virginia Gazettes prospered, only to vanish when the General Assembly packed up and left.
The Gazettes of the 1770s contain a myriad of fascinating details about the Revolution, and about life itself. Ever since 1930 when it was revived, the modern Virginia Gazette has run a weekly column of extracts from these papers, usually 200 years ago to the month. The extracts ran on page 1 for years but now run on the Diversions page.
An essay in the Gazette of June 2, 1774, had this to say about the "Rise and Utility of Newspapers":
"Politicks are now little more than a Farce; The Rage of Party has, in great Measure, subdued, and Peace having fixed her Standard among us, we are no longer troubled with long accounts of Battles between contending Armies. Our Newspapers are now devoted to a more agreeable Purpose: They yield us a more amusing Variety of Matter, as they are either employed n the politer Services of Literature, or in establishing more extensive Connexions amongst Mankind."
Historian William P. Black said, "What is particularly important about the years of Alexander Purdies editorship is not simply that he provided a free forum for local writers, but that the very freedom of his press prompted Virginians to speak openly on native subjects."
Often when readers wanted to be free to write scathing criticism of policies and people, they signed their remarks with pseudonyms such as "Nonestus," "Phili Meritus" or "Dikephylos."
Sometimes it didnt work, as in the case of a Virginia clergyman who attempted to praise himself using a pseudonym. He sent in a wedding announcement which described the sermon preached by the Rev. Mr. Dunlop as given in a "New and striking Manner." Three weeks later, the paper carried "A consolatory Epistle of the Reverend Mr. D_______P, Upon the Unlucky Discovery His Being the Author of His Own Panegyrick."
The Gazettes published much poetry, often satirizing or defending people. One writer, disgusted with the satirical verse, wrote one of his own, calling their writings the "Bullys art," and comparing their poetry to the screeching of an owl.
Satire turned against satirists was not uncommon, either. When debates dragged to excessive length, readers often responded with angry threats of canceled subscriptions.
More predominant was the long heavy prose on the state of the colonies or the world in general.
Native humor was found sparingly in the Gazettes. "Hasty Pudding, a Cure for the Quinsy," ostensibly informed the public of a new cure. Actually it was a farce recounting a tale of a doctor ordering two large bowls of hasty pudding for a patient suffering from an inflamed throat. A slight spill from one of the bowls resulted in a pudding fight, and the ensuing laughter cured the patient of his quinsy.
Minority views were also printed, as in the case of a grouchy character reflecting on "the Absurdity of various fashionable Customs."
"It is my Misfortune to visit some Houses where six Children dine at the Table, and Mamma, to show her good Breeding and Manners, has taught all her squeaking Brats to drink to every Persons Health at the Table and therefore, we have nothing in our Ears but the dull Repetitions of these Children, to show their Observance of their Mammas Dictates."
Purdies Gazette, from which all these items have been extracted, continued to be a sparkling newspaper after it was formed anew in 1775 and Dixon was left with the original Gazette.
Perhaps because Dixons new partner, William Hunter Jr., was a loyalist, the original Gazette dragged its feet on covering the Revolution. In any event, Purdie continually scooped the other two Gazettes.
On Feb. 2, 1776, Purdie printed excerpts from Tom Paines pamphlet, "Common Sense," the famous statement of arguments for independence. John Pinkney ran it the next day in his Virginia Gazette.
Purdie also beat the competition on breaking the Declaration of Independence. He published a brief reference to it by way of the postmaster in Fredericksburg on July 12, just 10 days after Congress resolved that the united colonies were free and independent states. (It wasnt declared until July 4.)
The following Friday, July 19, Purdie ran key passages from the Declaration, promising to print the entire document next week. Dixon and Hunter followed suit and the two Gazettes ware thought to be the first papers outside Philadelphia to print the Declaration verbatim.
Whats curious is how the two Gazettes played it up or down. Purdie ran it as lead story on Page 1, which it consumed entirely before concluding atop page 2. There were also reports on the proclamation of the Declaration in Trenton, New York and Williamsburg.
Dixon and Hunter, on the other hand, ran the Declaration on Page 2, reserving Page 1 for lesser accounts about shipping, naval matters and a death. (Pinkneys Gazette didnt run it at all it had folded the previous February.)
No one knew during these troubled times what the outcome of the Revolution would be. But the Gazettes and the other 34 colonial newspapers reported the excesses of the British government and the steps taken by the colonists to guarantee their own freedoms.
More than the political pamphlet and more than the sermons by political clergy, the colonial newspaper contributed the most to the propaganda of the Revolution. The Patriot press inspired the colonies to rebel against tyranny, and it worked.
1780-1929: The Dormant Period
Nothing, not even war, had such a disastrous effect on Williamsburg as the removal of the capitol in 1780 to Richmond. It was done to make the seat of government more convenient to the westerly counties of the state, including what is now Illinois and Kentucky.
Like other merchants and lawyers and doctors, John Dixon and John Nicolson moved their Virginia Gazette to Richmond, leaving Williamsburg without a newspaper for the first time in 44 years.
A case can be made that the Gazette did not die out since it was merely removed to Richmond, but the fact is Williamsburg was without its own hometown paper.
Furthermore, the original Gazette that did continue in Richmond was quickly dissipated by competition and an apparent disregard by Dixon and Nicolson for their papers historic title and identity.
Dixon and Nicolson published their last Gazette in Williamsburg on April 8, 1780. The first issue in Richmond appeared May 9, 1780. It continued until April 21, 1781, and then stopped until May 19, which is the last issue located. In December 1781, Nicolson established The Virginia Gazette, or Weekly Advertiser. Dixon was no longer partner; William Prentis was.
In February 1782 they changed the "or" in the flag of the paper to "and," so it read The Virginia Gazette, and the Weekly Advertiser. In 1792 the initial "The" was removed from the flag. Nicolson continued the paper until 1797, when it apparently folded with the issue of April 22.
It was a sudden and serious vacuum, considering that in recent years three Virginia Gazettes were competing for readers and advertisers. But there was no news to speak of anyway, since all the government activity that stimulated Williamsburg had shifted 50 miles up the James.
It was many years before another newspaper was established in Williamsburg. In 1824 Joseph Repiton set up the Phoenix Gazette and Williamsburg Intelligencer. In 1828 the Plough-Boy was added and the paper renamed the Phoenix Plough-Boy. Publication continued until July 1829.
Then for the next 25 years the quiet of inactivity again settled on Williamsburg, known as the "great decline." During these years no newspaper was published in the community.
In 1853 Thomas Martin re-established The Virginia Gazette. Harvey Ewing became editor in 1854. In 1857 E.H. Lively associated with Ewing and they continued the Gazette until June 9, 1858.
When Ewing retired R.A. Lively became associated with his brother and continued the publication until the Civil War intervened.
Federal troops took over Williamsburg in May 1862. The Gazette plant was seized and editor Lively, who had joined the Confederate forces, was captured and sent to prison.
At the end of the war the press was returned to Lively in Williamsburg. For a time he published a paper called The Weekly Review, but in 1869 with his brother he again revived The Virginia Gazette. It was suspended a short time later, however, in 1871.
During 1884-1887 Benjamin Long and R.T. Armistead published The Williamsburg Gazette and James City County Advertiser. It was the first and only time a paper carried the name Williamsburg Gazette, though even today many mistakenly call The Virginia Gazette by that name.
There was no paper published for another six years until in 1893 W.C. Johnson revived the Virginia Gazette. This time publication lasted 25 years until 1918. Two years later, Record Publishing Corp. took control and published the Gazette until 1922.
In 1926 Dr. J.A.C. Chandler, president of the College of William and Mary, resumed publication of the Gazette, with Havilock Babcock of the School of Journalism, as editor. The paper died out in six months and eventually so did the journalism school.
1930-2002: Modern Times
In 1930, as work on the towns first major restoration undertaking, the Christopher Wren Building was nearing completion, newspaper publisher J.A. Osborne came to Williamsburg. He came at the request of W.A.R.
Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church, who originally envisioned the restoration of Williamsburg to its colonial appearance. It was Dr. Goodwins idea that if Williamsburg was to be revived, so too should its newspaper, The Virginia Gazette.
Osborne moved his Florida plant to Williamsburg and on Jan.10, 1930, with his son, Hugh S. Osborne, issued the first edition of the revised Gazette under the original Williams Parks motto, "Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign and Domestick."
The paper has been printed every week since, including semi-weekly the past 25 months. It is a curiosity that the two longest spans of uninterrupted publication are at opposite extremes of the papers time line: 1736-1780 and 1930-present. In 1932, Frank L. Adolph joined his father-in-law, J.A. Osborne, in the business. Osbornes son, J.A. Jr., came to the paper in 1944.
From 1930 on, many members of the Osborne family worked for the Gazette. By 1957 Alex Osborne was business-ad-job manager; Mildred Osborne Adolph was social editor; and Marian Osborne was the new assistant editor.
A third sister, Marguerite Osborne, was the editor. She was only the second woman to hold the job in over 200 years, succeeding Clementina Rind.
When the Osbornes sold the paper to John O.W. Gravely III effective Jan. 1, 1961, an era of family control ended as the Gazette changed hands. But Marian Osborne remained and became business manager. She retired in October 1975 after 45 years of service to the paper, the longest stretch by a single Gazette employee.
In 1970 the Gazette turned from the traditional letterpress operation for printing the paper to the more modern offset method.
The result has been a crisper print job on finer paper with sharper pictures as well. The Gazette also dropped its 200-year-old tabloid form for the more practical and modern broadsheet.
In July 1972 the entire Gazette plant and offices were moved from 420 Prince George St. in mid-town to 173 Second St. on the eastern fringe of the city. This doubled the news and production space to 6000 square feet and included a new 1400-square-foot wing for a full-sized press capable of printing 15,000 papers an hour. A later expansion of the press boosted its page capacity to 20 pages broadsheet or 40 pages tabloid.
By May 1975 when Gravely died unexpectedly at the age of 47, the Gazette had grown threefold in 15 years to 8,100 paid circulation and had regained its position as the leading newspaper in the Williamsburg area.
Gravelys success with the Gazette was due entirely to his own broad experience in newspapers. Unlike many publishers who became specialized in news or advertising departments in their formative years, Gravely was experienced in both sectors. He worked for four years writing city and state news with the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the early 1950s and then moved to advertising sales, where he spent another four years and rose to assistant manager of national advertising.
During the next 11 years, the Gazette staff grew to 52 full-time employees, 29 part-timers and 17 motor route carriers.
The news staff now comprises 10 reporters and editors and 10 more columnists and part-time reporters.
Under the late Al Eberhard and his successor as production manager, Ralph Swartz, the Gazette modernized its typesetting, job printing presses and camera department, and expanded into offset production and other community and college publications.
In March 1986 William C. ODonovan, assistant publisher and editor, was named editor and publisher when the Gazette was sold to Chesapeake Publishing Corp., a subsidiary of Whitney Communications.
Swartz became general manager for printing.
During Mrs. Burgesss tenure as publisher and president, the Gazette took another major step when it became a twice-weekly newspaper. Although it lost its unique distinction as Americas oldest weekly newspaper, it celebrated a landmark in journalism history 250 years to the day that William Parks first published The Virginia Gazette.
In 1988, the Gazette built a 9,000-square-foot office building in front of its printing plant on Ironbound Road. That tripled the working space and enabled the staff to grow accordingly. The interior was designed with plenty of open space and few walls, as well as with windows looking out from nearly all departments.
In 1992, Chesapeake Publishing set out on a strategy of "clustering" newspapers in Virginia, having already done so successfully in Maryland. The Northern Neck News in Warsaw was purchased from R. Marshall Coggin, whose family had run the paper for 113 years. After several years, the office building was gutted and rebuilt to modern specifications.
In 1995, Chesapeake bought five weeklies from Atlantic Publications of the Eastern Shore:
By 2000, Chesapeake had grown nearly 1,000 employees working at 55 publications and four printing plants in five states. The Virginia division had 145 working at seven newspapers, three specialty magazines, and a printing plant.
- Northumberland Echo in Heathsville.
- Westmoreland News in Montross.
- The Caroline Progress in Bowling Green.
- Tidewater Review in West Point.
- Sussex-Surry Dispatch in Wakefield.
In 2001 Chesapeake began divesting much of the company by selling off certain divisions to publicly traded companies. The Daily Press Inc., a subsidiary of Tribune Co., bought the entire Virginia division and pledged to preserve the competitive spirit of news and advertising between the daily and the Gazette in the Williamsburg market.
In 2002, the four papers comprising the Northern Neck group were sold to a family with ties to the Northern Neck. Michael and Carol Diederich of Richmond and Oak Grove joined with his parents Bill and Mary Diederich of Incline Village, Nevada, to take over the papers as well as the visitor publication Riverviews.
By 2002, the flagship Virginia Gazette had grown to a paid circulation of 16,500 and running up to 100 pages a week.
Under Daily Press ownership, improvements in technology and printing enhanced the look of the paper, including wider application of color. Internal improvements extended throughout all departments to improve workflow and productivity. A revamped Web site enabled readers to get in touch with the paper more easily and check current news and commentary.
Along the top of the walls surrounding the News and Advertising departments, hundreds of awards over the years testify to the Gazettes excellence in reporting, writing, design, photography and advertising. The paper won Virginias prestigious Copeland Award for community excellence in 1969, 1980 and 1994, as well as numerous top awards for editorial leadership.
To this day, the paper serves the Williamsburg area with the same enthusiasm that inspired William Parks. The company has quietly lobbied the City of Williamsburg to name a street on his behalf to commemorate the printer who started it all.
--From a 1986 history of The Virginia Gazette by W.C. ODonovan, updated 2002 and transcribed by Lew Leadbeater
Member of the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce
) 2002 The Virginia Gazette