Thelma Barrios, whose job as a classified ad bill collector eventually led her to become a newspaper editor and co-owner, has been a fixture in San Fernando Valley community journalism for four decades.
After nearly 30 years with the San Fernando Sun, Barrios left the hometown paper in April 1985, frustrated by the way it was being run by the owner, the Hearst Corp.
Two weeks later, Barrios, then 66, started the Mission Independent with members of her family, aiming to cover community news as she thought it should be done.
In October of that year, Hearst sold four of its Valley weeklies to its former employees and left the small-town newspaper business in California. Barrios, along with her husband, Joe, and their two sons and daughters-in-law, purchased the San Fernando Sun, Valley View and Record Ledger and combined them with the Mission Independent.
Barrios, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who attended Ohio State University, had her first touch of newspaper work in 1958. She took a night job at the Sun, making calls to collect outstanding payments on classified advertising. She didn’t mind working nights, as Joe was a San Fernando police officer and often on night duty.
After a brief stint in that job, Barrios became a Sun reporter. Three years later she became editor of the women’s pages, and eventually the paper’s editor.
Several years after the family purchased the paper, daughter-in-law Marianne Barrios joined in the day-to-day operation, serving as reporter, photographer and general manager.
The family sold the papers in 1995 to a La Canada-based newspaper company, but Thelma and Marianne retained their positions.
One of the oldest newspapers in the San Fernando Valley, the Sun publishes 14,000 copies a week with five employees plus freelance writers and photographers.
“Everyone has got a story to tell,” Barrios said. “The community newspaper is the only place the average person can get their name in the paper. The more names, the better the reading.”