LIMA — When the Lima Citizen threw a party, which it did annually on the Fourth of July to celebrate the newspaper’s founding, a lot of people showed up.
In 1960, the newspaper estimated, 52,000 people crammed Schoonover Park for free entertainment, potato chips, ice cream bars and popsicles. “Bumper to bumper traffic carried thousands in and out of Schoonover Park between the hours of 3 and 10:30 p.m. Traffic lights were cut and traffic was hand directed by the extra force of police officers and state highway patrol officers.”
By that Fourth of July, the upstart Citizen had been locked in competition with The Lima News in a city too small (about 51,000 population in 1960) and with too few advertising dollars, to support two newspapers. And the Citizen seemed to be winning the fight for the hearts and dollars of the community.
That there was a competition at all was the result of the 1956 sale of The Lima News by local owner Catharine Galvin to Raymond Cyrus Hoiles and Freedom Newspapers.
“The News was long-regarded as a forward-looking, studiously fair paper, and it was seldom, if ever attacked for abusing its monopoly position in Lima,” Time magazine wrote July 15, 1957. “But people started changing their minds about the News in February 1956, when the family owned paper was sold to Raymond Cyrus Hoiles and his Freedom Newspapers.” Hoiles, who was 78 in 1957, was described by Time as a “crabby, Bible-spouting zealot” famed for “his one-man campaign against a series of things he wrapped up under one label: socialism.”
In quick succession, Time added, the News helped defeat a proposal to fluoridate the city water, successfully opposed a plan for a municipal parking lot and “cold shouldered” a fund drive for a community-backed convalescent home. The News also opposed a bond issued to build a new library, opining, “The vital question is: Shall we as voters give our approval to an obviously socialistic institution?” the News asked. Lima voters overwhelmingly approved the bond issue.
When a one-year contract with the American Newspaper Guild, representing editorial and business staffers at the News, expired in February 1957, many longtime staffers who had no hope of a new contract with the virulently antiunion Hoiles, quit and were replaced by nonunion employees. In May 1957, members of the Guild went on strike against the News and were joined by members of the other unions at the paper.
Some former employees, notably Wayne Current, who had been an ad salesman at the News, decided to rally financial support for a new daily newspaper. Sam Kamin and James A. Howenstine, founders of Neon Products Inc., put up $100,000 and more than 1,000 other Lima residents bought shares totaling more than $200,000.
Editor Robert Barton, who had quit the News when Hoiles took over, was lured back from the Cleveland Plain Dealer to run the Citizen, which set up shop at 711 W. Vine St. with a used press purchased from Charleston, West Virginia. That press would be replaced in 1962 with one purchased from the Cincinnati Post and Times-Star.
“Seventy-six other News staffers and 130 of 164 News carrier boys came to work for the new paper,” Time reported. One Citizen reporter told the magazine, “It’s just like the News had picked up and moved.” Many News subscribers followed them to the new paper. The Citizen’s circulation was estimated at 22,000 on July 1, 1957, when the first edition rolled off the press.
“The News, still fighting off the newspaper unions, faltered. Its circulation plummeted from 35,000 to 15,000,” the Detroit Free Press wrote in 1964. “Advertisers flocked to the Citizen. It was embarrassing to have a News paperboy come to collect if you had guests in the house.”
University of Toledo student Leslie R. Roby, in a paper submitted in 1975, wrote that “perhaps no paper in the history of publishing lost so much in circulation and advertising in such a short period of time as the News. The full power of the anti-Hoiles campaign and the successfully emergence of the Citizen relegated the ‘High Street bunch’ to the status of second class citizens.”
All of which left the Citizen staff feeling confident. “If we can’t survive with the kind of help everyone is giving us, then we’re just poor newspapermen,” Barton told Time.
They weren’t, but they lacked the deep pockets of Hoiles and Freedom Newspapers. Hoiles, Time magazine wrote in January 1964, “may be a political crank, but he is also a newspaper pro. And he had a big bankroll to boot.”
The News, Time explained, “snapped up the good comic strips, flooded rural districts with sample copies, cut subscription prices to 25 cents a week, and countered losses by putting out free copies of a shopping guide offered to advertisers at rock-bottom combination rates.” On the editorial side, Hoiles strengthened the editorial staff, concentrated on local news and added a Sunday TV supplement.
So, by 1960, as crowds turned out for the Citizen’s annual Fourth of July bash at Schoonover Park, the News was gaining the upper hand. “The News still lost as much as $600,000 a year,” Time wrote. “The Citizen lost less, but could afford it less.” According to the Free Press, the Citizen maintained its circulation lead in the city of Lima, but rural subscribers sent the News into the lead.
An official tally at the end of September 1963, showed the Citizen with 25,003 daily subscribers and 25,708 on Sunday, while the News boasted 29,136 daily subscribers and 35,771 on Sunday.
Late in 1963, the Free Press wrote, Howenstine and Kamin made a plea for support to leading advertisers and civic leaders. “Howenstine hoped the men would volunteer to publicly endorse the Citizen and urge its support, thus giving the publication a firm basis on which to retrieve advertising and gain circulation.”
Help wasn’t coming. According to the Free Press, Lima’s civic leaders believed having two newspapers in a town the size of Lima was too divisive, forced residents to take sides, and, more importantly, was an extra expense for advertisers. “There was no endorsement and the Citizen was dead,” the Free Press wrote.
Editor & Publisher, a newspaper trade magazine, wrote Jan. 11, 1964, “It was a sad day in the Citizen office on West Vine Street last Saturday. The co-publishers, confronted with the realization that their appeals to business leaders to come to the rescue of the Citizen had gone unanswered by the Jan. 3 deadline, called the staff of 163 together and announced that the paper would cease publication on the following Tuesday.” The magazine reported Hoiles and Freedom paid about $1 million for the Citizen.
The obituary came on Monday, Jan. 7, 1964. Under the headline “Farewell Fellow Citizens,” the newspaper wrote, “This is the final edition of the Lima Citizen, a newspaper which for six and one half years attracted the eye of the newspaper world to Lima by carrying on one of the very few competitive newspaper struggles in America — perhaps the only one in a city of our size.”
On the editorial page, Howenstine, who was president of the Lima Citizen Publishing Co., congratulated the News for the “way you got up off the floor in 1957,” but implored the former rival to “localize your editorial page and mention Lima and its aspirations once in a while, and by all means continue, don’t lessen one whit, the quality of the paper you are now publishing.”
The Lima Star, which was born as a result of the sale of the Citizen, began organizing soon after the Citizen closed. It went to press in September 1965 but folded in June 1966.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.