Reminisce: Lima Star newspaper failed 9 1/2 months after debut

In July 1965, the Lima News, which had just completed a two-story addition to its plant in the 100 block of East High Street, devoted three pages in a Sunday edition to explain the newspaper’s operation for the benefit of subscribers, and to do a little bragging with statistics about its dominance in the region for the benefit of advertisers.

“Daily and Sunday circulation of the Lima News ranks first in metropolitan area penetration among all newspapers in Ohio’s 13 standard metropolitan areas,” the newspaper wrote July 11, 1965. “On a daily basis, the News ranks 13th among all evening newspapers in the U.S. in metropolitan area circulation penetration, reaching 83.7 percent of all homes in the Lima-Allen County standard metropolitan area through paid home delivery. And the News is 12th in the nation for its Sunday circulation, with a metropolitan area penetration of 84.8 percent.”

All the statistics, the newspaper explained, “illustrate the high percentage of coverage obtainable by advertisers.”

Advertisers had had few options since the rival Lima Citizen folded a year and a half earlier. However, a new competitor, the Lima Star, would soon debut to test the News’ eight-decade dominance of the Lima market.

The News traced its roots to the Lima Democratic Times. The Democratic Times, successor to the weekly Allen County Democrat, founded in 1853, made its first appearance on an everyday basis in October 1884. The Democratic Times became the Times-Democrat in 1895. Its rival was another daily, the Lima Republican-Gazette.

In November 1897, a third newspaper, the Lima News, hit the streets. In April 1898, the News was purchased by L.S. Galvin and J.R. Finnell. By 1920, the News had prospered, and the Times-Democrat passed to its ownership. The Republican-Gazette eventually merged with another newspaper, the Lima Star, and was finally absorbed by the News in 1929. The first Lima Star closed in 1933.

The Citizen was organized in July 1957 by local interests after the News was sold by the Galvin family to Freedom Newspapers group, which at times seemed determined to alienate as many subscribers as possible with its stances against unions and public funding of libraries and other community institutions. Many News employees, members of the Newspaper Guild, moved to the Citizen.

The Citizen, according to a front-page editorial in its inaugural edition on July 1, 1957, believed “the community’s interests are our interests, and we believe the surest way to win the loyalty of our readers is to report local news factually and without bias, and to keep a vigilant but tolerant eye on those things which are of public concern.”

On January 7, 1964, the Citizen, like its predecessors, was absorbed by the News. “This is the final edition of the Lima Citizen, a newspaper which for six and one-half years attracted the eyes 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,” the Citizen wrote in a front-page story under the headline “A Paper Wilts On Vine After Flowery Start,” a reference to the newspaper’s offices at 711 W. Vine St.

“This was a newspaper conceived and financed by citizens who wanted their hometown publication rather than one owned by a California-based chain whose policies Lima residents did not always accept,” the Dayton Journal-Herald wrote.

In September 1962, the Citizen’s circulation was listed at 24,974 daily and 25,664 on Sunday. The News’ circulation was listed at 27,688 daily and 33,318 on Sunday. In July 1965, a year and half after the Citizen’s demise, the News had about 43,000 daily subscribers and 47,000 on Sunday.

However, many of those News subscribers had indicated they would rather not be, and, on August 26, 1965, the Lima Star announced its arrival as an alternative with a special Allen County Fair edition.

“In Lima, they may be talking about Gemini 5, Vietnam, the upcoming mayoralty race or even the impending football season,” the Star wrote in a front-page editorial. “But for the last year, there has been but one big question in our town and it is simply: ‘When will the Lima Star begin publication?’” The answer, the Star wrote, was in mid-September.

Many of the new paper’s employees, the Star added, had begun with the News, moved to the Citizen in 1957 and were now working for the Star. An ad on the front page urged Lima residents to support the Star, which like the Lima Citizen, would operate out of offices in the 700 block of West Vine Street.

On September 8, 1965, the Star debuted, handing out 35,000 copies of the newspaper. In a letter printed on the front page, Lima Mayor Homer Cooper, who had pressed the button to start the initial press run, wrote: “It is hoped that the Lima-owned, Lima-produced paper will be a force for the overall good of our community by providing stimulating and intense competition in the news media for this area. This concept is in the best tradition of our competitive system which characterizes America.”

The Star began publishing Monday through Friday with plans to eventually expand to seven days a week.

Reality, however, never matched the hopes and dreams of the Stars’ backers. On June 22, 1966, nine and a half months after it debuted, the Star closed. “This newspaper founded Sept. 8, 1965, with confidence, high hopes and enthusiasm, ceases publication with this edition,” the Star wrote June 22, 1966. “Why did the Star fail? The answer can only be found in the hearts and minds of the people of Lima. Before its first publication, more than 15,000 had signed subscription blanks in the paper’s pre-publication offices.

“Yet, after it ‘hit the streets,’” the Star added, “circulation never approached that figure. Why? Perhaps its time had not arrived. Similarly, Lima’s business community, which had indicated it would like a second newspaper to serve as a cautioning barrier to the monopoly press, failed to support.”

The Associated Press reported June 22, 1966, that “the Star’s board of directors said after a meeting last night it could reach no other decision because of continuing financial difficulties with the newspaper which began last Sept. 8.” The Star, the AP noted, “was reported to have a circulation of 7,000 to 8,000.” The month before ceasing publication, the Star, which had remained a weekday-only paper, had switched to a tabloid format to save money.

The Star’s problem-filled existence ended with one last problem. Because of “mechanical difficulties,” the final edition of the newspaper consisted of the inside pages of the previous day’s newspaper with only the front and back pages being new.


This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.


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Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected].