A great tradition endures
Shortly after Barberton was established in 1891, the first weekly newspaper was founded.
Available at newsstands each Saturday, the Banner and Bulletin documented the growth of Barberton and is credited with promoting the nickname The Magic City. The Banner and Bulletin, however, was rather short lived, lasting only one year.
Citizens were not long without a newspaper though, as resident and former teacher John R. Davis founded the Barberton News in 1892 and published early issues out of the basement of the National Hotel (once located at the corner of present day Wooster Road North and West Lake Avenue). The newspaper came an end in the fall of 1929 after Davis’ death. Though Davis’ son George managed the paper, The Barberton News published its last issue within months of Davis’ passing.
In 1894 the Barberton Leader was founded by attorney Edward Huene. This weekly newspaper changed ownership several times, coming under the management of former city editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, Eugene Rowe. The Leader began publication out of the Tracy Block on Tuscarawas Avenue before moving to Second Street in the early 1900s. It published the last issue in December 1922. Several other publications appeared on the news scene over the years but could not stand the test of time.
In 1906, The Republican Barberton Telegram began, fading away by the early 1920s. The Barberton Socialist arrived alongside the Telegram, but little is known of this short-lived publication. The Barberton Times and Independent appear briefly, but suffered similar fates. The 1950s brought about The Democratic Barberton Post, which enjoyed a weekly circulation of 5,000. Owned by a group of men from Akron, the post printed three additional weekly publications for the communities of Portage Lakes, Canal Fulton and Canton before closing up in 1960.
Barberton’s longest running publication, however, continues today.
Established in 1923, The Barberton Herald actually began in Kenmore in 1921 before relocating to the Magic City on West Tuscarawas Avenue. The newspaper relocated several times before settling in at its present location on Fourth Street Northwest in 1967. Copies in the 1920s sold for 2 cents or $1 for a one year subscription.
Herald founders Harold Makinson and Frank Gaethke, who also established Marshall’s Department Store, acquired the defunct Barberton Leader and the Barberton News. Each publication maintained offices until the newspapers were consolidated around 1929.
David Allen Richardson and his wife, Catherine Ann Robertson, purchased the Herald from Makinson in 1985. Richardson, originally from Canton had been a journalist in Washington DC, Florida and Ohio. His “One Man’s Meat” columns became popular with many readers.
Robertson was a Norton High graduate and retired from Society Bank as President. The two ran the Herald until 2004, when Cheryl Lyn McCracken-Vespoint, Robertson’s daughter, purchased it. Vespoint is a 1984 Barberton graduate.
Vespoint carried the The Barberton Herald into the digital age by incorporating the internet and sending pages to print electronically. In 2010, the Herald pushed its way into the social media scene being hailed by the National Newspaper Association as one of the most digitally aggressive weeklies in the state, with over 16,000 followers on Facebook. The Herald also incorporates a YouTube Page, Google Plus and Instagram.
The Herald has evolved throughout its 94-year history, but has continued to focus on local news, sports and opinion.
Today, the newspaper averages sales of more than 7,700 issues per week through printed and online subscriptions and newsstand sales, with single copies at $1. and a years subscription is $19.
– Excerpts from Rebecca Larson-Troyer
Interested in reading historic Barberton newspapers dating back to 1892? The Barberton Public Library Local History Room makes available thousands of issues of local newspapers on microfilm, including the News (1892-1929, incomplete), Leader (1913-1922), Post (1953-1960) and the Herald (1928-2010, excluding 1933). Current year issues are also available.
The Herald (0442600) published Thursdays for The Vespoint Publishing Company Inc.
Periodicals Postage paid at Barberton, OH, 44203.
A subscription in 44203 is $19, out of delivery area $26, out of the State of Ohio $39, out of United States $65.
The Herald can be read online for $16 per year. No refunds please.
Integrated Postal Software is used with SATORI, CASS Certification, Zip+4, Line of travel, Carrier route and Delivery point bar code since Oct. 2009.
The Barberton Herald is a respected member of The Ohio Newspaper Association and The National Newspaper Association.
The Herald Offices on Fourth Street Northwest today. HERALD PHOTO/Rich Muller
The National Hotel, site of Barberton News offices/Barberton Library Historical Collection photo
July 16, 2016
In a digital world, the personal touch still counts
The National Newspaper Association
When Cheryl Vespoint, a former banker, took over ownership of The Barberton Herald in 2005, the responsibilities that were most challenging had nothing to do with the economy, keeping the paper afloat or covering tough issues in the news.
Instead, Vespoint found herself staring at a new digital frontier. The U.S. Postal Service was floundering, and websites that curated and aggregated news were on the rise.
Eleven short years ago, the world of journalism was on the brink of a complete paradigm shift. Vespoint had never touched a Mac, and neither she nor any of her fellow publishers had ever heard of social media. Mark Zuckerberg had just launched “The Facebook” at Harvard University. Twitter was still a year away. Yet Vespoint and The Barberton Herald made their way onto the forefront of technology and social media, and with a little intellectual muscle and a lot of hard work, they are setting themselves up as a modern, 21st Century news outlet.
“While mastering digital and social media has been hard, we are now on the cutting edge,” she said on the phone recently.
Founded in 1923, The Herald is the longest continuously running newspaper in Barberton. The city is located in Summit County, just 10 miles from Akron. Founded in 1891 by industrialist O.C. Barber, the city is home to around 26,300 residents. Long known as The Magic City, Barberton experienced phenomenal growth during its early years as the town embraced the Industrial Age. The city, which sits in a valley running parallel to the Tuscarawas River and the Ohio and Erie Canal, provided a favorable environment for new factories and residential neighborhoods, which led to the growth of a commercial downtown. Barberton’s centerpiece is Lake Anna, a 10-acre spring-fed natural lake left over from the last ice age. Surrounded by a 21-acre park, the lake area is a hub of activity and the site of many festivals and celebrations.
Over time, the changing economy and decline of manufacturing dried up the industrial hub, and many of the downtown shops closed. But lately, the city has been experiencing a renaissance, noted Vespoint.
“We have a new, young mayor who is working to revitalize Barberton through a downtown revitalization foundation,” Vespoint said. “He is turning our downtown into an arts district. There are new art galleries, a coffee bar and studios just a block from the newspaper. So many things have been done to improve Barberton for its residents. Life is coming back to downtown.”
Vespoint’s mother and stepfather purchased The Barberton Herald in 1986, and she enjoyed taking on small assignments and helping out. She joined the newspaper full time in 2004 and bought it when her parents retired in 2005.
The Herald’s paid circulation of 6,900 includes both print and online subscribers. Single copies are sold out of about 60 news racks throughout the city. The Thursday publication actually goes into production on Tuesdays and is trucked to news racks and the post office on Wednesdays.
Early on, mailing the newspaper was a major headache for Vespoint. But thanks to her friends at the Ohio Newspaper Association and the National Newspaper Association, she learned how to expedite the sorting and labeling process. She is especially grateful to Max Heath, NNA’s Postal Committee chair.
“We never could have made it without Max,” she said.
During the past decade, The Barberton Herald has expanded its platform and is committed to giving its readers the news in any format they want. Vespoint has also focused on helping her advertisers ease into digital media through customized service and a lot of handholding.
“The Herald goes the extra mile for our advertisers by hand-delivering proofs, designing logos, and providing original art and web design services,” she said. “About eight years ago, I noticed that our mom and pop advertisers were nervous about advertising on the newspaper’s website, so I started Herald Hosting, a full-service website hosting product.”
The Herald’s website package includes a registered domain name, website design and maintenance and link from the Herald Hosting listing on the newspaper’s home page. The package also includes a click-through ad on the newspaper’s website and ads in the print newspaper on a space-available basis.
Herald Hosting currently has 13 websites listed.
Vespoint also has dedicated herself to social media, and she spent an entire winter building a social media presence. Her efforts have paid off. The Barberton Herald’s Facebook page has more than 13,100 “likes.”
“I personally worked on growing our Facebook friendships, and we had a big party when we hit 5,000 likes,” she said. “We use Facebook to drive people to our online product and newsprint product, too. We’ve worked hard to get it to where it is now.”
From its early days, barbertonherald.com was mobile friendly and featured a paywall. Vespoint uses Google Plus and employs search engine optimization strategies to elevate the paper’s Google rankings. She also uses Instagram and Twitter and maintains a YouTube channel for the newspaper.
“I felt, several years ago, that when the postal rates started rising and the internet started taking away from print, we needed to get a foothold in the digital world to keep The Herald alive,” Vespoint said.
For all of The Barberton Herald’s growth and advances in the digital media age, nothing spells success for Vespoint more than her team of eight full-time and nine part-time employees.
“The staff we have today is the best in the history of the Herald. They give 110 percent each week,” she said.
Last spring, Vespoint was out of town when the City of Barberton sponsored a festival at Lake Anna. The staff, on their own initiative, wanted to do something special, so they crafted a large, cardboard replica of The Herald’s front page with a window cut out just under the nameplate. At the festival, they set up the display and invited people to pose for photos of themselves on the front page and put the photos on Facebook.
“There was a constant line of people waiting to get their pictures taken,” Vespoint said. “In one day, from noon until 5 p.m. an estimated 70 people got their pictures on the ‘front page’ of The Barberton Herald.
For Vespoint, her publishing journey has been an educational one. Even though she is still married to the print product, she has learned to apply her newspaper’s legacy of customer service and her own personal touch to a digital world.
But of all the lessons she has learned along the way, perhaps the best one to teach a staff the ropes and then empower them to let their imaginations take over so they can think outside the box.
Newspaper name: Barberton (OH) Herald.
What is The Barberton Herald’s circulation? The circulation is 7,900. This includes the online and the print product. We are proud to cover Barberton, Norton and the surrounding area since 1923.
What is its publication schedule? The deadlines are Mondays by 5 p.m. for the following Thursday paper. However, social media has pushed our newspaper into publishing daily online.
How long has your family own the newspaper? My mother and step-father purchased the newspaper in 1986. I purchased the newspaper from them in January 2004, when they retired to Florida.
How long have you been involved at the paper? How long as publisher? I worked small jobs at the Herald since 1986, but nothing full time until October 2004.
Does the newspaper have a mission statement or a motto? To provide firm and fair news reporting and to get the maximum exposure for our advertisers through a quality product.
How many people are employed at the Herald? The Herald employs eight-full time and nine part-time employees.
What is your newspaper’s role in your community? The Herald’s role is to disseminate information and to spark conversations. Our role in our community is to disseminate information and to spark discussion.
What is the most rewarding aspect of publishing a community newspaper? Although sometimes being a publisher is a thankless job, it brings great satisfaction to know a small staff is producing a product that will be cherished in our small community now and for many years to come.
What are your biggest challenges? We insist on firm and fair reporting. The Herald must also go the extra mile for our advertisers by hand-delivering proofs, designing logos, one-of-a-kind art and web design services at affordable prices.
Discuss your strategy for growing your online and social media presence, and what makes you successful in the digital media world? Every employee is taught to use, maintain and publish on Instagram, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter. Many employees are not familiar with social media applications but work hard to learn by posting updates, sports scores, police/EMS activity, along with events and news.
What are your top goals for 2016? Our goals are to increase our online subscriber base and educate readers to the many ways they can enjoy the Herald online. The Herald will strive to educate our advertisers of our opportunities to help them succeed in a small-town environment.
What advice would you give to other newspaper publishers who want to provide the best service possible to their readers, advertisers and community in general? The best advice for a new publisher would be to provide everything your staff needs to let their imagination take over. In the ever-changing needs of the newspaper business, it is imperative that you think out of the (newspaper) box.