On this Date: Taken from “Back to the Future…”

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a Press Club of Southwest Florida Newsletter from Summer 1997 written by David Pfaff. For us to move forward we must remember where we have been. On This Date is a fun way for NPC members to find out about the Press Club of Southwest Florida’s past.

Columnist Dave Pfaff is still fitting through time. Again this month, he is being a bit “backward.”

Media interest in Naples came almost from the beginning. Among Naples Development Company’s earliest investors was the publisher of the Louisville, KY Courier-Journal, who besides talking about Naples in the paper, reportedly offered homesites as a premium to subscribers. Wonder if Scripps-Howard ever thought of that?

The two Fort Myers papers, which combined into the News-Press, commented about what was happening down here from the turn of the century. By the 20s and 30s, it has “correspondents” throughout the county with “stringers” until the 60s. The News-Press now belonged to the Collier family, who also decided Collier County needed a paper and started a weekly called the Collier County News… yep, the Naples Daily News in diapers! By the late 40s, the CCN had a flatbed press in a building just west of Crayton Cove and a staff headed by Mike Chance, editor; and reporters Tom Hayre and Tom Morgan. The latter still lives in Naples.

The next media move was the arrival of broadcasting: WNOG was started in 1955 by Realtor George Dewey Polly, who brought in an experienced broadcaster from Harlan, KY to run it. That was Richard Goodlette, Dudley’s dad, and the namesake of Goodlette Road, the creation of which he championed when he was on the County Commission. In 1956 WNOG was taken over by Bill Ryan and his uncle, Dr. Dan Langley, and began news coverage shortly thereafter, even editorializing before the end of the decade.

The Miami Herald came to town in the 50s when it opened a news bureau staffed by Clarence Zate. He was succeeded in the 60s by Tom Morgan and the Herald maintained the bureau until the 80s. Wonder is it lasted that long, as the newspaper never tried to sell ads locally, although it had the largest circulation in town at one point.

The News-Press tried valiantly to compete. Fred Winter ran a multi-person bureau for several years. They sold ads, etc., but never could make the circulation hump. Gradually they pulled back, combining the bureau with one in Bonita Springs and then combining the editions. They even cut off home delivery except by mail a couple of years ago.

In the mid-70s, the FCC assigned a TV channel to Naples (there were two in Fort Myers – 11 and 20). This was channel 26, and at least one Naples group made a run at it before stepping aside for a Fort Myers group. There have been several owners since. More radio stations came to Naples, including FMS, with frenzy in the 80s.

A former New York Times man, Bill Tamplin, started a weekly at Marco, the Eagle, soon after Mackles’s began serious development there. His old employer took over his paper before his death and tried expanding with a Golden Gate weekly. There have been a couple more tries out there until the Tuff brothers took over the Gazette and started to make it hum. They also run a paper in Everglades City now. Immokalee has a paper that was started by a former “carnie,” Stan Wrisley. It’s now run by a Labelle group.

Back in the early 50s, Naples also had a mimeographed (!) shopper done by Doyle Hodges. In the 60s, a Realtor by the name of Cliff Anderson became mad enough at the Collier County News that he started a competing weekly, The Naples Sun. As such things go, it was rather short lived, but it did trigger Judy and Dick DeTurk’s Naples Star, which lived on for many years with a considerable influence. It lost much of its spunk when Judy, the editor, died a sudden, untimely death.

The Star and Hodges’ shopper ended up in Clark Swanson’s hands and he in turn sold them to the Orlando Sentinel, nee: the Chicago Tribune. What happened next was a classic case of reading into demographics what you want to believe, not what’s there. The result was a cheeky, trendy, slick paper, graphics ala “W,” catering to Naples’ high incomes who obviously had to be a hip, young, swinging set! Didn’t last long.

Tim O’Connor had quietly been building up the Colliers’s paper, taking it daily, pushing circulation to the highest city zone penetration in the U.S. Having sold the News-Press to Gannett earlier, the Colliers began thinking of negotiating a sale of the Daily News. A brash young member of the family, Miles Jr., suggested instead they ask for bids. Scripps Howard thereupon ponied up the highest amount per subscriber ever paid for a U.S. newspaper. After all, it was the fastest growing metro in the U.S. and, at the time, was taking 60 percent of its revenues from the bottom line, pre-tax.

Like the man says – “and that’s the rest of the story!”

Leave a Reply