Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The High Springs Herald

The death of an institution is often as painful as the loss of a person.

"I'm gutted," I told Ronald Dupont, Jr., publisher and editor of The North Florida Herald, after learning of the newspaper's recent demise.

The Herald, previously known as The High Springs Herald, had printed a weekly edition since 1952. I learned the last edition had rolled off the presses four weeks ago. It had a print circulation of 3,300 (roughly the size of High Springs, Florida) and its Web site receives an average of 2,000 unique daily visitors. The paper's coverage are included the towns of High Springs, Alachua, Newberry, Fort White and Jonesville in Alachua, Columbia and Gilchrist counties.

"The Herald meant a lot to many of us," I told Dupont. Long before Dupont had purchased The Herald, I had interned at the paper, when it was under the helm of publisher Bob Sharkey. Two years ago, Dupont had invited me to revisit the paper and regale his staff with tales of my tenure at The Herald. It was on my "One Day" list of things to do; I thought I would wait until I had collected all of my journalistic experiences into a book and hit High Springs with copies. I still plan to write the book, but I'll have to cross the visit off my list.

Dupont cited the recession as the reason for the closure, noting in the past two years paid advertisers had reduced the size and frequency of their ads or gone out of business. I suspect, from a gander at the paper's Web site, local politics may also have played a role.

It's not the first time The High Springs Herald has folded. Charles Hesser published its first incarnation in 1928 but like now, an economic downturn, in that case the Great Depression, forced the paper's closure in 1933.

In 1941, three weeks before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, A.E. Wilson revived The High Springs Herald but it did not survive the decade. Then, in 1952, Elbridge Cann began publishing The High Springs Herald, which had been continuously published until last month.

Cann retired in 1960, turning the reins over to Laron Cain and Bob Sharkey. After Cain had a heart attack, my old boss Bob Sharkey and his wife Jill took over the paper. From 1975 through 1979, two editions were printed: The High Springs Herald and The Alachua Herald, and my articles appeared in both.

In 1991, the Sharkeys sold The Herald to Campus Communications Inc., the parent company of The Independent Florida Alligator (the student newspaper of my alma matter, the University of Florida). Dupont purchased The Herald in January 2009.

This January, I plan to blog about some of my experiences at The Herald. Until then, I shall mourn the loss of a piece of my personal history.

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