Los Altos Town Crier Letters To The Editor
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Los Altos Town Crier Letters To The Editor
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Former Town Crier publishers Paul Nyberg, from left, Mort Levin and Dave MacKenzie reviewed past issues when they met in 1997 for the paper’s 50th anniversary celebration.
From left, Town Crier Publishers Howard Bischoff, Kathy Lehr and Dennis Young and Editor-in-Chief Bruce Barton celebrate the paper’s 75th anniversary.
The first issue of The Town Crier, September 9, 1947, was four pages long with a hand-drawn advertisement. Town Crier file photo
The Los Altos Town Crier’s 75-year transformation from a hand-drawn “shopper” to a local newspaper that’s still going strong in the age of social media is a story of perseverance and community spirit. Its survival and independence derives from a strong partnership between the newspaper and local residents.
Print Edition, December 29, 2021
From left, Town Crier Publishers Howard Bischoff, Kathy Lehr and Dennis Young and Editor-in-Chief Bruce Barton celebrate the paper’s 75th anniversary. Photo by Katherine Simpson/Town Crier
The Town Crier began as a four-page all-advertisement publication published on September 9, 1947, featuring hand-drawn advertisements for local businesses. The paper was co-founded by Dave McKenzie, who lived in Los Altos Hills until his death in 2011, and Warren Goodrich, a nationally syndicated cartoonist who drew advertisements. Goodrich died in 2002. The circulation of the newspaper was 1800 copies.
Although the Town Crier had no editorial content in its early days, it developed a lot of personality thanks to its witty and irreverent co-founders.
“We needed the money,” McKenzie said when asked why he and Goodrich started the buyer. “The Los Altos News (published until 1967) didn’t have a buyer, although they started one later in the race. Our advantage was that we had one offset press in the Santa Clara area, so we had better print quality.
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Former Town Crier publishers Paul Nyberg, from left, Mort Levin and Dave MacKenzie reviewed past issues when they met in 1997 for the paper’s 50th anniversary celebration. Town Crier file photo
As Goodrich recalled in his 2001 book, An Artist’s Life, “In (Town Crier), we made fun of just about everyone, including the dealers, who were allowed to say little about their ads or anything else. It fell in from the start and became a valuable asset.
“The secret (to the success of the ‘Town Crier’) was the lucky number,” said Mort Levin, who served as editor of the Los Altos News from 1953 to 1955 and bought the Town Crier from MacKenzie in 1972.
The lucky number was one of MacKenzie’s many ideas to stimulate reader interest. Individual numbers were hand stamped on each Town Crier prior to distribution. The winnings, which awarded the number holder money, were later drawn and displayed in the windows of participating merchants. If there was no winner for one week, the prize money increased by $10.
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Mackenzie’s humorous “Under the Oak” column and the “Notice Board,” where people could advertise items they wanted or sold, were other keys to the paper’s early success.
“The beginning of the Town Crier was at a critical juncture for the area,” historian Patricia Graham wrote in the California History Center’s book, Los Altos Reminiscences, published in 1973. “Interpersonal needs evolved as the population grew, and “Message Board” Established Service
The second of many Town Crier journalism links. A local newspaper, the expansion of the publication was a direct response to local needs.
“The Town Crier developed a close relationship with (Rancho Mall owner) Chris Wilder, which gave it an advertising core that upset the Los Altos News,” Levin said.
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By 1951, Goodrich had moved to New York and was joined by publisher Bill Norton. The paper began to include editorial content, and circulation grew to 8,600 by 1957. Several new features were introduced in the 1950s, including the photo-dominated “Foothill Focus” and “Strictly Scenic.” Letters to the editor began to appear along with many entertaining columns.
In the 1960s, the publication continued to grow and expand its coverage as Los Altos’s growth “caused problems in maintaining the non-commercial atmosphere of the city,” as Graham put it.
In 1970, legendary Town Crier editor Dolores “Tuck” Shepherd was hired. Shepherd boosted the Town Crier’s grassroots image by regularly featuring old line drawings on the cover to spoof a local issue. Shepherd herself was popular with readers because she always put them first – people were welcome to visit the Town Crier offices at any time, even on deadline. Shepherd was editor for 15 years before retiring in 1985. She died in 1993. In 1994, a downtown bench was dedicated in Shepherd’s honor, located outside the newspaper’s front door at 138 Main St.
With the purchase of the Town Crier, Levine amassed more than a dozen community newspapers throughout the South Bay in the 1970s before selling them to the Meredith Corp. in the late 1970s.
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Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, Meredith had no prior newspaper experience, and it showed. Strong ad sales and circulation.
The Town Crier and a group of other weeklies were sold to Meredith CEO Terence Donnelly in 1988. He promptly sold them to another corporate giant, Tribune Co., based out of Chicago. Tribune Co. In March 1993, the daily Peninsula Times Tribune closed, and with it the Town Crier.
Within 24 hours, Los Altos residents Paul and Lisa Nyberg drew up a contract to purchase the Town Crier and hired staff to produce the next issue on schedule.
Under the Nybergs, the paper grew and editorial content became more focused on the Los Altos area. Operations expanded from a small office space at 138 Main St. to full ownership of the building, with newspaper operations occupying the entire second floor. In 1995, the major renovation of the building was completed. In the same year, the newspaper joined the World Wide Web with its website.
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Two popular traditions started by the Nybergs continue today: the annual Los Saltans of the Year honor, recognizing local residents for their deep and lasting community contributions, and the Town Crier Holiday Fund, an annual campaign that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofit organizations that operate. to people who need it. Paul Nyberg, whose ownership of the paper reflected his love of Los Altos, died last year.
In December 2019, the Town Crier acquired new ownership. Longtime staffers Howard Bischoff, Kathy Lehr and Chris Redden joined 2018 Los Altan of the Year Dennis Young to purchase the paper from the Nybergs.
Bischoff, Lera and Young serve as co-publishers. Redden, who was in charge of the paper’s production and a 44-year employee, died in September 2020.
Under the leadership of the new management team, the interior offices of the Town Crier underwent a complete makeover. Several new employees have come on board. Covid-19 restrictions became another challenge for the paper to overcome.
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“The great thing about the people of Los Altos County is that they really care about their schools, their government, their local businesses and other interests,” Bischoff said. “People are passionate about what they do, and the Town Crier has no shortage of things to cover that reflect this vibrant community.”
“These types of (community newspapers) are very entrepreneurial, they had a presence,” Levin said. “The Town Crier is a good example. It’s a paper that the community accepted and felt was theirs.
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