Erie Times News

Greater Erie Award for Education and Advocacy

In the words of Phil Graham, the late publisher of The Washington Post, journalism is “the first rough draft of history.”

Staff members at the Erie Times-News have been writing and refining those rough drafts since April 12, 1888, when the first edition of the Erie Daily Times was published.

But reporters, editors, columnists, editorial writers and photographers at the Erie Times-News do more than cover news as it breaks. In stories about Erie’s neighborhoods, schools, businesses, governmental bodies and demographic trends, staffers provide historical context that explains how Erie’s landscape has changed and what those changes mean for today and in the future.

In recognition of in-depth coverage of topics related to Erie history, Preservation Erie awards a 2020 Greater Erie Award to the Erie Times-News in the category of Education and Advocacy.

The newspaper has reported on its own history with special editions for landmark anniversaries. In a souvenir edition for the paper’s 75th anniversary on April 12, 1963, the newspaper wrote about the group of nine printers, including John Mead, who started the paper on that date in 1888.

“Their office was a basement at Ninth and State, their press a neighborhood print shop and their reference library a city directory in the business office upstairs,” the story said. “Its bulging basement workshop at Ninth and State gave way to its completely designed offices at Tenth and Peach for many years, and finally at Twelfth and French,” the story continued.

The move to West 10th and Peach streets occurred in 1924, followed by the relocation to East 12th and French streets in 1957. A service station stands on the site of the old Times building at East 12th and French. The former Times building at 120 W. 10th Street had served as the United Way headquarters before being acquired by the Knox, McLaughlin, Gornell & Sennett law firm. Vacant since 2006, the building was torn down in July 2019.

It is fitting that Preservation Erie is bestowing this award on the newspaper as the Erie Times-News approaches another milestone in its own history. Fifty years ago, on June 6, 1970, the newspaper moved to its current location at 205 W. 12th Street.

Learning about one piece of history can lead to more historic nuggets. This Sears ad appeared in a special for the Times Publishing Co. when the newspaper moved from E. 12th and French streets to West 12th and Sassafras streets on June 6, 1970. The Times building was constructed on the site of the former Wittman-Pfeffer Coal Co. According to Old Time Erie blogger Debbi Lyon, Sears celebrated its grand opening at 134 E. 10th Street on May 13, 1948; the department store had previously been at 1018 State St. The Boston Store, Carlisle’s and Duggan Rider Co. also helped to furnish the newspaper building. Carlisle’s became Gannon University’s Palumbo Center. The Boston Store is now home to apartments, radio stations and Voodoo Brewery. Duggan Rider Co. had several locations on State Street; its ad in the 1970 newspaper section lists its address as 915 State St., which is the Palace Hardware building. Sears was torn down to make way for Erie’s baseball stadium, which opened in June 1995. Two of these structures are celebrating milestones in June: The Times building is 50 years old, while the stadium, formerly Jerry Uht Park and now known as UPMC Park, is 25 years old.

Fittingly, the special edition published in 1970 to commemorate the newspaper’s move opened with a review of Erie’s history. “At first, it was just a handful of families scratching out a survival. Then it became an idea. Erie – like every other city – opened its eyes one day and saw that it was a community. The new awareness gave it something to work for, to fight for, to hope for and to grow for,” the story said.

The award from Preservation Erie recognizes the Erie Times-News as a whole, but we also honor a number of staff members whose work exemplifies a clear understanding of history and historic preservation efforts.

These staff members include Matt Martin, executive editor, who started the “Expedition Erie” history blog; reporter Ed Palattella, who has written extensively about historic properties, including the Dobler Mansion in Girard; reporter Jim Martin, who has covered the commitment by Thomas Hagen, chairman of Erie Indemnity, to restore historic properties on Millionaire’s Row on West Sixth Street; reporter Ron Leonardi, who has written extensively about Erie’s contributions to the Civil War and Erie’s maritime heritage; reporter Dana Massing, who has shared her interest in Gettysburg and General Strong Vincent in her columns; reporter Valerie Myers, who has delved into long-forgotten historical events, including the 1918 flu pandemic, to make them relevant to readers today; reporter Madeline O’Neill, who has written about the successful effort to save an historic Erie house from demolition; reporter Kevin Flowers, who has covered proposals to enact a demolition delay ordinance in the city of Erie as well as the creation of the city’s Historic Preservation Task Force; former columnist Pat Bywater, who has advocated for attention to historic preservation and a commitment to arts and culture in the Our West Bayfront Neighborhood; Lake Erie LifeStyle and House to Home editor Pam Parker, for informative features in those two publications about the origins, styles and design details of historic properties in the Erie region; for editorial writers and columnists Pat Howard and Lisa Thompson, for ongoing analysis of the “Erie Refocused” comprehensive plan; former reporter Sarah Grabski, for her oral history projects; and photographers Chris Millette, Jack Hanrahan and Greg Wohlford, for documenting Erie’s current history with photo and video images.

The Erie Daily Times has undergone many changes since its founding in 1888. In 1957, the Times, an afternoon paper, merged with its rival, the Erie Dispatch Herald, and began to publish the Morning News. On Oct. 2, 2000, the Erie Times-News published its first morning edition after combining the Erie Daily Times and the Morning News into one paper. In December 2015, GateHouse Media purchased the Erie Times-News from the Mead family. The Erie Times-News is now a subsidiary of Gannet Co., since In GateHouse Media completed its acquisition of Gannett in late 2019.

In the news business, change is a constant. In Erie, we are fortunate to be home to journalists who continue to polish the rough drafts of history. This work about Erie’s past provides insights as we plot our future, together.

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