The Tillsonburg News

The Tillsonburg News

The Tillsonburg News was Tillsonburg’s main source of “all the news you need to know” in both the town, and the surrounding area, for most of the 20th century. Created by the amalgamation of the Tillsonburg Liberal and the Tillsonburg Observer, the News, unlike its two predecessors, did not hold a political slant when reporting community events.


The first edition of The Tillsonburg News was published on January 1st 1920 by a team that included the best in the local newspaper industry, including: F. E. Aldrich, H. F. Johnston and John Law. The staff of this new paper had a vision for the Tillsonburg News stating that the paper, “promises to be in the best interests of the British Empire, the Dominion of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the Town of Tillsonburg. It will aim to give its readers all the news of Tillsonburg and surrounding villages and townships, and to give its advertisers and job patrons better service than either of the separate papers could render.”


Like Tillsonburg’s two previous papers, The News would be a once a week paper that was published and delivered on Thursdays. These early editions were provided to subscribers of both the Tillsonburg Observer and the Liberal with a subscription cost of $1.50 per year. A single copy of the paper cost five cents!


A combination of local news of the day, society happenings and business advertising would create a subscription base from its establishment that carried the paper through the Great Depression of the 1930s.


By the late 1940s, the paper was using a four page press where the sheets were fed through by hand. Once printed, the sheets were flipped manually so type could also be printed on the back. The next press The News had was an eight page press, allowing more news to be shared in the paper.


In the 1950s and 60s the News had two local reporters, while correspondents provided news stories from the surrounding communities. The paper was still only published once a week, but in an effort to keep citizens informed of any breaking news during these modern times, a bulletin board was placed in front of the newspaper office on Broadway. Here citizens could learn the news the day it happened – like the assassination of J.F. Kennedy or Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.


At the time, the Tillsonburg News did not have many photographs in its pages. There was no dedicated photographer on staff and the pictures were difficult to print, those images that do exist from this time period and before were either made by the London Free Press in London or were done on equipment borrowed from the London Free Press. This practice was common amongst the smaller community papers at the time.


A big change came in the 1960s, when the paper went to a twice a week printing schedule. Tillsonburg’s citizens now had access to local news on both Tuesday and Thursday. By the late 1960s the News had outgrown its headquarters on Broadway and moved to the building at the corner of Tillson Avenue and Brock Street (where Life Labs and McFarlan Rowlands is today). In 1969, the paper expanded again, this time moving to the three times a week publishing schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


H.F. Johnston, who had been the publisher of the Tillsonburg News since its inception in 1920, passed away in 1971. Although H.F. Johnston never officially retired, Chuck McKnight, who had joined the paper as a reporter in the 40s, had by the 1970s, taken over Johnston’s role. He was joined by fellow reporter/editor Bill Pratt and together they became the co-owners of the Tillsonburg News Printing Company Ltd. Pratt and McKnight would add other publications including the Ingersoll Times and Norwich Gazette to the company, and in 1973, officially changed the name to Otter Publishing Ltd.


The largest edition of the Tillsonburg News ever published came in 1972, for the Town of Tillsonburg’s Centennial celebrations. This paper, released on July 28, had 150 pages and its own envelope. The sections of the paper discussed the Town’s history.


Otter Publishing needed more space to accommodate its growing printing business, so they built a new plant at 25 Townline Road in Tillsonburg. This new site was celebrated with an open house for all citizens on October 27, 1978. Bill and Chuck both retired in 1983 and Cam McKnight, Chuck’s son, took over as the publisher. After much deliberation, in 1988 Bill and Chuck decided to sell Otter Publishing Ltd. to Newfoundland Capital Corporation.


Today’s Tillsonburg News came from another amalgamation, this time of the Tillsonburg Independent, owned by local people, and The Tillsonburg News owned by NCC. Currently the News is printed in Windsor, Ontario, and published on Wednesday. There is also a presence on the internet and the paper is owned by Sun Media Community Newspapers a part of Postmedia Network.

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