HISTORY OF NEWSPAPERS IN BREVARD: PART I
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Much like America itself, the way news is delivered in Brevard County is continually evolving.
From humble beginnings on a tiny printing press in Titusville, for more than a century and a half Brevard publishers have strived to present topics of interest to the public in dynamic and creative ways.
But the story of news delivery on the Space Coast is filled with twists and turns, including scaling the heights of enormous popularity and financial success only to crash in abject failure as new methods of attracting readers emerge.
In the 21st century, Brevard residents have 24/7 access to SpaceCoastDaily.com, now the area’s number one local news and information source.
The Florida Star First Local Newspaper In 1880
Following the Civil War, Col. Henry Titus arrived in a community then-called Sand Point to manage a large property owned by his wife and her father.
Titus constructed a hotel on the banks of the Indian River and when commercial steamboat transportation became available in 1877 and Henry Flagler’s railroad reached the area in 1886, tourists and settlers streamed into the expanding city, now called “Titusville.”
One of those new residents was grocer and budding writer Perry Wager, who thought that the community deserved a local newspaper. He purchased a brand new publication called the New Smyrna Florida Star from its owners in 1880 and renamed it The Florida Star when he moved its presses south to Titusville.
Along with his son Ellis, Wager operated the weekly paper until he mysteriously disappeared around 1882 and was never seen again.
Succeeding his father as publisher, Ellis Wager continued to print The Florida Star from the family home on South Street in Titsuville.
In 1890, another newspaper called the Indian River Advocate was established, offering the Florida Star some competition.
Ten years later, a new publication called the East Coast Advocate and Indian River Chronicle was launched when the Indian River Advocate merged with the East Coast Advocate of publisher W.S. Graham.
By then, S.W. Harmon had taken control of The Florida Star and moved the presses to Cocoa in 1912. Publication of The Florida Star ceased in 1917 and was in turn followed by a new product called the Indian River Star.
With World War I over and America enjoying an economic boom, the population of Brevard County was surging too.
Communities south of Titusville were prospering and the demand for news in other Brevard communities like Eau Gallie and Melbourne was growing.
A major merger in 1920 had the Indian River Advocate and East Coast Chronicle merging with the Indian River Star to become the Star Advocate.
Henry Hudson bought the Star-Advocate in 1925 and remained its driving force until his death in 1972.
Hudson had started as a teacher in Iowa and entered journalism by selling advertising. He worked for a paper in Iowa before taking a better job with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Henry Hudson Builds Star Advocate Into Area’s First Daily Newspaper
For some time, Henry Hudson longed to own his own newspaper and jumped at the chance to do that when he heard about a weekly paper for sale in Titusville from a Methodist minister.
The Hudson family relocated here and in 1927, Henry had boosted the paper to a twice-a-week publication.
By 1958, the Star-Advocate was publishing three times a week and in 1964, it became Brevard’s first daily newspaper.
Henry Hudson’s son, Bob Hudson, joined him at the paper upon his graduation from the University of Florida in 1948.
“Those were wonderful days to be in journalism,” Bob Hudson said.
“I looked forward to coming to work every day. Of course there was no internet then. We took all our notes by hand in pencil and then went back to the office and typed them up on a typewriter,” said Hudson.
“That was even before we had television for news here in Brevard. People depended on us to give them the facts and it was an exciting profession to be in.”
Henry Hudson died in 1972 at the age of 83 and his son Bob succeeded him as publisher of the Star-Advocate.
Holderman Founds The Cocoa Tribune In 1917
As Brevard’s population swelled in the 20th century, a new force in publishing set up shop in Cocoa.
Marie Ringo Holderman had sold her successful newspaper in Bradenton and used the proceeds to relocate here to found the weekly The Cocoa Tribune in 1917.
She became one of the most powerful publishers in Florida, swaying public opinion about the women’ suffrage, taxation or that Sebastian was the best place to dig an inlet along the coastline.
Holderman’s tenure as publisher of the paper lasted 50 years and she is now widely recognized as “the first lady of Florida journalism.”
Her influence as Tribune publisher was widespread and eventually led to her election as president of the South Florida Press Association.
Roesch Founds Eau Gallie Record In 1916
As newspapers prospered in the north part of Brevard County, the demand for news was building farther south in Eau Gallie and Melbourne as well.
The Eau Gallie Record was the brainchild of businessman William R. Roesch, who married in Eau Gallie in 1885 and raised his family there.
Founding the newspaper in 1916, Roesch, who was the first town treasurer of Eau Gallie and also served as its postmaster, turned over the day-to-day operations of the business to his son, William Phillip Roesch, when he became Eau Gallie’s mayor.
The Roesch family sold the Record in 1925 when both William R. Roesch’s wife and his son’s wife died within weeks of each other that year.
Other papers followed in Eau Gallie, including the Eau Gallie News (1953), the Eau Gallie Journal (1961) and the weekly Eau Gallie Courier, which started in 1965.
Berg Brings Professionalism To the Melbourne Times
As Melbourne expanded, the public’s appetite for news increased.
In 1887, Guy Metcalf founded a weekly paper called the Melbourne News.
When the Melbourne News folded after a run of seven years, a journalist named E.D. Oslin seized an opportunity and created a paper called the Melbourne Times in 1894.
Five years later, Oslin moved to North Carolina and sold the Times to his brother, Charles Oslin.
Competition arrived for the Melbourne Times when a partnership of W.T. Wells, Charles Vickerstaff Hines and James T. Hogg created the Melbourne East Coast Republican in 1898.
Early in the 20th century, Charles Oslin sold the Melbourne Times to Stanley Lichty, who in turn sold the paper in 1919 to J.F. Schumann.
By the time the Great Depression struck in 1929, Schumann was out of money and seriously looking for a buyer for the paper.
That matter was settled in 1930 when veteran newsman R. Howard Berg, who had owned other newspapers in Florida, realized the potential for a news operation in Melbourne.
Berg bought the Times and relocated its offices to a new location on Waverly Avenue.
Before that, the Times began in a building on Front Street, then in the old Myles Building and also operated from a location on Vernon Place.
The new owner brought professionalism to the Times and transformed the paper to a successful daily paper.
“I knew Mr. Berg growing up here,” said Melbourne mayor Harry C. Goode Jr.
“I was quite young at the time, but I thought he was a nice man and very devoted to his family. The Melbourne Times was extremely popular and what people turned to for everything from grocery ads to coverage of local sports.”
Berg kept the paper until 1946, when he sold it to Perry Publishing, Inc. operated by the Perry Family of Palm Beach County.
Space Program Offers Abundant Business Opportunities
By the late 1950s, Brevard was at the center of America’s desire to explore space.
And with the dawning of the space program here, many foresaw abundant business opportunities here as the population of Brevard was exploding.
One of those visionaries was Allen H. “Al” Neuharth, who grew up in South Dakota and had served in the 86th Infantry Division with the Army in World War II.
After the war, Neuharth embarked upon a career in journalism and eventually joined the Miami Herald under the direction of owner Jim Knight.
Neuharth rose through the ranks and was promoted to assistant managing editor for the Herald.
While on a trip up the coast to explore new locations for expanding the Herald‘s coverage, Neuharth observed the potential for Brevard and became fascinated with the emerging space program.
However, Knight wasn’t as interested in Brevard County as Neuharth was. In 1960, Neuharth was transferred by Knight newspaper chain to work for the Detroit Free Press.
He left Detroit and the Knight newspaper chain for good in 1963 for a chance to serve as general manager of Gannett Corporation’s flagship newspapers at the time, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and the Rochester Times-Union in New York state.
But Brevard County had left an indelible impression upon Neuharth and he thought the area was perfect for a major new publishing venture.
Gannett’s chief executive Paul Miller was so impressed with Neuharth’s vision and leadership that in 1966, he asked him to return to Florida and establish a new daily paper specifically for Brevard County residents.
That newspaper would eventually come to be known as Today and later still, Florida Today.
Miller entrusted Neuharth with the resources to build the newspaper and Today became the first paper that the Gannett Corporation totally created from scratch.
Much like the early space program, Neuharth was about to take off on a journalistic rocket that would zoom into the stratosphere and exceed everyone’s expectations.
CLICK HERE FOR PART II: Al Neuharth constructs a model in Brevard County of journalistic excellence never before experienced and uses his new newspaper as the model for one of the greatest and most successful media ventures of the 20th Century.