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 History of Georgetown's newspapers

John A. Bell, former editor of the Georgetown Gazette, and Joseph B. Rucker published the first issue of a new newspaper, the Georgetown Weekly Times, on January 1, 1867.

The present Georgetown News-Graphic drew its true first breath at this moment.

Georgetown had been without a true newspaper for about five years when the Weekly Times hit the stands. The newspaper was heavily Democratic, Bell and Rucker having both served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Soon Rucker sold his interest in the publication and its title was shortened to the Georgetown Times.

Over the years, Bell became a leading voice for change and development in Georgetown. Scott County today still reaps the benefits brought about by Bell's editorials in the pages of the Times. Residents of the city still use water from a municipal water company that was proposed, endorsed and supported by Bell's editorials. While other cities, including Lexington, still had privies in the backyards of their homes, residents of Georgetown had running water. This was probably a factor in why the cholera epidemic that killed hundreds in Lexington in the later 19th century largely bypassed Georgetown. The establishment of Georgetown Cemetery was largely the result of an editorial campaign by Bell, who later served on the Cemetery Board.

In 1887, the Scott County News appeared. Published by Thomas E. Johnson and Harry Montgomery, it was one of several papers to surface during the period. Montgomery soon left the business and Johnson went into partnership with Corinth newspaper editor J.R. Garrett, renaming the paper the News-Enterprise. Johnson and Garrett parted ways in 1890, with Garrett publishing the Georgetown Enterprise and Johnson and his brother Freener Johnson publishing the Georgetown News.

In 1935, Mrs. Edith Dennis Lancaster, editor and publisher of the Georgetown News, sold the struggling newspaper to Flem C. Smith whose wife Anne Moore Bell was the daughter of Georgetown Times co-founder Fannie M. Bell. After purchasing the Georgetown News, Smith moved most of its equipment to the Times plant in the Masonic building on Georgetown's East Main Street (where the operation remained until it was moved onto Cherry Blossom Way in the mid-1990s under the Georgetown News-Graphic moniker).

The News and the Times passed out of Bell family ownership in 1952 and the two were later merged into a single weekly publication, the Georgetown News and Times.

It was in November 1950, two years after starting his own printing business, that former Georgetown News and Georgetown Times editor Archie S. Frye established The Graphic, also published weekly. Frye became a pioneer in usage of the offset printing technique years ahead of other newspapers, and the rogue publication challenged the established papers of record, the News and the Times, for headlines.

In 1984, Frye and his wife, Mary, sold "Kentucky's First Offset Newspaper" to local real estate agent Doug Smith and assistant editor Byron Brewer was named editor. The paper soon began to outgrow its small North Hamilton Street office and so was relocated to East Main, across from Smith's own realty firm. It was rechristened at this time the Georgetown Graphic and began taking on a stance as a leader in many civic and business projects, sponsoring community events and flexing its editorial muscles in a way the old paper never did. This was especially critical since the move coincided with the coming of Toyota and the construction and building booms in Scott County.

During the height of its popularity, going head-to-head with the News and Times for news coverage as well as advertising dollar, the rogue Georgetown Graphic also had to contend with the Scott Shopper, an advertiser delivered free to all postal customers in Scott County and founded by former News and Times staffers Ralph Maurer and Sid Hisel. With Maurer's colorful "Ralph's Report" gossip column, the Shopper was quite popular and was a formidable local advertising competitor.

For awhile, the Georgetown Graphic published its own advertiser called the Countywide Graphic, which presented a feature story on its front page with business news and advertising inside. Similarly and for a longer period of time, the News and Times had an advertiser titled Scott Free News.

During the week between Christmas 1992 and New Year's Day 1993, Scripps League, the national chain that had owned the News and Times since 1978, pulled the rug out from under its staff by shutting its doors, citing large financial losses. But on Jan. 6, 1993, Scott County saw a new albeit brief genesis of the journal's revival as publisher Bob Scott rescued the paper with the publication of the new Georgetown Times. Under Scott and the editorial team of Rick Baker and Brewer (who had left the Georgetown Graphic in 1991), the struggling publication never missed an issue.

In July 1993, both papers were sold to the Lancaster Group and merged under the name, the Georgetown News-Graphic. The newspaper continued its operation at the Masonic building on East Main Street until a new plant that included printing facilities was built on Cherry Blossom Way. When the News-Graphic began production of its first issue at that plant in the mid-1990s under publisher Mike Scogin who arrived in July 1994, and editor Kriti Lopez, it was the first time in over two decades a newspaper had been produced within Scott County's borders.

Bucking national trends, the community newspaper first went tri-weekly and, for a time, was published Tuesday through Friday afternoons and on Sunday mornings before returning to tri-weekly status. In the late 1990's, Georgetown Newspapers, Inc. purchased The Scott Shopper.

The News-Graphic has forged a reputation as a powerful newspaper regularly among the best in Kentucky Press Association contests including two General Excellence Awards as the state's best multi-weekly. In 2008, The Georgetown/ Scott County Chamber of Commerce awarded the News-Graphic its annual Business of the Year Award for the newspaper's efforts to improve the community.

Under Scogin's direction, the News-Graphic was one of the first newspapers to launch its own website with its first incarnation in 1995. Since then, the website has been redesigned seven times, including this current design.

The newspaper continues to serve the needs of its readers by offering them the best in community, state, national and international news and sports coverage; the finest in advertising service and promotion; and a growing website to meet their needs, at www.news-graphic.com.

History composed by
Byron Brewer
Georgetown newspaper historian




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