History of The Paper
'the paper' of Wabash County Inc. celebrated its 30th anniversary March 16, 2007 with an open house to thank friends and patrons for their continued support through the years.

The first issue of 'the paper', put together by three people, including Owner / Publisher Wayne Rees, hit the scene March 16, 1977, and was delivered to 12,980 homes. The circulation has since risen to more than 16,000, along with 210 mailed subscriptions.

"The times we had were just great, when you think back," Wayne commented. In sales for 15 years before starting 'the paper', he explained how the idea of a free paper was a fairly new thing for the area.

"A guy in Milford, Ind. - a good friend of mine, Ron Baumgartner - has 'the paper' of Kosciusko County. This was his concept for a few years prior to when I started it. I talked with him about it a lot of times and he always said, 'Wayne, you ought to put one in Wabash County.'

"So I did," he chuckled, "and it worked out great. He helped me a lot with questions."

A weekly newspaper, 'the paper' originally occupied a small office in Wabash Village Shopping Center before moving to its present location, on the corner of US 24 and SR 13, in 1981.

It became apparent to Wayne early on that a free paper was going to work in Wabash County by the feedback he received.

"Advertisers were getting results, because they were putting out more ads than in previous efforts. Therefore, it helped them considerably," he stated.

With that success came requests for more news content. "We were being asked to run things periodically as time went on. We thought, 'Well, it'd help our readership to have that.' That's one of the reasons we opened it up a little bit and included news.

"Now, we're being asked to do a lot of news things."

In the early days, inserting grocery flyers and coupons was handled by Wayne and his wife, Mona; daughter, Julie, and son, Mike.

"We would sit there on the living room rug..."

"It took hours with four people," Julie Frieden, Wayne's daughter and a 'the paper' sales representative for more than 20 years, interjected from the other room.

"But my kids were lazy," he called back with a smile. "There were many times we had to get up early in the morning to finish. It's good they had that, I think," he finished.

There are currently 11 inserters who work, on average, three days a week to keep up with the demand.

According to 'the paper' Production Manager Sam Frieden (Julie's husband), printing 'the paper' comprises only about 10 percent of the printing done by 'the paper'.

"I think the biggest obstacle we face is people still think of us as a weekly newspaper," Sam began. "They don't necessarily think of us as a full service, commercial printing shop.

"We're the largest commercial printer in the county and we offer truly a full range of printing products, from newspapers to business cards and pretty much everything in between.

"We already have sales reps used to calling on most retail businesses, but yet people don't always think of us as a 'printer.' "I hear that all the time, 'I didn't know you guys did that.' Well, we do that."

'the paper' prints six other newspapers weekly with three or four more printed on a monthly basis, as well as numerous grocery store flyers. In addition to the eight-unit web press that typically runs tabloid, broadsheet or signatures (book work) from roll-stock (one continuous sheet of paper), 'the paper' has a Heidelberg single sheet-fed press purchased in 1996.

The sheet-fed press can run anything from books (perfect binding, saddle stitching, spiral bound) to business cards and anything in between, including office forms, carbonless forms, envelopes and stationery.

"If it's on paper, we can do it in-house or we have wholesale sources that we can usually get it done economically for the customer, but the majority of jobs are done in-house," Sam explained.

He went on to comment on some of the changes he's seen since coming to work for 'the paper' in 1992.

"When I started working here everything was still paste-up. Today, almost all jobs are designed completely on computers. So I've seen from paste-up to digital.

"The printing industry is rapidly changing. On the downside you see several print shops closing up each year, but at the same time if people are willing to change and adapt, then growth is still possible when customer service is a priority, which I think is one of our biggest assets."

Almost three years ago, it became apparent Wayne's love of the newspaper business had passed to the next generation when it was announced 'the paper' General Manager Mike Rees and his wife, Carrie, and Sam and Julie Frieden bought the 139-year-old North Manchester News-Journal from Tim McLaughlin, editor / publisher of the North Manchester staple since 2002.

The purchase gave 'the paper' yet another affordable media to offer business owners in which they may sell their wares.

About where 'the paper' is today, compared to how it began, Mike said, "I don't really think the focus has changed as far as the 'the paper' concept of offering a product to people that reaches the most homes in Wabash County and focuses on news for Wabash County, it's sort of 'the people's paper.' "That hasn't changed and I think people still look to our paper when they want to reach the most readers. That's still been the success of it today." Wayne admitted he's starting to "get up there" but gave no indication of retiring anytime soon.

"I hope Dad never does retire; I really do," Mike stated. "It's a first love of his and I hope he comes here every day for it."

"If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing. I've just enjoyed working everyday with my dad," Julie added. "I'd like to keep Dad here as long as we can; I don't really want him to retire either."

Wayne expressed how pleased he is about being in business for 30 years by saying, "The main thing is we want to thank everybody in the community - they've been so good to us. You don't forget that and you can't forget it."

By Mary Beth Dolmanet
(Taken from the news article that ran March 13, 2007)