50 Years Ago: North Baton Rouge Journal — Predecessor of Capital City News
BATON ROUGE — In July 1966, I was a 19-year-old student at the LSU School of Journalism. For the past two years, I had the privilege of having worked as a newsman and disc jockey at WLCS, the No. 1 radio station in Baton Rouge and then as a television announcer and newsman at the CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge, WAFB-TV. I had my sights on a career in broadcast journalism and thought perhaps I could make it in network news. The jobs were important in another way. My dad was disabled, and I was my sole support. So money was important to pay the bills. I was making $1.73 an hour, barely enough to survive, even as a student. Then one day I went to the cleaners to pick up my only suit and then to the laundromat to wash my clothes. When I went to work at WAFB-TV that night, all the clothes I owned were in my backseat.
I got off work at 2 a.m. and when out to my car in the parking lot. To my shock and surprise, someone had busted out a window and stolen all of my clothes! He made off with every stitch of clothing I owned except what I had on! That was the moment I learned to hate thieves!
The next morning I went in to see my boss, Chief Engineer Don Allen. I told him what had happened, that I was struggling to pay my bills and now had to somehow buy some clothes. I reminded him that I had been there a year without a raise and was only making $1.73 an hour despite the important responsibilities I had. I asked, “Would you consider raising me up to $2 an hour?”
I had never seen Don Allen angry before, but he became very animated. “A raise?” he said, rising from his chair and reached out his hands as though he were about to strangle me. His eyes bugged out and smoke seemed to emanate from his nostils! “A raise? We were thinking about firing your ass, and here you are talking about a raise! Get the hell out of my office!”
My thoughts of being the next Walter Cronkite were suddenly shattered on the floor. I wasn’t fired but I could see that “management” considered me highly expendable!
I called my dad, and he said, “Son, I’ve told you — the only way to be successful financially is to be your own boss.” My high school sweetheart Diane was a copywriter for WAFB. That night we had dinner and did a lot of soul-searching.
We decided to quit WAFB, raise as much money as we could, and start a newspaper for North Baton Rouge. We decided to call it the North Baton Rouge Journal!
We came up with $300, and I began visiting every business in North Baton Rouge to sell advertising. The business owners were very supportive, and the first edition of the North Baton Rouge Journal came off the press at Land Printing Co. on August 11, 1966!
We distributed 10,000 copies a week free and then went to paid circulation and built it to 4,000 subscribers. There is noting like publishing a weekly newspaper to put discipline in your life!
We still thank the people of North Baton Rouge for making the paper a success and launching our business career. In 1969, Diane and I decided to go to law school and sold the Journal for $30,000. That paid our way through law school.
But I always missed the newspaper business, and in 2005, we launched the Central City News.