The Herts Advertiser
The Herts Advertiser
The Herts Advertiser is the main weekly newspaper covering the St Albans District - which it has been doing for the past 155 years.
It is based in the city of St Albans which is just 20 miles from Central London.
About 130,000 people live in the district - a very popular commuter location with five million people per annum passing through the city's station.
One-fifth of the population are aged under 16 and another one-fifth are over 60. The average age is 38.
The Herts Advertiser has been a free newspaper since the late 1980s and is now delivered to more than 50,000 homes each week in St Albans, Harpenden, Radlett and the surrounding villages.
It has its own website and is also available in electronic form.
The Herts Advertiser was voted the Best Free Newspaper in London and the South East in 2005/06 and has comprehensive news and sports coverage and a wide-ranging music and entertainments section.
It also comes with a large property supplement each week as well as a motoring section.
It is owned by the Archant Group.
THE Herts Advertiser was founded by Richard Gibbs the Elder in July 1855 - the year that newspaper stamp tax was repealed and many local newspapers began.
Richard Gibbs had been in St Albans since the 1820s and had a print business in The Clock House at the base of the present Clock Tower in Market Place in the city centre.
The first edition which came out on Saturday, July 7, cost one-and-a half pence in old money and contained eight pages of syndicated news - including an account of the Crimean War - which was brought from London by stagecoach for setting in Market Place. That first edition consisted of 300 copies produced on a hand-operated press at the rate of 50 an hour.
The printing premises soon became known as the "gossip shop" - probably because many people would not have been able to read so would have the news told to them or read out.
Why did Richard Gibbs found the Herts Advertiser? To answer that you have to go back to 1836 to Aylesbury where his brother, John Gibbs, founded the Aylesbury Times. He was an all-round tradesman - auctioneer, pawnbroker, moneylender and printer - but he was also a Liberal and a Radical who used the newspaper to smite the Tories, nobility, landlords and squires - in fact anyone who imposed on the common man. So in those days it was recognised that owning a local newspaper provided a considerable amount of political clout.
Within a generation the Gibbs were expanding their newspapers. At the beginning of the 1890s, Alec Gibbs, great-nephew of Richard, went to Luton to found the Luton News. He certainly had experience of all aspects of producing a newspaper as back on the Herts Advertiser he had been setting type for the newspaper, pulling proofs, reading them, cleaning the machines, collecting advertisements and in the evening, after studying shorthand, did a bit of reporting.
Newspapers were male bastions until the 1930s when the first women journalists appeared.
In wartime, women consolidated their place in newspapers when many of the men went off to fight. Newspapers were also handicapped during the Second World War by the shortage of newsprint and strict censorship on what could be printed even when people were aware of bombs being dropped or planes shot down in the area.
The zenith of the paid-for titles was probably in the late Fifties and early Sixties and then came the most dramatic happening in newspapers in more than 100 years - the rise of the free newspapers.
Though the early "freesheets" contained only advertisements with little or no editorial, over the next 20 years or so they eroded the monopoly position and profitability of the paid-for newspapers.
Then in the Seventies and Eighties came the second great revolution in newspapers - new technology. Prior to this, reporters had typed copy on bits of paper, sub-editors corrected it and wrote headline instructions on, it was set in hot metal, the pictures were etched in metal, then all the type was put together in a page-shaped metal frame, an impression was pressed on papier machÃ© and that was made into a curved metal flong which went on the printing presses to produce the pages. It was a very labour-intensive process with many people involved in the various processes.
As computers replaced many of those tasks, newspapers became brighter and better designed with the widespread use of colour - and much cheaper to produce.
The next revolution in a relatively short period has been the impact of the web on newspapers. The old "weekly" concept of newspapers is disappearing with daily - and even hourly - updating of the websites and the pages available on screen in electronic form.
What next? Will you soon be accessing your Herts Advertiser on your mobile phone or reading the pages on your multi-media home communication system?