About The Citizens' Voice
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About The Citizens' Voice

     Let's just say 'It all started with a rumor' ...
About two weeks before the sale of the Wilkes-Barre Publishing Company in April, 1978, a reporter was tipped that the company would be sold to a New York-based chain.  That tip, the source of which the reporter never revealed, proved accurate.   In fact, the reporter even came up with the name of the buyer: Capital Cities Communication.  

 ... It all went down hill from there ...

  Employees began researching Cap Cities and quickly determined that it was a hard-nosed firm when it came to union representation of workers.  That posed a challenge because about 225 employees were members of four local unions within three international unions.

  Within weeks, a fence topped with barbed wire was being installed around the company, which published The Times Leader, The Evening News/Record, an all-day paper created weeks after the Agnes flood of 1972.  It was the flood that really sparked a chain of events that led to the sale.  The company sustained loss of its circulation base; it struggled to implement new technologies; the International Typographical Union, representing printers struck in the fall of 1973; the Guild struck in the fall of 1974; an attempt to launch a Sunday newspaper to compete with The Sunday Independent failed, and the Hourigan and Smith families, owners and publishers, apparently felt a sale was preferable to passing on the overall situation to the next generation, some of which was not interested in the business.
As Cap Cities prepared for a strike, the unions slowly began to plan for one.  The Guild chose Jim Orcutt, a tough organizer and negotiator; to come to Wilkes-Barre and build unity.  Orcutt, from Brockton, Mass., was an On The Waterfront-type, skilled at bringing unions together.

  The Wilkes-Barre Council of Newspaper Unions included the Guild, Typographical Union and Graphic Communications International Union which has separate units of platemakers and pressmen.  

  Contrary to allegations made later by Cap Cities, the real strike planning did not start until Sept. 9 when the decision was made to launch a strike newspaper; dubbed The Citizens' Voice.  Contract talks continued into late summer, with no real chance of success.

  The old labor agreements expired Sept. 30 but employees remained on the job until Friday Oct. 6 at 5:45 p.m.  Cap Cities printed its Saturday edition at 7 p.m., showing it could get a paper out without the union members.  Management, about 25 union members who remained inside and replacement workers, who were bombarded with the epithet "scab" continually, produced the edition.

  A strong show of force by labor unions from Eastern Pennsylvania shut down the company on the night of Sunday, Oct. 8, and no edition of The Times Leader, the new name of the all-day paper, was printed for Oct. 9. The Citizens' Voice first edition hit the streets about 2:20 a.m., printed at The Wyoming Valley Observer, Conyngham Street.

  The county court issued an injunction on Oct. 13, allowing The Times Leader to resume publication, and the two newspapers have been competing daily ever since.  The Times Leader went Sundays in 1987; The Sunday Independent folded in May, 1993, and The Voice went Sunday five days later.  The competition has been over seven days since.

  The Voice was published by the unions as a "strike newspaper" until 1982 when the last of the unions was decertified through the efforts of King & Ballow.  From 1982 to 1989, the unions continued to operate the newspaper with a board made up of representatives of the unions.  In 1989, The Citizens' Voice Inc., was formed and the original strikers and retirees became shareholder owners.  The new board included reps from the business community and professionals were hired as publishers. In 1997, Robert Manganiello, one of the original Voice founders, became publisher, a role he held until his retirement in 2004.

  On May 1, 2000, Times-Shamrock, a Scranton-based newspaper and radio communications company owned by the Lynett and Haggerty families, took over ownership.  Voice shareholders had voted overwhelmingly to sell the newspaper after a vigorous search for a buyer and a campaign to make the sale happen.

  Meanwhile, The Times Leader went through its own ownership changes.  Cap Cities became Capital Cities/ABC on its purchase of the ABC television network, and investor Warren Buffett engineered the sale of Cap Cities/ABC to the Walt Disney Company.  Disney did not want newspapers so it sold them off in 1996, including four to Knight Ridder, the based in Miami, Fla. and now headquartered in San Jose, Calif.  One of the four was The Times Leader.  Knight Ridder did not bid on The Citizens' Voice.

  Of the 204 people who went on strike in 1978, eight returned to the publishing company.  Of the 196 remaining people, 27 are still at The Voice.  Many have retired; many have died.  Some moved on to other newspapers or to new careers.  

  Over the years, The Citizens' Voice has won over 65 journalism awards, reflecting its commitment to serve the community with a lively, quality newspaper. 

When I walked out the door of the publishing company on Friday, October 1978, I never in the wildest dreams expected to still be here at the Citizens' Voice.  We had nothing.  We sat on bundles of paper hand writing gullies and wrappers for our first edition on Monday.  It was my worst nightmare.  Both my husband and I were members of the Guild.  I sold my furniture, rings and other valuables to hold onto the house.  We had two small children and a big mortgage.  But we survived.  Suzanna

A Place We Called Home ...

The Voice's first newsroom, circulation and advertising offices were located in October 1978 in an office building at 1 N. Main St., just off Public Square.  The building which was owned by the Wilkes-Barre Redevelopment Authority, was slated to be demolished.  The Wilkes-Barre Council of Newspaper Unions was allowed to rent the space for a few months.  The newspaper's composing room and printing press were located north of Public Square in a plant that published the former Wyoming Valley Observer, a Sunday tabloid newspaper.  

The success of the Voice meant that it was necessary to move to bigger offices.  So, in early 1979, the Voice staff trekked a few blocks west and moved its news, circulation and advertising operations into the Hotel Sterling.  In the hotel, the Voice rented most of the second floor.  The newspaper also outgrew its printing operation at the Observer, moving its printing and composing operations to a facility on West Main Street in Plymouth.  Bob Aben of Unigraphic Color Corporation was responsible for helping get the Voice onto a bigger press and into better production quarters.

The Voice operated out of the Sterling and Plymouth operations until the business moved into its present facility at 75 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, in June 1984.  Since 1984, the press and computer systems have been upgraded several times to be on the cutting edge of newspaper technology.  Today's Voice is in a modern setting, quite different from its humble beginnings in 1978.

** The some following information has been taken from The Citizens' Voice 25th Anniversary Special Section which ran in October 2003.
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