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
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
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
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
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'
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.
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
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.
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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