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article number 72
article date 10-28-2011
copyright 2011 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Small Town Paper Rolls On, Villa Grove News, Villa Grove, Illinois
by Stu Moment

I was doing an article on the Camargo, Illinois’ 175th Anniversary Celebration when I met a gentleman who was taking pictures and making notes. He was Jeff Holmes, publisher of the Villa Grove News. Villa Grove has a population a tad over 2000 people. The Villa Grove News has served that population since 1907.

Jeff’s Dad, Jack Holmes, bought the paper in 1947. As kids, Jeff, along with two brothers and sisters worked at the paper and also wrote school articles. Jeff remembers using a hand fed press in those days. That press along with other vintage equipment remains at the shop.

Jeff Holmes with the hand-fed press he worked with as a kid.

Jack Holmes was President of the Illinois Press Association in the early 1960’s and met with President Kennedy in that role.

Jack Holmes, as President of the Illinois Press Association, at a meeting with President Kennedy. Jack is sitting to the right of JFK. Note his message of “Faith in America”. I found it motivating.

Jeff had received a degree in accounting and his aspirations were in the accounting area. Jeff was in the service when the untimely death of his dad occurred. Jeff has run the Villa Grove News since then.

Jeff is soft-spoken but reflective regarding the newspaper, his town and his life. He enjoys meeting people and his press credentials lead to meetings and friendships with many important people. He reflected on the changes to his town, from a community with lots of local shopping to a community where people work and shop, miles away in bigger towns. He enjoyed giving me a history of the paper and has preserved its history, both, its equipment and newspaper archives.

I asked him about the economics of operating a small town newspaper. Jeff sold the ownership of the Villa Grove News to a business who owned multiple papers. The deal allowed autonomous management of Villa Grove News while nurturing the contracting of its printing resources for outside jobs.

His presses can handle flyers, advertising inserts and of course, small newspapers.

These are the presses that turn out the Villa Grove News.
Short run press comes in handy for flyers.

Before we close this article with additional pictures, a comment on the future of small town papers is in order. I did online research on trends in newspaper readership. I found the usual statistics regarding the decline in readership as online information becomes more prevalent. However, people use online resources for certain topics and newsprint for other types of information. Coverage of activities and local business advertising in small towns may be best served by newsprint.

Any business must cope with a changing environment. A smartly run small town newspaper may not just survive, but can be an important information medium for centuries to come.

I enjoyed meeting Jeff and, along with the people of the Villa Grove area, look forward to his service for years to come.

Judy Lock, “Bookkeeper”. In a business this size we all know she’s more than a bookkeeper … she’s the everything person.
Jeff shows us drawers of type from the old days of typesetting.
Current layup of pages.
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