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Over 132 years, journalism in Madera has had its heroes

Madera was only nine years old when its first newspaper was published. On March 21, 1885, Edgar Eugene Vincent founded the Madera Mercury, which in time became the Madera Tribune.

In the 132 years since then, the Tribune and its antecedents have been boosters of Madera and served as its information center. Long before the advent of electronic media, Maderans knew what was going on in their community.

The long history of print journalism in Madera was made possible by the determination of several individuals, but any survey of the Tribune’s past must pay tribute to four men: Vincent, George A. Clark, Les Hayes, and Chuck Doud.

Vincent’s place in this group is secure because he was apparently the first newsman to put legs to his vision, bringing Madera its first newspaper.

He started out with a printing business in San Francisco and then moved to San Jose where he worked for the San Jose Mercury.

By 1885, Madera was making a name for itself as a newcomer to the San Joaquin Valley, so Vincent, learning that the town had no newspaper, moved to Madera, bringing the name of the San Jose newspaper with him.

Thus, the Madera Mercury was born in a little office on E Street between the San Joaquin Light and Power Company and the Yosemite Hotel. The weekly newspaper was printed on an old Franklin press with all of the type set by hand.

In 1887, Vincent moved his operation to the three-story building on the south side of Yosemite Avenue.

For awhile, the Madera Mercury had a monopoly of the newspaper business in Madera, but it didn’t take long before Vincent had a competitor in the person of George A. Clark.

Clark was born in Woodman, Wisconsin, in 1865, but spent most of his early life in North Dakota and Iowa. For a while, he worked with his father as a carpenter, and later became a schoolteacher. While he was engaged in his classroom duties, Clark secured part-time employment in a small county newspaper, and it was this latter endeavor that grabbed his vision.

Over the next few years, Clark was employed by the Chicago Tribune, the Omaha Republican, and in Des Moines, Iowa, as a master printer. He was one of the last, if not the last, of a group of master printers known to the Missouri River Valley as “Missouri River Pirates,” a compliment in the trade, meaning he had no superior.

E.E. Vincent had been in his new location on Yosemite Avenue for three years when Clark emigrated to California to go to work for the Fresno Expositor. Two years later, he turned his eyes north toward Madera.

On March 31, 1892, Clark and a silent partner, Beil Marshall of Long Beach, founded the Madera Tribune, and for a while ran in competition with the Mercury. He published the first copy of the Tribune from his office on North D Street. Clark never missed an issue, not even when his building burned to the ground.

Clark soon gained the respect of almost every Maderan. He was known as a man of unbending principles and was particularly immune to pressure from special interests in the community. Not even the inimitable Henry Miller could intimidate George Clark.

The powerful land baron once demanded of Clark that he take an editorial position on a certain matter and Miller was willing to pay for the desired journalistic support.

Clark, however, was adamant in his refusal. He could not be bought. Later, much to Miller’s surprise, Clark did support the cattleman’s position, but he flatly rejected Miller’s offer of monetary consideration.

In February 1893, William J. Deeter bought the Tribune. Clark remained as the editor, until he bought it back a short time later.

In 1919, George Clark brought his son, Howard A. Clark, into the business, and the two were co-publishers until the father’s death in 1948.

In 1920, the Tribune and the Mercury merged to become the Madera Mercury-Tribune. Madera remained a one-newspaper town until the 1940s, when Everett Peck started the Madera News, which was purchased by Dean S. Lesher in 1945. When Lesher appeared on Madera’s print media stage, a new day dawned in the local newspaper business. Lesher, a Harvard law school graduate, came to Madera with a plan, some say, to hijack the Tribune.

When George Clark died in 1948, Howard Clark refused to make an accounting of the estate to Robert Jay, the administrator of his father’s estate. As a result, the Tribune was placed in receivership, and Lesher purchased the paper’s assets.

According to Howard Clark, Lesher then forced the demise of the Tribune so that in 1949, he was able to buy all of Clark’s “right, title, and interest” in the Madera Tribune for $30,000. Later that year, Lesher merged his Madera Daily News with the Tribune, and it became the Madera News Tribune.

Clark sued Lesher for $175,000, and a huge legal battle ensued for the next decade, but to no avail. The case was finally settled in 1959 in Lesher’s favor.

The Madera Tribune reached its zenith under Lesher after he brought Les Hayes in as general manager. Under Hayes’ leadership, the Tribune became one of Lesher’s most influential publications among the 27 other daily and weekly newspapers he acquired.

However, after Lesher’s death in 1993 and Hayes’ retirement the next year, the Tribune experienced some difficult times. Lesher Newspapers, Inc., sold the Tribune to U.S. Media, which in turn sold it to Pacific Sierra Publishing.

None of the general managers who followed Hayes could steer the paper out of rough waters. Circulation and advertising declined, and staff reductions followed. By the turn of the 21st century, it looked as if Madera would be without a newspaper. Then along came Charles Doud.

Just when almost everyone had given up on the Madera Tribune, Doud arrived in town. He had been called here by officials of Pacific Sierra Publishing and offered the job of editor of the Madera Tribune.

Whoever made the decision to bring Doud to Madera no doubt knew they were dealing with someone who had lived and breathed newspapers. Beginning with his first job as a linotype operator at the age of 14, Doud had learned the business in 12 different newspapers before he and his wife Annette came to Madera.

In addition to his linotype operator beginnings with the Shelley (Idaho) Pioneer and the Rigby (Idaho) Star, Doud was the editor of the Daily Trojaneer, his high school newspaper.

After studying journalism, business and communications at the University of Missouri and the University of Washington, Doud landed a job as advertising manager with Seattle’s Alaska Magazine. At that point, he decided to jump headfirst into the newspaper game and bought the Magnolia News, a weekly paper, which he owned for five years.

Next came the Seattle Post Intelligencer, where he worked his way up from copy editor to night news editor.

After five years with the Post-Intelligencer, Doud went to the Tacoma News Tribune, where he became the associate editor. Eleven years later, he and his wife started another weekly, this time the Skagit River Post in Burlington, Washington.

Doud then moved to a Gannett paper, the Bellingham Herald, and stayed there for two years as an associate editor. He then became a newspaper consultant, which landed him in Prescott, Arizona, where he decided to stay and became the managing editor of the Prescott Courier.

From there, it was back to the Pacific Northwest and the Capital Press, an agricultural weekly in Oregon, as general manager, then to another weekly in Lincoln City, Oregon, for two years.

Ridgecrest, California, was the next stop on Doud’s professional journey, where he edited the Ridgecrest Daily Independent for four years. He was working at the Daily Independent when he made the propitious decision to answer Pacific Sierra Publishing’s invitation to come to Madera as editor.

Doud had been working as editor of the Madera Tribune for a year when he was called to a meeting with the top brass of Pacific Sierra Publishing. He was told that the company was selling its newspapers in the Valley, but that the Tribune was not one of them. Such was the state of things in September 2003 — no one wanted it.

The Pacific Sierra Publishing bosses told Doud that if it couldn’t be sold, the Tribune would be closed. They offered Madera’s hometown paper to Doud. He made what he thought was an offer they would refuse, but they surprised him. They took it, and Doud became the owner and savior of the Madera Tribune.

In 2004, Doud formed the Madera Printing and Publishing Company, Inc., and that is where things stand today.

Doud admits to some good years and some not-so-good years. He has had to wrestle with the influence of the Internet and a seven-year recession, but through it all he managed to save the Madera Tribune.

His apologia during these last 13 years has been “Every city needs a newspaper. If it doesn’t have one, it could die.”

So through the travail of the times, the Madera Tribune has managed to survive by the efforts of men who believed in it.

Will that continue to be the case? Charles Doud hopes so.

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