‘I Need to Hold My Paper’

[imgbelt img=nicholar-county-clipthumb.jpg]Dailies are on hard times, but weekly newspaper readership is hard core. Betty Dotson-Lewis profiles the 127-year-old paper that provoked ten thousand clippings.



Courthouse of Nicholas County, West Virginia, in Summersville

While on the subject of the county jail — there is a favorite escapade you can hear about in the town’s two barbershops as many times as you go there to get a haircut…

The county sheriff’s office used to be housed downstairs from the jail, along with the 911 Dispatch Office.  This arrangement was especially convenient for “John Doe,” a favorite community member who was known to drink too much from time to time, to sleep it off a in the county jail.   While sobering up and resting up,  “John Doe” was often made a jail trustee.  He would rake the leaves as they fell from the big trees on the courthouse lawn, pick up litter around the building, make a trip or two across the street to Fran’s Diner for coffee and eats for the professionals, etc. 

During one of “John Doe’s” sobering up periods, he escaped.  The sheriff and deputies began a frantic search for their  escaped prisoner.  Officers  searched  buildings up and down Main Street, Church Street, everywhere.  Town folk were shaking their heads, thinking “John” could not go far since his only mode of transportation was a 2nd hand bicycle with a large American Flag flying behind his seat.  

When the day was nearly over and dusk was settling in, “John Doe” grew tired, hungry and sleepy and returned to his cell.   Following a good meal, a good night’s sleep  and interrogation, he took the officers to the tall tree on the courthouse lawn and pointed up to a big limb he sat on as he watched the search go on for him on the ground below.


…The Nicholas Chronicle Office on Church Street  was a two-room complex with wooden floors that creaked and a long counter along one wall for visitors to pay for subscriptions, place a classified ad or get a copy of an earlier paper.  There were stacks of papers on the counter in no particular order, but Mrs. Hill had no problem finding what you needed.  Mrs. Eib, wife of publisher, editor-in-chief and reporter Charles Eib, worked at a small table behind Mrs. Hill.  Mrs. Eib was a plump woman, spilling over the sides of her chair.  She had jet black hair pulled back in a bun with kinky strands falling around her face.  She had dark eyes and wore lots of bright red lipstick.  She was a fast typist.  

One step up took you to the second and last room of the Chronicle Office complex.  This room housed the printing press and everything else needed to publish and print the paper.  Mr. Eib was in charge of this room.  Two or three workers assisted.  A strong smell of ink filled the two rooms and the noise level was high on the day of printing.

Today, The Nicholas Chronicle, is housed in a roomy building with offices upstairs.  The actual printing of the paper is done in Beckley, 40 miles away.  Modern technology has been integrated with digital photos and electronic files used to put the paper together.

The  Nicholas Chronicle, the largest small-town newspaper in West Virginia, is thriving even in these tough economic times.  Why?  The answer is simple.  The publisher and her son, the editor-in-chief, meet the needs of 26,000 people who live in the rural communities of Nicholas County. The newspaper owners live in the community and are involved in community activities.

Ads in the paper come from local businesses: the hospital, tire shop, floral shops, meat market, used and new car sales, real estate agencies, private medical practices and classified ads. Wal-Mart does not buy ads but occasionally has an insert.   The weekly newspaper publishes minutes of school board meetings, hospital board meetings, city council meetings and county commission meetings.  News from the courthouse is made public: land transfers, active warrants, arrests, marriage and divorces, and names of delinquent tax payers.