I am a little bit late on this, but March 29 marked the 20th anniversary of the return of The Lamar Democrat to local ownership after a number of years in the Boone Newspapers fold and a brief period under the absentee ownership of David Palmer.
What was probably the biggest headline in Democrat history ran in the April 2, 1985, edition. Usually when war is declared, it runs in 72-point type. Under directions of the new owner, Doug Davis, I ran a 144-point headline "Democrat sells," with a 72-point kicker or subhead that said, "Returns to local ownership."
Davis had been publisher of the Democrat since early 1981. In the article, he was quoted as saying, "The only changes which will be made are those of the type which we have been undertaking for the past four years...restoration of the newspaper which this community, and many people in other areas, so dearly loved.
"In seeking to accomplish this, we will need, even more, the support of advertisers and subscribers. The success of your newspaper depends on you."
Though it has been largely forgotten over the past several years, if Davis had not been brought in as a troubleshooter by Boone Newspapers in 1981, the newspaper might not exist today. It had lost a number of advertisers through the mismanagement of Publisher Tommy Wilson and the biased reporting of youthful managing editor Dave Farnham. By ignoring the problem, the Democrat lost the advertising of Lamar Supermarket, and Supermarket owner Dan Arnold brought in Jim Peters to duplicate his highly successful Butler shopper, the XChanger with XChanger2 in Lamar.
Those mistakes by the Wilson-Farnham team ended the days of the Lamar Daily Democrat. Davis attempted to keep the Democrat as a daily with the highly successful "Today in Barton County" series featuring columns written by community members ranging from officeholders to Community Betterment members, Chamber of Commerce members, and most memorably local historian Reba Young, whose contributions continued to be a part of the Democrat long after "Today in Barton County" ended.
Still bleeding from the wounds caused by Wilson and Farnham, the Democrat became a once-a-week publication in early 1982. All the while, Davis had a goal of some day restoring it to a daily, though that never happened.
Nevertheless, he was able to slowly restore confidence from the city leaders and advertisers. His next big move came in November 1982 when he hired a new editor who had been the newspaper's sports editor four years earlier.
With marching orders to build local content, especially in the local schools and sports, I became the Democrat's managing editor. The approach worked and a few months later, the Democrat became a twice-weekly, which it remains to this day.
People who complain about the quality of today's Lamar Democrat, and they have every right to from time to time, should remember that it is far worse for a community not to have a newspaper. Doug Davis kept that from happening.