Nobody knows what might someday occupy the building at 17 W. North St., but for 122 years it was the home of the Commercial-News. The proud inscription above the door reads, “THE PAPER THAT DOES THINGS.”
I was saddened, not surprised, when I saw the Oct. 20 headline: “C-N offices to move.” Newspapers everywhere are downsizing, period.
It’s like the couple that finally decides to sell the big house and get a condo. The kids are gone, the dog finally died and it makes no sense to support empty bedrooms, a 10-piece dining set, a three-car garage and a half-acre lot.
The Oct. 20 story explained: “The concentration of parts of newspaper production, such as pagination and printing, into regional hubs has been reflected in a smaller staff. Much of the building now housing the Commercial-News offices is not used. Moving to the Towne Centre location will help reduce utility costs and allow the staff to operate with better efficiency.”
True. I toured the new storefront office last week. There’s lots of parking in front. Inside, reporters, editors and office workers still put out the newspaper. It’s clean, efficient and practical. The Commercial-News is printed in Terre Haute and trucked to Danville.
But no other building can match the history of the one at 17 W. North St. The Danville Commercial, founded in 1866, moved in in 1897. It merged with The Danville News in 1903. The stately limestone facade and white marble lobby were part of a major remodeling in 1926. A press room addition doubled useable space in 1962.
When the C-N marked its centennial in 1966, it had 150 employees downtown — reporters, editors, photographers, compositors, printers, pressmen, advertising people, circulation people, business office personnel.
Every day featured the roar of the rotary printing press and the rumble of delivery trucks. There were 400 newspaper carriers, 70 correspondents in 10 counties, and bureaus in Covington, Georgetown and Hoopeston.
The North Street building saw generations of newsmakers come in for interviews and endorsements. They ranged from U.S. House Speaker Joseph G. “Uncle Joe” Cannon to county board wannabes. During my years there, 1983-94, I saw U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, U.S. Sen. Charles Percy, Gov. Jim Thompson and a stream of other smiling notables.
An old newspaper saying goes like this: “I met a lot of interesting people during my time as a newspaper reporter, and most of them worked in the newsroom.”
The North Street building knew some amazing talents, including John Harrison, William Parrett, Clint Tilton, Bob Burow, Bob Wright, Bill Houpt, Harry Barnes, Hud Robbins, Merrill Faulk and Dan Olmsted. I had the good fortune to work with Bob Wilson, Fowler Connell, Jean Byram, Dennis Barlow, Larry Smith, Mary Wicoff, Sandy Kochvar, Janet Leisch, Chuck Carpenter, Jean Becker, Mark Gruetze, Chuck Cannady, Jim Rick, Rich Stefaniak and Ed Chambliss.
Times change. Towns change. Technologies change. Industries evolve. Offices move. But the Commercial-News is still the Danville area’s daily, the paper that does things.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at email@example.com