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Love Supreme A1 - June 27, 2015

The Press of Atlantic City: A History

The Press of Atlantic City, covering most of southeastern New Jersey, is the sixth largest newspaper in the state. It began as a small operation in Atlantic City in 1895, when Walter Edge published the first issue of the Daily Press. Edge, who later became a two-time governor of New Jersey, a United States senator and ambassador to France, launched his new publication from the Mensing Building at Tennessee and Atlantic avenues in Atlantic City. The competing Evening Union was purchased in 1905. Edge maintained separate editorial staffs, publishing both papers in the basement of the Presston Apartment building that he owned at Pennsylvania and Atlantic avenues.

The papers were sold by Edge in 1919 to three employees, Albert J. Feyl, Paul J. O'Neill and Francis E. Croasdale, who ran the operation until 1951. During their tenure, growth continued. They bought the Gazette Review in 1926 and added a Sunday edition. In 1923, the paper moved into a building at Mediterranean and Virginia avenues and in 1936 the business office operations were located in a two-story building at 1900 Atlantic Avenue.

Rolland Adams, owner and publisher of the Bethlehem (Pa.) Globe-Times, bought the Atlantic City Press and the Press-Union in 1951, but discontinued the Press-Union, an afternoon paper.

Envisioning a regional newspaper, Adams opened bureau offices in Cape May and Cumberland counties several years after assuming ownership. Adams sold the property in 1964 to his three sons-in-law and their wives, Mr. and Mrs. Donald S. Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. John F. Bitzer Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. George L. Roehr.

Roehr , who died in 1983 at the age of 52, was an expert in electronic systems and directed the planning and installation of The Press' computerized typesetting operation in 1975.

A new editorial office and production plant was completed in Pleasantville in 1970 and a year later the name was changed from The Atlantic City Press to The Press, reflecting the regional nature of the newspaper's focus.

The Press opened its Trenton Bureau in 1973 and a southern Ocean County bureau in 1975.

In 1987, after half a century in outmoded and cramped quarters in Atlantic City, the advertising, accounting and circulation staffs moved into a new $3.2 million office building at 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville.

The $1.2 million Atlantic City property was donated to the Atlantic City Medical Center the following year as the site of a proposed new health care facility.

Continuing growth forced doubling of press capacity to 17 units in 1983 and the addition of a 77 by 100-foot building for a new mailroom, offices and a larger newsprint storage area.

After 22 years as president of South Jersey Publishing Co., Donald S. Taylor retired on Dec. 29, 1986. He was succeeded by John F. Bitzer Jr., president of Abarta Inc., the parent corporation and operator of Coca-Cola bottling companies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Abarta also owned the Bethlehem Globe-Times.

Charles C. Reynolds, editor and publisher of The Press, retired in May 1988. Reynolds was editor from 1966 to 1975 and then editor, publisher and vice president until 1988.

Paul A. Merkoski became editor in February 1988. He had been editor of the Sunday Press since 1979. He changed the organizational structure of the newspaper, eliminating a separate Sunday staff and changing the newspaper’s name from The Press and Sunday Press to The Press of Atlantic City.

James W. Hopson was named publisher in June 1989. Hopson had published daily newspapers in Texas and Massachusetts.

Conversion from letterpress to the Flexographic process of printing, a $12 million project, was completed in early 1990 and since then The Press has been printing full process color.

A $400,000 addition to the production plant was completed in late 1990 to house offices for production and an automatic ink control room.

Hopson left The Press in February 1994. Robert M. McCormick became publisher in May 1994. A veteran newspaperman who had worked for newspapers in Chicago, Washington and San Francisco, McCormick helped launch Starfish Media, a South Jersey Publishing subsidiary involved in specialized publications and new media.

In 1996, the board of directors of Abarta appointed John F. Bitzer III president and chief executive officer of the family owned company. Bitzer succeeded his father, John F. Bitzer Jr., who retired.

The year 2000 brought a host of changes to South Jersey Publishing. A cramped and inefficient newsroom was completely remodeled and expanded to accommodate the growing needs of a changing newspaper. The $3.5 million renovation project included a state-of-the-art fiber-optic computer network, new heating and air-conditioning systems, an expanded internet department and additional conference rooms. The newspaper’s classified advertising system was replaced as well and the entire newspaper was converted to a narrower page width adopted as the national standard.

At the end of 2000, McCormick retired. He was succeeded by Keith L. Dawn who had previously served as the general manager of South Jersey Publishing. The former publisher of The Phoenix in Chester County, Pa., Dawn joined South Jersey Publishing in 1996 as director of advertising for The Press.

In August of 2013, after sixty five years of ownership, ABARTA, Inc. sold The Press of Atlantic city to BH Media Group, a division of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. Mark Blum, formerly the publisher of BH Media’s Florence, SC newspaper, was named publisher of The Press.

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