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|Jerry Freeman, the founding publisher of the Tri-City News sits at a desk in the pressroom in the earlier years of the newspaper. The man in the background is not identified.
How did the Tri-City News originate as a locally-owned weekly newspaper?
According to Cumberland businessman Glenn Freeman, his father and uncle were in the newspaper distribution business during the coal boom years when United States Steel alone had brought in thousands of miners to work in Lynch. Many of the miners were foreigners and the Freeman brothers handed out a lot of papers in many languages for them. While the Knoxville News Sentinel was the biggest seller, they carried papers from large American cities and foreign countries. Locals could read German news in German, but not the Tri-City area news at all.
“So daddy decided to start a local weekly paper that would carry local news. He didn’t have any formal training in the newspaper business, other than selling newspapers,” Freeman said. “They had to do their own typsetting in those days.”
The newspaper’s recorded history relates that the first issue of the new Tri-City News rolled off the press on March 15, 1929.
Freeman continued to operate the Tri-City News until he died unexpectedly in 1957, and his wife Margaret assumed the editorship and continued to publish the newspaper until her retirement in 1971.
Sold to Oscar Combs in 1971 and after passing through several hands, it has been published under the helm of Cumberland native Jeff Wilder since 1988. “Just like Jerry Freeman, I had no formal training in the newspaper business when I purchased the Tri-City News,” said Wilder.
“One of my goals back then was to make the Tri-City News a community-oriented newspaper,” Wilder stated. “That is exactly what we’ve done.”
Wilder said that local columnists were attracted to give their views of the community and the front page has always been used to provide local news and support local causes.
“Probably one of the biggest issues we have dealt with since 1988 is the continued improvement of U.S. 119,” he said.
“Several years ago a special edition on U.S. 119 was printed with a letter to then-Governor Brereton Jones and several photographs of the deplorable road conditions,” Wilder said.
The newspapers were distributed to local citizens who caravaned to Frankfort to protest and a copy was hand-delivered to Jones.
“I feel that this one trip and the extensive coverage that the Tri-City News provided on the U.S. 119 issue led to commitments to repair the road including the now completed improvements on the mountain,” said Wilder. “This is just once instance I have enjoyed operating the local newspaper and keeping it focused on the issues and lives of people in the Tri-City and surrounding areas,” Wilder stated.