In Attleboro, it’s often called “The Sun.”
In North Attleboro, townies call it “The Chronicle.”
There’s a good reason for that. For more than eight decades, the two communities were served by two daily newspapers: The Attleboro Sun and The Evening Chronicle.
That seems impossible today, in an era when America has lost about 400 daily papers. But two neighboring communities with a combined population of about 40,000 people supported two independent daily newspapers from the late 1880s until the early 1970s.
And then, on March 1, 1971, The Sun Chronicle was born.
For the next few weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of this news organization, I’ll be reviewing the history of The Sun Chronicle. As many of you know, I’m an insider, spending 37-plus years at 34 South Main St., Attleboro, as reporter, editor and, for my last 12 years, editor-in-chief.
The merger of The Attleboro Sun and The Evening Chronicle came entirely by chance.
In 1969, Howard Brown and Eugene Schulte, publisher and general manager, respectively, of the Kenosha News in that mid-sized Wisconsin city that became infamous last summer, traveled to Massachusetts to investigate the purchase of three small daily newspapers north of Boston. Brown’s family owned a small media company, United Communications Corp., interested in expanding its holdings.
While they were in the region, Brown and Schulte called up a fellow Midwesterner they knew, Guy DeVany, publisher of The Attleboro Sun. If that deal falls through, DeVany told them over dinner, give me a call. The owners here may be interested in selling.
The Sun at that time was owned by 15 local business owners, none of whom were particularly interested in newspapering. DeVany found it difficult to manage the company while serving more than a dozen masters.
In just a short time, United Communications became the new owner of Attleboro’s daily.
Then, before 1969 was over, The Evening Chronicle came up for sale.
Since the 1920s, North Attleboro’s daily had been owned primarily by Joseph W. Martin, the former congressman and speaker of the U.S. House, who also served as the newspaper’s publisher and editor. The paper’s day-to-day operations were handled by Martin’s brothers, Charlie and Edward.
After Joe Martin died in March 1968, the family put the paper on the market — and immediately attracted attention. Interest was keen from The Evening Times of Pawtucket and a group associated with The Providence Journal, both of whom were interested in expanding into Massachusetts.
Brown’s family quickly made a generous offer, which was accepted. It was, DeVany said years later, “the single most important decision” the paper ever made.
After about a year of publishing separately, United Communications decided to merge the newspapers in early 1971, moving all operations to The Sun’s home in downtown Attleboro and closing The Chronicle’s Church Street office.
The merger provided an improved product, a strong front against competition and an end to a costly duplication of equipment and services.
The Sun Chronicle was chosen for the name, DeVany was named publisher, Paul Rixon, publisher of The Chronicle, became general manager, and Sun editor Clarence Roberts became editor-in-chief.
That company is still the news leader for the two communities and eight surrounding towns half a century later.
Next week: How The Sun began.