82 years of community news
As The Ellettsville Journal draws to a close, it’s only natural for community members to reflect on the history and impact of the journal that has served them for decades.
It’s a sad day when any local news outlet is shutting down, but the loss of the Ellettsville Journal represents something more at the end of 82 years of publication.
“The Journal was unique to Ellettsville, and it’s hard to grasp what it meant to people,” said Jerry Pittsford, vice-principal of Edgewood Elementary School. “The Journal spoke for Ellettsville.”
“It was the heart of the community,” said Ellettsville City Marshal Jimmie Durnil.
“If it wasn’t in the Journal, it didn’t happen,” said Ellettsville Fire Department Chief Mike Cornman.
Following:Ellettsville Journal will cease publication in August; cover moves to Bloomington
1939: First prints
The Ellettsville Journal was first printed on July 1, 1939. On the same day, editor and founder Maurice Endwright turned 25. At that time, Endwright had a decade of experience as a reporter and editor.
According to Pittsford, the Journal got its start after a local doctor by the name of RC Austin challenged the journal’s young editor, telling Endwright “I’ll pay for this if you write it.”
Pittsford knew Maurice Endwright personally and considered him a very dear friend. Pittsford said Endwright, who died in 2001, was a “big person for a small town”.
“It was Mr. Ellettsville,” said Jeana Kapczynski, former president of Ellettsville Main Street. “He knew what was going on.”
When he featured community members in his “Hello Neighbor” column, Endwright let their best qualities shine through his writing. “Maurice was a recorder of history,” said Pittsford. “A recorder of the good things that happened in the small community. Maurice could see the good in the people. The people wanted to be worthy of Hail, neighbor.”
1960s: Saving the schools
The Journal’s defining moment came in the 1960s, when Ellettsville faced a challenge to its survival amid the planned consolidation of Monroe County schools. “Ellettsville refused to be swallowed up by Bloomington,” Pittsford said. “Maurice used the Journal to rally and save the schools in Ellettsville.”
The result was the creation of the Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp., a key part of the Ellettsville character. “They gave the region an identity,” Kapczynski said.
Endwright had a knowledgeable helper during his time at the newspaper. The Journal’s success depended on good journalists and editors throughout its publication, but the journal also helped launch several careers. As Pittsford recalls, “Maurice believed in young people. He was always looking for the next generation.”
One such journalist was Myrna Oliver, an alumnus of the IU School of Journalism and a class member at Ellettsville High School in 1960. Already replacing Endwright on her radio show as a teenager, Oliver would embark on a career that took her to the Los Angeles Times, where she covered court cases and then obituaries, such as Endwright in Ellettsville.
1971: The Journal changes hands
In 1971, Endwright sold the Journal, which again changed hands before it was acquired by John Gilaspy. The Journal continued to burn brightly in the lives of people belonging to the Gillaspy family. Cornman devoted himself to the newspaper from an early age. He delivered newspapers to Maurice Endwright’s residence as a boy.
“My life has been around the newspaper since I was 7 or 8,” said Cornman. “I admired the movers and the shakers, and I wanted to be like the volunteer firefighters and the county council, these people with roots in the community.”
His enthusiasm for the newspaper was impressive. “The Journal came out in the mail on Wednesday and you received it on Thursday,” Cornman recalls. “I couldn’t wait and spent 10 cents the night before.”
In the age of social media, it can be more difficult to understand the role the Journal has played in people’s daily lives. But some of the best aspects of new online platforms can be surprisingly familiar. A place to find out what people were doing in the community, to see Little League scores and stats, to stay up to date with the Monroe County Fall Festival. “You must see your child’s photo in the newspaper,” Kapczynski said.
Pittsford said, “People in Ellettsville read the Journal because that’s where they could see their names.
An anchor in the community
The Journal office was a special place for the residents of Ellettsville and meant a lot to a lot of people. “The Journal office was an anchor,” Kapczynski said.
Residents gathered here to hear election results until the 2000s. It was a place to make copies or just ask questions. If you’ve heard that someone has passed away, you knew it was true when the Journal posted an obituary in the office. People walking past the desk could catch up with the headlines, which hung on a thread running through the front window. “I would stop and look out the window to look at the important notices, and when the last edition came out I knew it before my parents,” said Cornman.
When Jill Thurman joined the Journal in 2014, she immediately felt the importance of the Journal. “It was immediately obvious that the Journal was a big part of the community and to the people of Ellettsville.
“Those little things that would never make it to a bigger newspaper in a bigger city, but they were important here.”
The Journal was part of the Gilaspy family’s Spencer Evening World Publishing until 2011, when employees bought the company. In 2017, the Journal was acquired as part of Schurz Communications’ purchase of Spencer Evening World Publishing. The Journal spent its final years under the GateHouse Media and ultimately Gannett umbrellas.
For some residents, social media has replaced some of the Journal’s basic functions that have resonated with readers for so long. Pictures of people’s children, heroism in Little League and high school sports, many of the little details the Journal captured so well have become widely available on Facebook.
“I know everyone really liked to know what was going on in schools and sports,” Kapczynski said. “A lot of people go to Facebook for that now, but it’s not the same.”
As residents worry about what will fill the void he leaves behind, the Ellettsville Journal’s impact will continue among the people of Ellettsville.