What Made Orange Great: Orange’s source for news – The Orange Leader
By Mike Louviere
The first settlers came to the area to what is present day Orange in the late 1840s. They continued to settle and eventually formed a town. Orange was becoming a thriving community and needed a newspaper. Who started the first paper is unclear, but the first edition was printed in 1875 as the Orange Weekly Tribune. The first papers were printed and distributed each Friday.
In 1905, the paper was owned and published by Arthur L. Ford and J.L. Harris. Ford served as editor and Harris was the business manager.
In 1911, Ford bought out Harris and became the sole owner of the Orange Tribune and the Leader Printing Plant. Ford would remain owner until he sold the paper in 1937 when he sold the paper to James B. Quigley.
After years of bad business, Ford declared bankruptcy, sold his interest in his businesses, and moved to Houston. In Houston, he worked for Charles Rein and Sons Publishers.
Ford became affiliated with the Southwestern Lumberman and the American Lumberman. He moved to Chicago and became managing editor of the American Lumberman. He died there in 1939.
It was said of Ford that he was not a very good businessman but was the best writer to ever put ink to paper.
Quigley owned the Orange newspaper from 1937 until 1985 when he sold the paper to Cox Enterprises.
Cox sold to American Publishing in 1991. American Publishing owned the paper until 1999 when they sold it to Community Newspaper Holdings (CNHI).
It was during the ownership by CNHI that the paper’s days were slashed. Publication was cut to three days per week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Publication was later cut to two days weekly, Wednesday, and Saturday/
In 2014 Community Newspaper Holdings sold ownership to Boone Newspapers, the current owner.
In addition to multiple owners, there have also been multiple name changes. First named Leader and Weekly Tribune, the name then went to The Orange Tribune, The Daily Leader, The Daily Tribune, The Orange Daily Leader, and at present, The Orange Leader.
The Portal to Texas History has 10, 077 copies of the Leader digitalized and available for public viewing. There are nine decades available ranging from 1886 to 1965. There have been attempts to gain funding to have more copies digitized.
The oldest copy available in Orange is in the Heritage House Museum. It is a four page edition dated Friday May 30, 1879.
The header states “Orange Tribune-A government by the people-Orange City, Texas”.
A second copy at the Heritage House is from 1886. It is missing the first page. The second page contains what today would be called a Mission Statement.
“The Orange Tribune–A newspaper that has grown in the service of all the varied interests of Southeast Texas. Faithful, trustworthy, and reliable. Established on a firm basis and run on strictly business principles. A permanent keeping paces with the advances (illegible here) to improve, expand, and enlarge to any extent that may be required. It is not, never has been, and never will the organ of any party, clique, corporation, combination, or fanaticism. The friend of every useful and honest endeavor, a helping hand for every worthy cause.
It harbors no revengeful spirit, bears no malice for no man, or set of men, and permits no abuse or reflections upon any citizens to enter its columns. A clean newspaper: It has no room for the detail of scandal and contains no matter that is unfit for the family circle. It offers no ‘premiums’ for subscribers, ‘clubs’ with no other journals but stands upon its own merits.
Communications upon all topics of either local or general interest are invited. Many citizens hesitate to write because they feel deficient in this kind of work and fear errors in their composition. The editors of the Tribune always overhaul manuscripts and any errors or irregularities are corrected. Send in the links and we will put the chain together.
Subscribe at once! Remittance should be made by registered letter, money order, or draft on either Houston, Galveston, or New Orleans.
Address all letters and communications to The Tribune, Orange, Texas.”
Included after the statement was an advertisement for “Job Printing” of all types from “Bill Heads” to stationary, tags and cards. “If you want any type of printing done, call or write to the Tribune to get the price. Special attention paid to orders by mail.”
Reporting and advertising changed over the years, so did the paper. In the 1950s, and for years after, the Orange Leader published two daily editions Monday thru Friday and a weekend edition. The paper was a wealth of local news, social news, including topics like club meetings, and weddings, sports reporting on local schools and amateur sports. National news, including reporting on wars from World War I to today’s global conflicts.
The Orange Leader had a building on Front Street that had in house anything they needed from the office of the owner to the printing presses in the rear of the building. It was a complete operation with about 100 employees in its “heyday.”.
The Leader subscribed to the Associated Press wire services for decades. In 2013, the decision was made to no longer subscribe to the wire service due to the reporting of national news on television and over the internet. The subscription ended in 2014.
“We decided that the wire was no longer needed for the reporting of national news, it was available on too many other sources. The Leader decided to focus on local news. The only way to stay abreast of news in the local community is to read it in the paper. We now subscribe to Texas News Services for news outside of the Orange community,” said Leader editor Dawn Burleigh.
The Orange Leader is a member of the Texas Press Association, the TPA. The TPA was established in Houston on May 19, 1880. The TPA is “The trusted news source that all Texas publication’s turn to for information on editorial, advertising, postal, legal, and legislative issues in Texas.”
Each year the TPA conducts the Texas Better Newspaper Contest to recognize the accomplishments of member newspapers in several categories.
In the 2019-2020 contest, the Orange leader received First Place in the Editorial category, and four second place awards in, Advertising, Best Magazine, General Excellence, and Special Section.