The local daily newspaper of Newark, Ohio is the advocate, and this newspaper is serving the general Licking County region. Since the year 2000.The advocate has been a part of the Gannett family of newspapers and periodicals. Earlier there were many newspapers in Newark like the Newark Weekly American, Newark Leader, and Newark American Tribune but right now, only the advocate newspaper is the one left, which is still serving the people of Newark.
In the year 1820, the first issue was printed on a wooden stilt shanty over a frog pond on the west side of Newark, called nowadays Newark’s downtown square, by a 22 years old, local resident named Benjamin Briggs. But Benjamin faced financial problems with his start-up, and he was only able to publish three issues in his first five months in business. Despite of starting up slow, Benjamin started publishing a four-page, four-column paper within a year, with the first page devoted to foreign news which composed mostly the letters from other papers. During the American civil war. The advocate served as an important regional news source. It was the middle of the century, and the paper was issued weekly.
Later, in March 1882, after being sold to John A. Caldwell, The advocate became a daily newspaper.
Today, The Newark advocate has it headquarter at 22N, first street in the downtown Newark and has a huge complex of around 48,000 square feet with about 200 employees.
History of Newark and origin of The Newark advocate
In the year 1820, when The Newark advocate started, Licking County used to be a step removed from the Wild West of its time because the Revolutionary War ended only 37 years earlier. At that time, Ohio was completely covered with forests.
As per the words from Jeff Gill, a local historian and author “Early Ohio to the first European American settlers was a vast forest,”. “When the area near Newark was first over-wintered by Virginians and Pennsylvanians, they found openings in the dense forest, which they called ‘bowling greens,’ of which Licking County had at least three. The bowling green opening just downstream of the confluence of the Licking River tributaries is now downtown Newark.”
At that time, the Ohio Canal, the Cumberland (or National) Road and the Central Ohio Railroad all passed through the general area.
By then, The Newark Advocate had already been in business 5 years. The advocate is the county’s oldest continuously operating business as it started in the year 1820 and is still running.
As Lucy Murphy, PhD, a history professor at OSU-Newark said, “The qualifications for such an undertaking? “You had to have a printing press, you had to be literate, and you had to be a hard worker and you probably had to be an apprentice back East.”
There are several reports about the paper’s first location. As per some reports, Benjamin Briggs worked in a sturdy brick building which is now Newark’s downtown square. Some other reports state that he worked in a wooden stilt shanty over a frog pond on the west side of the square.
As per Jack Goodman who is the local history specialist in the reference department of the Licking County Library, “I found a direct reference in A Pen Picture of Newark to Ben Briggs’ printing office on the west side of the square: ‘Between West Main Street and the American House, the principal building to be seen was Benjamin Brigg’s printing office, a cheap frame set upon piles amid Lake Sherwood.’ Which seems like the ‘frog pond’ reference and certainly does not sound like a brick building.”
Importance of The advocate for the people of Newark
Focusing about the importance of the newspapers, Murphy said “I think newspapers were important for several reasons. Besides local news, they connected people in small, remote communities to other places. They would reprint articles from other newspapers so people could find out what was happening not only in, say, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but also in Boston or London, England. Plus, they posted legal notices, summoned jurors, printed jokes, poetry, Help Wanted ads, letters to the editor, lost & found notices, and local businesses would advertise – so they published a lot.”
Stressing upon the same subject, the current Advocate Editor Ben Lanka has also said that “Of course, what has not changed is the interest from our readers to know what is going on in Newark and Licking County. We are the only organization that has been around so long and especially the only one dedicated to providing our local news. That’s our focus everyday – to provide useful and interesting information about local people, organizations, and events.”
Adding to it, Lanka also said that “We have accessed the public doesn’t always have, and professional writers. We pride ourselves on attempting to present things in their proper context, and that’s not something that can be said about most social media feeds.”
He summed his speech concluding “I’m proud of the product our staff is able to put out every day.”