Now in its 144th year, The Sentinel-Echo remains committed to the purpose expressed by one of its earliest owners, Russell Dyche -- that of providing “the best community paper we know how, and to be of service to all our people.”
Owned by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (cnhi), one of the largest newspaper companies in America, The Sentinel-Echo continues to place emphasis on timely, accurate and local news about London and Laurel County. Technological upgrades are continually being made to help ensure that readers, our customers, receive the best quality product available.
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How did we get to where we are today?
Our roots can be traced to 1873, when W.E. Word and J.H. Wilson first published The Mountain Echo in Barbourville, Kentucky (Knox County). At the end of the first year, Wilson purchased the Word’s interests in the paper and became publisher. On June 4, 1875, the last issue of The Mountain Echo was published in Barbourville, and the operation moved to London. It first operated in a small house on Third Street, to the rear of the Vincent Boreing home, now the Federal Building.
In 1877, the publication of the newspaper was turned over to a company in Danville on a one-year lease. When this lease expired, A.R. Dyche came into control of the publication.
The Echo office was moved into the Riley Watts blacksmith shop on Main Street, across from the present London-Laurel County 911 Dispatch Center. About 1880, it was relocated into a new building at the corner of West Fifth and Long streets, with an apartment upstairs occupied by Dyche.
When Dyche took over The Mountain Echo, the plant consisted of mostly ancient machinery and equipment. The paper was printed one page at a time on the same kind of press as was used in Colonial times, commonly called the Washington hand press. Beginning early in 1890, Dyche started a modernization program with a new type press, and on May 9 announced the installation of a new Cincinnati country cylinder, printing two, seven-column pages at a time. A year later, July 17, 1891, with the installation of a P.F. Olds gasoline-heated steam engine, it became the “Echo Steam Print.” By February 1893, the plant was completely modernized by the installation of new presses.
After devoting more than 25 years of his life to the paper, Dyche sold the operation to his 19-year-old son, Russell Dyche, who happened to be in the right place at the right time one night to hear his father propose to sell the paper to Charles R. Baugh, a distant cousin, for no money down. Russell Dyche approached his father about selling him the paper, and on June 19, 1903, the deal was made. The younger Dyche remained with the paper only nine months, however, selling to E.C. Linney on March 25, 1904, ending 26 continuous years The Mountain Echo was in the Dyche family.
About 1904, the Echo was moved into the original storeroom of Faris & Co. -- about the northern half of what is now the drive-in facilities for First National Bank -- and sometime later, into a new ironclad building erected especially for it, opposite the Federal Building on East Third Street.
Russell Dyche returned to the newspaper business as editor and manager on June 13, 1907, when the London Sentinel made its debut. The London Sentinel was located in a small frame building just north of the Hob-Nob Cafe on Main Street, and later moved into an ironclad building just north of the Lewis Building.
In 1908, Dyche purchased The Echo plant and the two papers, The Mountain Echo and the London Sentinel, became The Sentinel-Echo.
Martin Dyche, of the third generation, became a partner, news editor and advertising manager on December 31, 1936. Later, Margaret Russell Dyche and Reuel Buchanan, also of the third generation, became publisher and superintendent, respectively. The newspaper was moved into its present location at the corner of West Fifth and Broad streets in October 1949.
In 1955, Martin Dyche purchased Mr. Buchanan’s interest and, in 1964, bought the interest of his sister, to become sole owner of the business.
The fourth generation of the A.R. Dyche family became affiliated financially with the newspaper in October 1969, when Martin Dyche’s two daughters, Margaret D. Keith, and Billie Dyche Brown (now King), purchased interests in the firm. The sisters were appointed co-publishers of The Sentinel-Echo while their father remained as editor.
In July 1974, Margaret Keith and her husband, Luke, purchased the interest of the Dyches and Mrs. Brown (King) and become co-owners of the publication.
The Sentinel-Echo’s first major expansion program after moving to its present location was when a new linotype and automatic job press were added. In 1956, a new press room was constructed and an eight-page, web-fed newspaper press was installed. This replaced a four-page, hand-fed press that was more than 40 years old and increased production at least six-fold.
In August 1969 The Sentinel-Echo entered the off-set field when a three-unit Goss Offset Press was purchased and installed in the Broad Street room which formerly had served as a warehouse. This press printed and folded a 12-page paper at the rate of 14,000 copies per hour. In February 1973, a fourth unit was added which allowed for printing 16 pages instead of 12 at one time.
Meanwhile, hot type, produced with linotypes, was changed to cold type, whereby perforated tape was run through a computer and comes out in columns on photographic paper. A new addressing machine as well as a mechanical tier for bundling the newspapers was also added. An office and school supply center, as well as a job printing shop, was co-located in The Sentinel-Echo establishment.
In May 1981, the Dyche era, which spanned four generations and 106 years, ended when Luke and Margaret Dyche Keith sold The Sentinel-Echo to Al Smith Communications, Inc. of Russellville, Kentucky. Four years later, on October 31, 1985, Mr. Smith sold The Sentinel-Echo and three other Kentucky newspapers to Park Communications, Inc., of Ithaca, New York. This was the first acquisitions by Roy H. Park, whose company owned newspapers, radio and television stations in 19 states. Mr. Smith, his wife Martha Helen Smith, and their partner Jim Allen of Leitchfield, operated the Kentucky interests.
Nearly nine years to the day, on October 24, 1994, the board of directors of Park Communication signed an agreement turning control of The Sentinel-Echo over to Park Acquisitions, headed by Lexington securities broker Dr. Gary B. Knapp and his South Carolina partner Donald R. Tomlin. On January 8, 1997, corporate ownership was transferred to Media General, Inc., of Richmond, Virginia.
During this time, long-time newspaperman Willie Sawyers began Leader Communications, Inc., in London, and on November 8, 1989, the first issue of the Laurel News-Leader rolled off the presses. The office was located at 1249 South Main Street.
Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., one of the largest newspaper companies in America, acquired The Sentinel-Echo on June 8, 1998. The corporate headquarters for chni is located in Birmingham, Alabama. Mike Reed is president and CEO.
On November 8, 1998, CNHI and Leader Communications merged, and Mr. Sawyers became publisher of The Sentinel-Echo. All News-Leader employees were retained, resulting in an expanded news staff to serve Laurel County.
During the 1990s, the newspaper entered the world of high technology. For instance, composition tasks that once required three people are now completed by one person on a computer terminal. Page layout tasks such as cutting and pasting, which were once done with scissors and wax, are now done using computers and pagination monitors. The computer equipment was upgraded in June 1999, and again in 2001.
On January 12, 2000, with the dawning of a new century, The Sentinel-Echo joined the Internet superhighway by launching its own website -- http://www.sentinel-echo.com -- and began offering news and sports updates with each publication.