Our History In 1998 Bill Clinton was President, a gallon of gas cost $1.15, a stamp was 32¢ and Tri-Community NewsPlus published its first issue.
News • Events • People • History • Plus
The History Of Tri-Community NewsPlus
Susan Gates, Founder Of Tri-Community NewsPlus Moves To Wrightwood
NewsPlus though officially launched in 1998, has roots going back more than three decades. It was in 1962 that Susan (Johnson) Gates, founder of the Tri-Community NewsPlus, moved to Wrightwood with her Husband and 4 children. She was the quintessential homemaker taking care of the house and family. Susan and her family quickly became part of the Wrightwood community–parties, dances, get togethers, skiing etc. They were dialed into the pulse of Wrightwood.
A New Face Starts At The Mountaineer Progress
It was in the mid 70s that Susan began working for Tom Pinard, Publisher of the Mountaineer Progress–founded in 1961, the Mountaineer Progress quickly established itself as the weekly paper of choice for the Tri-Community. Susan would continue working for Tom off and on for the next twenty years. It is here that she started writing articles about the history of the Tri-Community. It was obvious that she had a penchant for writing, especially history.
1980 - 1989
There Is A New Paper In Town–The Mountain/Hi-Desert Guide
Sometime in the early 80s, June Woodmansee begins working for the Mountaineer Progress in ad sales. There’s more about June later.
In 1985, Bobbi Holmes started publishing a monthly paper called the Mountain/Hi-Desert Guide–the forerunner of Tri-Community NewsPlus. The “Guide” as it was nicknamed was inspired by local historian Pearl Fisher’s book titled ‘The Mountaineers’ and explored local history. It also provided news about local organizations, upcoming events, and community activities for residents and visitors.
1990 - 1998
The "Guide" Is Sold To Two Familiar Names
Bobbi Holmes continued to publish the “Guide” through 1991 until she was suddenly forced to sell the paper to devote time to a family resort in Lake Havasu. Later that year, she sold the “Guide” to June Woodmansee and Susan (Johnson) Gates. Susan and June co-published the “Guide,” carrying on in the same tradition set by Bobbi. June was selling ads while Susan was writing, and laying up the paper, getting it ready for printing. “Super Mentor” Doug Walsh was also consulted from time to time. Susan was sure to put an article in every issue that explored the history of the Tri-Community. Readers looked forward to their monthly history lessons and would complain if a month was missed.
June and Susan continued publishing the “Guide” together for about ten years. In January of 1998, they decided to part ways. Susan gave her share of the “Guide” to June, and both went separate directions. June continued to publish the “Guide” on her own and was only published for a handful of years after 1998.
January 31, 1998
Volume 1, Issue 1 Of The Tri-Community NewsPlus Is Published
It didn’t take long for Susan to regroup, and within weeks of leaving the “Guide,” she began publishing a new paper called Tri-Community NewsPlus. Volume 1, Issue 1 printed on January 31st, 1998. Keeping the same core values from the “Guide”, the paper quickly gained momentum, growing in page number and popularity. Susan, who had quietly had a desire to publish her own paper for the past ten years, was now doing it, and it was a success. Susan did it all, ad sales, reporting, editing, laying up the paper, and delivering every month, her daughter, Shari, helping out when needed. Doug Walsh would share his knowledge with Susan when she needed it. Susan could be seen all around the Tri-Community at MAC meetings, club meetings, school functions, community events, and just about anything else that was going on in the community.
Everyone knew Susan and Susan knew everyone as she gained the Tri-Community’s trust, which further strengthened the bond between NewsPlus and its readers. At the beginning of each month, locals waited with bated breath to crack open the latest edition of the NewsPlus. Some even take a paper out of her hands as she was trying to deliver to local businesses. Business owners with smiles on their faces, because finally, the new issue had come out and they could finally replenish their stock and appease their customers who were coming in demanding a copy.
2000 - 2009
NewsPlus Hires An Assistant & Retirement Is In The Air
The first part of the 2000s went smoothly with Susan steadily growing the paper, gaining advertisers and becoming entrenched in the happenings fo the Tri-Community.
In 2007, technology finally caught up with Susan. No longer could she send large 22” x 17” pasteboards, each pasted up by hand, to the press for print. The paper had to be “laid out” electronically and delivered via electronic file. This was beyond the scope of Susan’s computer skills and not something she wanted to take the time to learn. The time had come for Susan to bring in some help to layout the paper using a computer. She called upon Don Fish Jr. to help her with this task. Susan was still hands-on, using the computer to design ads and type her copy. Don would come in at the end of the month to finish and fine-tune the layout, set photos, and finalize the paper for the press.
Unbenounced to anyone in 2009 when after completing the August issue, Susan informed Don that December would be her last issue and that she would be selling the paper. Susan, now in her 70s and after almost 40 years in the business, wanted to retire. It was getting difficult for her to keep the pace up, and she had grown tired of the same routine month in and month out. During their time spent together, the two had had many discussions about the “spirit” of the paper, and both agreed that the charm of the paper was its small-town feel. It was important to Susan that the new publisher understood the Tri-Community, small towns, and the rural lifestyle and could carry on the legacy of the paper: local news, events, people, history, plus.
In the months after her announcement, Susan had entertained a few offers for the paper’s purchase, but for some reason, she just didn’t feel comfortable going through with the sale. As a result, she began to shut down operations readying NewsPlus for dormancy until she could find the right buyer.
2010 - 2019
NewsPlus Gets A New Publisher & The Paper Continues To Grow
In January 2010, Don Fish Jr. decided to purchase the paper from Susan. Don has been a Phelan resident since 1983, graduating from Serrano High School in 1989. Susan later revealed that she was glad that Don bought the paper, she wanted it to go to someone who had lived in the community for several years and understood the uniqueness of living in a small rural community.
Because of the timing of the sale, the Tri-Community NewsPlus was not published in January and February. Time was needed to reboot the paper–studio space was set up, advertisers were contacted, the paper was rebuilt from the ground up, and ownership was transferred from one publisher to the other. News also had to be gathered for the March paper. No longer could Don just show up at the end of the month for a few days building the paper. He had to actually go out and find the news, write the articles, and create the paper.
Volume 13, Issue 1 was published and delivered on March 1, 2010. For the last time as publisher of the NewsPlus, Susan, accompanied by her daughter Shari toured the Tri-Community on one last delivery, instructing Don and his mother Marge how to deliver the NewsPlus to the many businesses in the community. NewsPlus became a family affair, when a new addition to the paper began, a recurring column called “My World.” Penned by Don Fish Sr., the column was a slightly off-kilter look at life in a small community or at least life in the mind of a small community resident.
By May 2010, the success of the paper evident as circulation increased, and the size of the paper grew from 16 to 24 pages. Additionally, an events calendar was added, giving readers a date by date listing of events & happenings, meetings, and library activities throughout the month. The events calendar quickly became a favorite among NewsPlus readers and a goto resource for things to do in the Tri-Community.
In March of 2011, the cover of NewsPlus went through a major redesign, including a new look for the “NewsPlus” masthead. Additionally, in 2011, NewsPlus entered cyberspace with the launch of a website and Facebook page. In the Barn & Garden section, resident farmer Rowena McDermott of Moonstruck Farms began a monthly column advising aspiring green thumbs and updating all of us on the goings-on at her Phelan farm.
In June 2011, the NewsPlus print edition went digital with the launch of the e-edition. Unfortunately, this lasted until December of 2014, with only 25 issues published online when NewsPlus decided to part ways with the online platform hosting the e-editions. They can still be found HERE.
By July of 2012, the Tri-Community NewsPlus was cruising along at full speed, continuing to increase circulation and enjoying much success. The decision was made to expand the NewsPlus brand by publishing an additional paper called NewsPlus Barstow. The first edition was published in July. In September of the same year, NewsPus, which had traditionally been printed in black and white with one additional color, began experimenting with full color in an occasional issue, usually the cover with an additional page or two.
March of 2013 saw the end of one column and the beginning of another. “My World” ended its regular monthly appearance in NewsPlus and NewsPlus Barsow to appear in an issue here and there. Tom Fracasso, the Tri-Community weather guy, and certified Weather Service Spotter, started a new column aside from his monthly weather review and weather almanac. The Sportsmen’s Corner combined Tom’s love of the outdoors, weather, and most importantly, fishing into a monthly column that explored the many types of outdoor sports the Tri-Community has to offer.
In January of 2014, NewsPlus expanded from 20 to 24 pages, and, in February, it adds full color to every issue of the paper. Jim Wilkins, a longtime local firefighter, horsemen, and “community regular” began writing a monthly column about nature, the changing seasons, life on the ranch, fire, and safety and just about anything else that comes to his mind.
With the success of adding full color and the additions of regular columns, the NewsPlus was continuing to grow and, again, increased the paper from 24 pages to 28 pages in June of 2015. With the addition of 8 new pages within a year and a half, the bundles of papers were getting heavy come delivery time.
A month or so prior to April 2016, local Michelle Hannon approached Don and announce she wanted to write for NewsPlus. She had never written for a paper before but wanted to share in the task of reporting the news to the community. She began writing regular articles as a contributing writer for NewsPlus.
Sadly in May of 2017, the last installment of the Sportsmen’s Corner was released. However, Tom Fracasso would continue writing his Weather Window column.
In January of 2018, the content of NewsPlus got a facelift, most notably with the addition of an “In This Issue” table of contents placed on the first page of the paper. In April, the decision was made to cease publishing NewsPlus Barstow; it was a good six-year run.
By January 2019, it was time for some more redesign. NewsPlus received a cover redesign, increasing the NewsPlus logo’s size, emphasizing the community aspect of the paper. A “Top Stories” row was added to the cover page to identify need-to-know articles, and authors’ names and titles were more prominently displayed. In August, an additional contributing writer was added to the mix when I.I. Cabrera joined the team. A local veteran, who after returning from service, graduated in journalism from Cal State University San Bernardino.
January - June 2020
NewsPlus Dives Head First Into COVID-19
The year started as expected, with no indication of the months to follow. January is the annual Year-In-Review issue, school was still out on winter break, and folks are still recovering from the holidays. Not much news to report, the January issue is usually slow.
Soon after the March issue was published, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly swept over the Tri-Community. Overnight, businesses were closed, residents were confined to quarters, events canceled, and the news stopped. NewsPlus promptly shifted gears and began preparing for business during and after the pandemic.
NewsPlus continued to publish and print monthly, reducing circulation because businesses weren’t open for deliveries, and people weren’t getting out to shop, only the necessities. NewsPlus resorted to handing out papers to readers who were picking-up Grab-N-Go meals from several schools in the Snowline School District.
There was also a need to get the news out to the community daily, a monthly paper wasn’t going to cut it. By Mid-March, Newsplus redesigned their website, from the ground up, and could now publish news online. The news could now be announced at a moment’s notice. This, combined with their Facebook page, would ensure that the community would get the news they need when they need it.
Since March, NewsPlus has been steadily adding content to the website and adding new pages and features. The paper has been reduced in size, back to 20 pages, due to the lack of non-COVID related news and the loss of advertising, as expected. NewPlus has continued to publish and issue a printed edition through June.
And the story continues as more history is made at Tri-Community NewsPlus…