It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since the first edition of the Highland Community News. While the community has changed, the basic goal of the paper has remained the same -provide information about Highland - the activities, the government, the clubs and community groups and most importantly, the people.
In 1994, the only source of information about Highland came from The Sun - a San Bernardino-based newspaper that was delivered daily and included very little information about the community of Highland. Historically, The Sun supported Highland being part of the city of San Bernardino. In the annexation election of 1984, the newspaper editorialized that Highland should vote to join the city of San Bernardino. The voters in Highland said “no.” That election was followed by an election to add paramedic services to the community and another attempt at annexation by the city of San Bernardino.
During this time, Highland was fortunate to have a local paper begin circulation called the Foothill Journal. Publisher Burrell Woodring and Editor Charlie Hand were very supportive of a separate city of Highland and provided local news and updates on a weekly basis. They were good people who understood the residents of Highland and their desire to be independent.
However, while the majority of the community wanted to remain under the jurisdiction of San Bernardino County, the county made it clear that we needed to either join the city of San Bernardino or form our own city. In 1987, the voters decided to form a new city and elected their first city council -Dennis Johnson, Jim Rissmiller, Jody Scott, Bob Shelton and myself.
Many exciting changes occurred during the first few years of incorporation. Our beloved city manager, Sam Racadio, was hired, the old El Rancho Market was converted to City Hall, road improvements were made and public safety services were increased during the initial years of city hood. One of the best changes was having a local city council that met regularly allowing residents the opportunity to voice concerns at open meetings and seeing changes made to the community. Unfortunately, the first years also saw the Foothill Journal stop publication and the city relying again on the sparse coverage provided by The Sun.
After seven years of serving on the Highland City Council, it was time for me to “retire” and give other residents the opportunity to serve their community as elected officials. At the same time, the grant I was working on at Cal State San Bernardino was running out and I was ready to move to a new adventure.
It was at a community meeting that I was complaining about the lack of coverage to the then president of the Highland Chamber of Commerce Doug Rowand. Doug agreed and I decided then that what we needed was a weekly community newspaper and that I should go ahead and start one. While I knew I could write the stories and design the ads, I also knew I needed advice about the newspaper business and publishing a newspaper.
My first visit was with Bobbi Monk, the editor at the Yucaipa News Mirror. Yucaipa had become a City shortly after Highland and I was proud to have been able to help with their election and start up. The Yucaipa News Mirror was a newspaper that was respected and well circulated in the community. Bobbi suggested that I go meet with Martin Weinberger who was the publisher of the Claremont Courier. The Claremont Courier was a longtime twice weekly newspaper that had established itself as a creative and entertaining paper in the Claremont area.
Martin showed me how to lay out a newspaper and loaned me his technical support to teach me how to cut and paste the stories, photos and ads. The Claremont Courier had not progressed to using the computer to lay out the newspaper but still printed the news in columns which were then waxed and physically placed on the layout around the advertisements. That is how the first editions of the Highland Community News were produced. I took my stories, photos and ads to Claremont, laid them out then drove the pages to Los Angeles to print the newspaper.
There were too many people to name who supported me on this new adventure; but, the main folks included my parents who gave me ideas and unconditional love, my sister Kerri who gladly got out her red pen to correct and proofread, my grandmother Edith Smith who provided the initial funding, the local businesses who took out ads, the city staff who provided stories and the residents who purchased subscriptions.
Prior to publishing the first edition of the Highland Community News, I had been approached by Jerry Bean, a longtime newspaperman and owner of Century Group Newspapers. Jerry owned other local newspapers and asked about partnering with the Highland paper. Since I was unsure of the potential success of the newspaper, I declined Jerry’s offer not wanting others to lose money on a risky business. After several months of publishing the twice monthly newspaper, it was clear that I needed Jerry’s business expertise to make the Highland Community News the success that it is today.
With Jerry’s financial and business assistance, we were able to create the newspaper that readers are still enjoying today. We increased circulation, became adjudicated, added a sports section, increased staff members (advertising director Alice Theis and office manager Lois Frymire) and brought to Highland the longest serving staff member Florina Ybarra who came to us as a receptionist and has since become the office manager and is in charge of legal and classified advertisements. We even modernized and I learned how to lay out a newspaper on the computer. Later years saw the development of the website and online publication.
The header for Highland Community News says it best - “Your Community. Your Newspaper.” And I could not be more proud of saying I was fortunate to be able to start the paper that is still providing information about everything that makes Highland such a special place to live.