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 The Abilene Reporter-News

The Emergence of Harte-Hanks

Hanks began in 1920 to widen his newspaper interests beyond Abilene. In association with Houston Harte of San Angelo, he undertook the development of what is known as the Harte-Hanks newspapers.

The Harte-Hanks group expanded to include Texas newspapers from Corpus Christi to Marshall to Big Spring. Hanks and Harte each continued their ownership of their home papers at Abilene and San Angelo, but their joint holdings grew to be a major news organization.

General manager of the Harte-Hanks group was Bruce Meador of Abilene. Meador established the Harte-Hanks headquarters at San Antonio in 1967.

A change in corporate operations was announced to readers of The Reporter-News on Jan. 31, 1971 by Shelton. He said that 26 Harte-Hanks corporations, including the Abilene and San Angelo newspaper, had been merged into a single holding company named Harte-Hanks Newspapers Inc. A five-man executive committee to direct the new firm would be Shelton, Meador, Houston Harte of San Angelo and his two sons, Ed Harte of Corpus Christi and Houston H. Harte of San Antonio.

Prupose of the merger, Shelton said, was to achieve "benefits in sales, market research and production technology and to ensure continuit of traditional newspaper policy in the long-range future."

Robert G. Marbut, president and chief executive officer of Harte-Hanks, was named to the initial management team. Stock in the enterprise was offered to the public in March 1972. The stock became listed on the New York Stock Exchange in February 1973.

Geographical expansion, internal improvement of its newspapers, diversification into other fields of communications were undertaken immediately by Harte-Hanks.

When the first stock was offered to the public in 1972, Harte-Hanks had expanded into 19 markets lcoated in six states. That expansion has continued until the corporation is national in scope.

Computer technology has revolutionized newspaper production. The Abilene paper, fittingly enough, was one of the first to embrace this new technology, putting out its first totally computerized paper on May 15, 1976.

(The old Reporter had the first linotype machines in West Texas, installed the region's first rotary press. During the late 1940s the Abilene paper, joined by neighboring newspapers, was the first in the nation to use Teletype, a process developed during World War II which used perforated tape to operate typesetting machines.)

Harte-Hanks has greatly diversified its business interests, although newspapers and related publishing activities remain its largest area of interest. The firm has purchased radio and television stations, cable television operations, shoppers and trade publications, distribution systems and marketing services companies as it has attempted to be on the leading edge of the constantly changing communications field. The diversification prompted a change in name for the corporation in 1977 to Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc.

Top officers for the communications firm in 1980 were Houston H. Harte, chairman of the board, Marbut, president and chief executive officer; and Larry D. Franklin, executive vice-president. Directors were Ed Harte, Houston H. Harte, Myles L. Mace, Marbut, Meador, Shelton, Franklin, Stuart D. Watson, John G. Johnson and Jewell S. Lafontant. Shelton was chairman of the executive committee.

NEXT: Harte-Hanks, The Growing Corporation

(Abridged from Katharyn Duff's April 19, 1981 "The Story of a Prairie Newspaper" You can buy this book online from credit card-secured site shopARN.com.)

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