The Chattanooga Times was first published on December 15, 1869 by the firm Kirby & Gamble. In 1878, 20-year-old Adolph Ochs borrowed money and bought half interest in the struggling morning paper. Two years later, when he assumed full ownership, it cost him $5,500. In 1892, the paper's staff moved to the Ochs Building, now the Dome Building, on Georgia Avenue at East Eighth Street. In 1896, Ochs entrusted the management of the paper to his brother-in-law Harry C. Adler when he purchased the New York Times (circulation 20,000). Ochs remained publisher of the Chattanooga Times. Ochs' slogan, "To give the news impartially, without fear or favor" remains affixed atop the paper's mast today. The Times was controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family until 1999.
Chattanooga Free Press
In 1933, Roy Ketner McDonald launched a free Thursday tabloid, delivered door to door, featuring stories, comics, and advertisements for his stores. Three years later circulation had hit 65,000 per week, making some ad revenue. On August 31 the paper began publishing as an evening daily with paid subscriptions. One year later, the Free Press circulation reached 33,000, within reach of another p.m. competitor, the Chattanooga News (circulation 35,000). McDonald bought the Chattanooga News from owner George Fort Milton in December 1939. Out of respect for Milton, McDonald put the News first in the merged name "News-Free Press." In their guide to writing, “The Elements of Style,” Strunk and White used the paper as an illustration of comically misleading punctuation, noting that the hyphen made it sound "as though the paper were news-free, or devoid of news.”
Competition and agreement
By 1941, News-Free Press daily circulation reached 51,600, surpassing the Times, with 50,078. In competition, the Times began an evening newspaper competitor, the Chattanooga Evening Times. One year later, however, the competing newspapers joined business and production operations, while maintaining separate news and editorial departments. The Times ceased publishing in the evening and the News-Free Press dropped its Sunday edition. The two shared offices at 117 E. 10th St.
Twenty-four years later, McDonald withdrew from the agreement. He bought the Davenport Hosiery Mills building at 400 E. 11th St. in 1966, and competition between the two papers resumed. The News-Free Press was the first paper in the nation to dissolve a joint operating agreement. That August, the day after the News-Free Press resumed Sunday publication, the Times responded with an evening newspaper: the Chattanooga Post. The following year, the Post ceased publication. The News-Free Press gave Chattanooga its first full-color newspaper photos.
Each newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize. In 1956, Charles L. Bartlett of the Washington Bureau of The Chattanooga Times won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for articles leading to the resignation of the secretary of the Air Force, Harold E. Talbott. In 1977, staff photographer Robin Hood of the Chattanooga News-Free Press received the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. The photo was of legless Vietnam veteran Eddie Robinson in his wheelchair watching a rained-out parade in Chattanooga with his tiny son on his lap.
When business declined for the News-Free Press, 14 employees mortgaged their homes to help keep the newspaper afloat. In the late 1970s, Walter E. Hussman Jr., the 31-year-old publisher of the Arkansas Democrat, approached McDonald for counsel regarding a bitter struggle with the Arkansas Gazette. In 1980, the Times and the News-Free Press entered into a new joint operating agreement. In 1990, after leading the paper for 54 years, McDonald died at age 88. Three years later, the paper returned to its original name: the Chattanooga Free Press.
Chattanooga Times Free Press
In 1998, Hussman bought the Free Press. A year later, he bought the Times as well and merged the two papers. The first edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press was published on January 5, 1999. The Times Free Press runs two editorial pages, one staunchly liberal, the other staunchly conservative, reflecting the editorial leanings of the Times and Free Press. In 2003, Editor & Publisher magazine named the Times Free Press to its annual "10 Newspapers That Do It Right" list. The newspaper again was named to that list in 2014.
The newspaper has subscribers in southeastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and northeastern Alabama. Today, the newspaper has evolved past its paper product. The paper is available daily in print but also on a website and applications for mobile phones and tablets.
The company's portfolio now includes the daily newspaper, six weekly community newspapers, a Spanish weekly paper, three magazines and creative advertising services. The company also operates Flypaper, which offers digital marketing, website design and search engine optimization, among other digital services. And in the past six years, the Times Free Press presented events and expos for brides, women, children, seniors, high school athletic stars and reader-selected “Best of the Best” winners in the region. Celebrities and athletes appearing at Times Free Press events include Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, Kay Robertson, Jillian Michaels, Travis Stork, Nicholas Sparks, Chipper Jones, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Michael Phelps and Venus and Serena Williams.
The Chattanooga Publishing Company also publishes:
Chatter: — A glossy monthly magazine launched in 2008 with feature stories from around the area.
Get Out — A glossy monthly magazine focusing on the region’s outdoors.
Edge — A monthly glossy business magazine.
Noticias Libres — A free weekly Spanish-language paper distributed around the Chattanooga area.
ChattanoogaNow — A weekend publication distributed in every Thursday's Times Free Press covering music, movies, dining and the arts.