Tavistock in West Devon lies at the heart of an important agricultural area and is one of several towns on the fringe of Dartmoor.
The town, with a population of almost 12,000, supported two weekly paid-for titles for more than 50 years. The older of the two, the Tavistock Gazette, was founded in 1857 and ran without a break as a traditional country broadsheet until 1974.
Its editor, one reporter and a handful of printers with a flat-bed press managed to keep going against increasing competition from the younger Tavistock Times, established in 1920 as a broadsheet but later to become a tabloid with a bright and brash approach to news.
The two titles competed fiercely until the Times became part of the giant International Publishing Corporation’s newspaper training scheme.
The Times had the benefit of an influx of keen young trainees, many of whom were to go on to make a name for themselves on national newspapers, as well as the financial backing of CPC. It was too much for the Gazette, the title was unable to compete and folded. But within three years it was back, revived by the energy and enterprise of a local man. It, too, became a brisk, bold tabloid and competition between the two titles was renewed with vigour.
The Times experienced further changes in ownership, passing through the hands of the Mirror Group Newspapers and into the possession of a company based in Plymouth, West of England Newspapers.
The intense rivalry continued and at one stage the Gazette threatened the existence of its old combatant. But under West of England Newspapers, the Times, with a smaller staff, finally reached the point where it took over the Gazette in 1983. The two papers continued as separate publications. The Gazette appearing in mid-week and the Times publishing on the traditional Tavistock livestock market day, Friday.
In the face of ever-increasing production and material costs, the arrangement continued for three years until the two finally merged as the Tavistock Times Gazette in 1986.
The offices also produce the East Cornwall Times, a title established in 1859 and the Okehampton Times established in 1976.
The Times Gazette, which came under the ownership of Tindle Newspapers in 1986, has since seen a dramatic rise in circulation from approximately 6,500 copies in 1986 to just under 8,000 today. The title is part of a series with a circulation of more than 12,500 copies a week. The Times Gazette has succeeded in marrying the best of the old with the best of the new - detailed coverage of community events in town and village together with excellent hard news and photography.
The newspaper also prides itself on its sports and arts coverage and has received much favourable comment for its detailed monthly look at issues concerning the farming community. The title is popular with advertisers be they small local firms or large organisations, and its regular and imaginative advertising features are well-received.
The Times Gazette’s managing director is Brian Doel, the general manager is Carol Garbett, the editor is Jane Honey.