When or if the history of Escondido is ever written, the 13 years that Carl Appleby was owner and publisher of the Daily Times-Advocate must be considered a seminal period in the growth and development of the city. That period, from 1965 to 1978, saw the transition from a nondescript small-town daily newspaper into a statewide respected publication that drew more than 20 legitimate offers to buy it when he decided to sell.
The Times-Advocate had been owned since the 1940’s by Fred Speers and Bert McClintock when Jerene Appleby Harnish and her sons, Carlton and Andrew Appleby, purchased McClintock’s minority interest in 1963, with an option to buy Speers’ majority interest two years later. They exercised that option in 1965.
During the interim, Andy Appleby moved with his wife and young son to Escondido, joining the T-A in 1963 as business and advertising manager, replacing McClintock as Speers’ partner. In 1965 when the family gained full control of the T-A, Andy became the publisher, which was the family’s plan after they had sold the Ontario Daily Report (in San Bernardino County), of which Mrs. Harnish was the publisher and Carl was general manager. They had owned The Report for several years, selling it to the nearby Pomona Progress-Bulletin. They retained ownership of the Victorville Daily Press, which Carl later sold at the same time he sold the T-A.
Andy Appleby’s tenure as publisher was short-lived, as he contracted tuberculosis that same year (1955) that he had assumed control. Carl moved to Escondido temporarily to replace Andy as publisher during the latter’s recuperation. But, during that lengthy recuperation, Andy decided not to return to the newspaper profession, relinquishing his role as publisher to Carl, who became the permanent Times-Advocate boss. That started a 13-year period of excellence.
I had worked as a reporter for the Fred Speers-owned T-A since 1952 and had been promoted to managing editor in 1963. When Andy Appleby became publisher in 1965, I was retained as managing editor and, for the first time ever, given the responsibility of writinga daily editorial. Andy retained control over editorial content, requesting to see the editorial each day before it was printed.
When Carl became publisher, he promoted me to editor and George Cordry to managing editor. As I was still to write the editorials, I asked Carl if he wanted to see the editorial before it went to press, as Andy did. He responded with a “No,” but added with a smile, “But if you think we should pull out of Vietnam, let’s talk about it.”
The United States was actively involved in the Vietnam War at the time, and there was a subtle message in Carl’s response. Suffice it to say that I never advocated the U.S. leaving Vietnam and concentrated on editorializing on local issues. In the 13 years I worked for Carl Appleby, he never once was critical about an editorial I wrote, although he occasionally would write an editorial.
During the next several years, Carl instituted changes and improvements in the paper as it kept pace with a growing community. He introduced television listings, which Fred Speers had never carried. He added a Sunday paper, making the T-A now seven days a week. He took it from afternoon delivery to a morning paper. He converted from “hot type” printing to “cold type,” which meant converting from hot-metal production to film processing, a more efficient operation.
On the management side, he hired a full-time controller and split advertising into separate departments — retail and classified. His management “team” consisted of the editor, retail advertising manager, classified advertising manager, production manager, controller and circulation manager. Each of those department heads was responsible for running his own department, including hiring and firing. He also hired a personnel director, who developed an evaluation system that allowed department managers to evaluate employees annually in determining merit pay raises.
And he installed an employee profit-sharing plan, which meant that every employee would share in the profit the company made. Every employee who had been with the paper when Carl took over as publisher received some type of a pay-out when the paper sold in 1977.
Carl Appleby died December 14, 2015 at age 92, but he should not be forgotten.