Odds were against Frank Motz, but his Hays paper proved A Winning Gamble
Frank Motz took a big gamble on Armistice Day, November 11, 1929. He started a daily newspaper, issuing it from a new press purchased several months earlier for the Ellis County News, the weekly Motz co-owned with the late John S. Bird.
Legend has it that publishers all over Kansas said The Daily News had little chance of survival. Later, during the slim years of the Depression, Motz told confidants that his original wish was to publish the most profitable weekly in Kansas.
Enthusiastic for a daily or not, Motz found an eager audience for the newspaper. By the second day of publication the paid-up list of subscribers had grown to 600.
Motz, who had edited weeklies in Ellis County and, later, the daily Parsons Sun, nurtured the struggling Daily News through the first decade, then prospered with it during the years after World War II.
Along the way he achieved statewide notoriety as a maverick editorial writer who loved to trade barbs with his Republican brethren.
Motz died in August of 1958. His widow, the late Leota Motz, assumed the publisher's position and named her brother, A. A. (Bob) McFarlin, editor.
The Motz-McFarlin team presided over the newspaper for a dozen years and moved it from the old Eleventh Street building to remodeled quarters at 507 Main.
The years since 1970, when Harris Enterprises bought controlling interest, have seen a flurry of changes.
Lloyd Ballhagen was named editor and publisher in 1970 and served in that position until June of 1972, when he returned to Hutchinson to continue his duties as a group corporate executive.
Robert R. Bruegger, veteran managing editor of The Hawk Eye at Burlington, Iowa, succeeded Ballhagen as editor and publisher. Charles N. Watson, advertising manager during the previous decade, was named general manager.
When Bruegger became the editor of Harris News Service in March 1976, Watson assumed the publisher's title. John Lee, a Harris executive intern, was named editor. Lee became both editor and publisher when Watson died later the same year.
Lee guided the Hays Daily News until June 1, 1984, when he moved to Hutchinson as assistant to the president. Julie Doll, an executive intern and assistant publisher, became editor and publisher.
In 1990, Kay Berenson, then editor of the Salina Journal, was named editor and publisher of The Daily News. She resigned at the end of 1995 and was replaced by Jim R. Hitch, who had worked as editor and publisher of The Ottawa Herald the previous nine years.
Hitch retired at the end of 1999. John D. Montgomery, who had been editor and publisher of The Ottawa Herald, succeeded Hitch and guided the newspaper for over six years. Montgomery left in August 2006 to become editor and publisher of The Hutchinson News, in addition to his corporate duties as vice president for Harris Enterprises. Patrick E. Lowry, executive editor for two years under Montgomery, took over as editor and publisher.
Numerous technical advances and other improvements have been made since the purchase of the newspaper by the Harris Group.
Installation of an offset press, photo-composition and office remodeling were among early signs of the ownership change.In 1994, The Daily News completed another remodeling of office space, installed a new Macintosh-based computer pagination system for news and advertising and constructed a warehouse addition to the existing building.
The Hays Daily News continues to publish in the afternoons on Monday through Friday, with a Sunday morning edition. A total-market-coverage product, The Extra, is distributed midweek to non-subscribers.
Over the past two decades, The Daily News has earned a number of national and state awards in photography, writing and design.
The company has continued to increase its offerings to an increasingly diverse audience. In January 2007, The Stir debuted as a free weekly newspaper for young adults. In January 2008, ONE debuted as a free monthly tab. ONE is a collaborative effort with the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance and is distributed in churches and religious bookstores.
A strong online presence also has been established by The Hays Daily News. The paper operates eight sites: www.hdnews.net, thestironline.com, tigersportszone.com, larks.hdnews.net, haysareafyi.com, nwkansascars.com, nwkansasjobs.com and nwkansasrealestate.com.
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