The end of an era

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Newspaper industry says goodbye to long-time publisher

Laura G. (Dolly) Brock and her late husband, Claude Alex Brock, were the longest, continuous, family-owned county newspaper publishers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 
Dolly, 91, passed away at 5:05 p.m., March 4, 2013.
Dolly and her late husband, Claude Alex Brock, were publishers of The Spencer Magnet newspaper from 1948-1990. The Spencer Magnet was sold to Landmark Community Newspapers in 1990, with Landmark’s then President and CEO Larry Coffey presiding over the historic sale. Landmark still publishes The Spencer Magnet as a community newspaper in Taylorsville with a local staff.
Dolly was made Editor Emeritus of The Spencer Magnet following the sale, a tribute made possible by Landmark Community Newspapers.
During the last half of the Brocks’ ownership of The Spencer Magnet, Dolly was essentially the sole publisher of the newspaper, due to Claude having been diagnosed with progressive Alzheimer’s disease in the late 1970s.
Dolly’s death essentially marks the end of an era.
The family-owned practice of community newspaper publishing has largely ended in Kentucky and in America, as corporate ownership of county newspaper groups has emerged. Dolly was one of few independent publishers who were still living in Kentucky, prior to her death.
Dolly often said the key objective that she and her husband shared in publishing The Spencer Magnet was to “let the people in Spencer County know what was going on, without hurting people or being sensational in the news.” That journalism philosophy helped to bond the community in a positive manner for more than four decades.
When the Brocks purchased The Spencer Magnet in 1948, the newspaper was on the verge of going out of business, but was kept open with Dolly and Claude’s small savings account and a loan. At that time, the Brocks were working in factories in Detroit, Mich. They quit their jobs, then moved to Taylorsville to publish The Spencer Magnet.
“It scared the hell out of me, ” Dolly recalled. “I didn’t know anything about putting out a newspaper, and the darn thing didn’t even have an income.”
When Dolly and Claude arrived in Taylorsville in 1948, they found the newspaper housed in a small concrete block building on the corner of what is now Ky. 55 and Mill Street. The Spencer Magnet was a two-page newspaper at that time, with only an ancient printing press, a linotype in poor repair, and no other equipment.
The Spencer Magnet had very little advertising and total circulation of less than 100 copies. A subscription at that time was about $1 a year.
Shortly after arriving in Taylorsville, Dolly, a high-energy, determined person, started her routine of making the rounds to Taylorsville businesses to sell advertising. Her weekly rounds to Taylorsville merchants became legend during the next 42 years. Merchants supported her advertising sales. She, in return, helped merchants to pick merchandise to advertise, she laid out their ads, showed them proofs and published the ads in The Spencer Magnet.
In later years she told her sons that, “It made me and everybody else happy when I would come back the next week and find out that the advertised items had been sold.”
Dolly’s good business instincts also warned her that if she was going to deliver sales results to advertisers, The Spencer Magnet needed to improve in many ways to stimulate readership.
“One hundred dinky papers with no news wouldn’t cut the mustard,” she recalled.
Dolly’s consistent work and determination paid off for the community. The Spencer Magnet consistently grew in size, until it became a regular 16-page newspaper by the 1980s. Circulation eventually grew to more than 2,500 copies weekly. Until Taylorsville Lake was filled and the population explosion took place in Spencer County, that 2,500 circulation represented “complete saturation circulation in Spencer County.” That slogan was proudly published on the newspaper masthead for many years.
Dolly launched the effort to recruit correspondents who provided weekly news from throughout Spencer County. Even the smallest communities in the county had a news correspondent when Dolly and Claude owned The Spencer Magnet.
Those correspondents would often bring news to the office in person, rather than mailing it. When a correspondent walked into the newspaper office, both Dolly and Claude treated them like royalty. Spencer Magnet correspondents were viewed as valuable reporters, and they were treated that way.
Hundreds of Spencer County residents remember the cordial treatment that was given to people who visited The Spencer Magnet office. It was expected that Dolly would immediately walk from the back shop to the front of the newspaper office saying, “Hi honey, what can I do to help?” A hug often followed her greeting.
Dolly was devoted to the Spencer County community and directed business affairs of The Spencer Magnet to reflect the family’s gratitude.
“Spencer County people are the best in the world”, she frequently said.
Editor’s note: Dolly is the mother of Keith E. Brock of Lebanon.