The result has been a crisper print job on finer paper with sharper pictures as well. The Gazette also dropped its 200-year-old tabloid form for the more practical and modern broadsheet.

In July 1972 the entire Gazette plant and offices were moved from 420 Prince George St. in mid-town to 173 Second St. on the eastern fringe of the city. This doubled the news and production space to 6000 square feet and included a new 1400-square-foot wing for a full-sized press capable of printing 15,000 papers an hour. A later expansion of the press boosted its page capacity to 20 pages broadsheet or 40 pages tabloid.

By May 1975 when Gravely died unexpectedly at the age of 47, the Gazette had grown threefold in 15 years to 8,100 paid circulation and had regained its position as the leading newspaper in the Williamsburg area.

Gravely’s success with the Gazette was due entirely to his own broad experience in newspapers. Unlike many publishers who became specialized in news or advertising departments in their formative years, Gravely was experienced in both sectors. He worked for four years writing city and state news with the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the early 1950s and then moved to advertising sales, where he spent another four years and rose to assistant manager of national advertising.

During the next 11 years, the Gazette staff grew to 52 full-time employees, 29 part-timers and 17 motor route carriers.

The news staff now comprises 10 reporters and editors and 10 more columnists and part-time reporters.

Under the late Al Eberhard and his successor as production manager, Ralph Swartz, the Gazette modernized its typesetting, job printing presses and camera department, and expanded into offset production and other community and college publications.

In March 1986 William C. O’Donovan, assistant publisher and editor, was named editor and publisher when the Gazette was sold to Chesapeake Publishing Corp., a subsidiary of Whitney Communications.

Swartz became general manager for printing.

During Mrs. Burgess’s tenure as publisher and president, the Gazette took another major step when it became a twice-weekly newspaper. Although it lost its unique distinction as America’s oldest weekly newspaper, it celebrated a landmark in journalism history 250 years to the day that William Parks first published The Virginia Gazette.

In 1988, the Gazette built a 9,000-square-foot office building in front of its printing plant on Ironbound Road. That tripled the working space and enabled the staff to grow accordingly. The interior was designed with plenty of open space and few walls, as well as with windows looking out from nearly all departments.

In 1992, Chesapeake Publishing set out on a strategy of "clustering" newspapers in Virginia, having already done so successfully in Maryland. The Northern Neck News in Warsaw was purchased from R. Marshall Coggin, whose family had run the paper for 113 years. After several years, the office building was gutted and rebuilt to modern specifications.

In 1995, Chesapeake bought five weeklies from Atlantic Publications of the Eastern Shore:
  • Northumberland Echo in Heathsville.
  • Westmoreland News in Montross.
  • The Caroline Progress in Bowling Green.
  • Tidewater Review in West Point.
  • Sussex-Surry Dispatch in Wakefield.
By 2000, Chesapeake had grown nearly 1,000 employees working at 55 publications and four printing plants in five states. The Virginia division had 145 working at seven newspapers, three specialty magazines, and a printing plant.

In 2001 Chesapeake began divesting much of the company by selling off certain divisions to publicly traded companies. The Daily Press Inc., a subsidiary of Tribune Co., bought the entire Virginia division and pledged to preserve the competitive spirit of news and advertising between the daily and the Gazette in the Williamsburg market.

In 2002, the four papers comprising the Northern Neck group were sold to a family with ties to the Northern Neck. Michael and Carol Diederich of Richmond and Oak Grove joined with his parents Bill and Mary Diederich of Incline Village, Nevada, to take over the papers as well as the visitor publication Riverviews.

By 2002, the flagship Virginia Gazette had grown to a paid circulation of 16,500 and running up to 100 pages a week.

Under  Daily Press ownership, improvements in technology and printing enhanced the look of the paper, including wider application of color. Internal improvements extended throughout all departments to improve workflow and productivity. A revamped Web site enabled readers to get in touch with the paper more easily and check current news and commentary.

Along the top of the walls surrounding the News and Advertising departments, hundreds of awards over the years testify to the Gazette’s excellence in reporting, writing, design, photography and advertising. The paper won Virginia’s prestigious Copeland Award for community excellence in 1969, 1980 and 1994, as well as numerous top awards for editorial leadership.

To this day, the paper serves the Williamsburg area with the same enthusiasm that inspired William Parks. The company has quietly lobbied the City of Williamsburg to name a street on his behalf to commemorate the printer who started it all.

--From a 1986 history of The Virginia Gazette by W.C. O’Donovan, updated 2002 and transcribed by Lew Leadbeater

Member of the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce
) 2002 The Virginia Gazette