Bright Spots: Centreville newspaper going strong since 1879

These days, the news is all about digital first. But this week’s Bright Spots report takes us down the road and back in time to Bibb County, where folks still rely on getting their news the old fashioned way: in print.

The Centreville Press, Bibb County’s “newspaper of record,” has been in regular publication since it opened in 1879, more than 140 years ago.

Back then, Rutherford B. Hayes was in the middle of his presidential stint. There were only 38 states in the union. That was also the year Thomas Edison perfected his carbonized cotton filament light bulb.

“You’re walking into a museum when you come in here, no doubt,” said current owner David Daniel. “This is an original Heidelberg printing press, and it still works today.”

They don’t make machines like this anymore, and quality journalism can a lot harder to find, too.

“If you’ve ever been on Facebook, you have probably noticed that there is a plethora of content there but no credibility per say,” Daniel said. “We don’t do that. The paper is reporting what we know as the news of the day, and we try to keep our opinions out of our articles. That is one of the reasons why I think the newspaper of record is such as important thing for any community. That is why I want to continue the legacy of this gentleman right here.”

The gentleman in question is a man who requires little introduction if you’re interested in West Alabama’s history. In fact, many known him already, or have at least heard of Jim Oakley.  Before his 30-year journalism career at the University of Alabama, Oakley was the third generation in his family to own and run The Centreville Press.

“There’s a story about how this press came into my family,” Oakley said.

His grandfather was a railroad man back in in the early 1900s. He had a disagreement with the then-owner of The Centreville Press over something people will always disagree about: politics.

“My grandad said ‘I will just buy you out of here,’ ” Oakley said. “So he said ‘Put your money up.’ That day, my granddad became the owner of the press. He went home to my grandmother at lunch and said, ‘Old lady guess what? You are editor of The Centreville Press.’ She said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I bought the paper this morning.’ ”

If the press room’s walls could talk, it would swell with the voices printed in every issue.

“They are doing a good job with the newspaper,” Oakley said. “This is what a newspaper ought to be. They are doing what a newspaper should do for the people.”

Oakley’s statement his high praise for Daniel, as that’s exactly what he’s setting out to do with Oakley’s family legacy.

“My hope is that we can carry on the tradition that began back at the founding of the country and keep the newspaper business alive and keep our community thriving, informed and moving forward,” Daniel said.

The Centreville Press launched its online version earlier this month. You can check it out — and subscribe right here.

If you have a Bright Spots you’d like to share, submit your suggestions right here.

Categories: Bright Spots, Featured, Local News