Texana Thursday: Remembering the Original Houston Press

Thomas Thompson, a former Houston Press reporter and editor, wrote Blood and Money

Last week, Houston-area newspaper readers learned of the decision of the Houston Press, an alternative weekly newspaper, to cease publishing a print edition and publish exclusively online. Officials said their decision was based on the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and, perhaps more importantly, declining advertising revenue—something that’s hit print publications everywhere as readers continue to go digital.

Several staff members, including nine full-time employees, lost their jobs as a result of this decision.

The alternative weekly Houston Press that’s in the news today isn’t the original publication with that name, and the era in which that original Houston Press did its work was very different from today. It makes for an interesting story.

The original Houston Press came along in September, 1911. It was a key player in what was then a three-newspaper town. (The others were the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post.)

Obviously, this was an era before digital media, but it was also before radio, which became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. It was also before television, which became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Its office was at the intersection of Rusk and Chartres, which is within walking distance of BBVA Compass Stadium, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and Minute Maid Park.

Eventually the newspaper had a daily circulation of 90,000.

The Press had its share of notable reporters. Thomas Thompson was a reporter and editor there. He later wrote a book about a sensational local murder case, Blood and Money (1976).

Walter Cronkite, another former Press reporter, later became known for his work as managing editor and anchorman of the CBS Evening News.

The late Marvin Zindler, who later became known for his work at KTRK-TV in Houston—viewers will remember his restaurant reports that found “sliiiime in the ice machine!—worked as a Houston Press photographer.

Then, as now, newspapers need advertisers and subscribers, and in 1964 the Press ceased publication and sold its assets to the Chronicle. The Post followed suit 21 years later.