The East Wichita News has a new owner.
After more than two decades at the helm of the East Wichita News, owners Cathy and Mike Feemster have sold the long-running monthly newspaper to Times-Sentinel Newspapers LLC, which owns and operates four other community newspapers in and around Wichita.
Times-Sentinel Newspapers publishes another monthly newspaper in west Wichita, the WestSide Story, and three weekly newspapers: The Times-Sentinel, serving western Sedgwick County and the communities of Cheney, Clearwater, Garden Plain and Goddard; the Conway Springs Star and Argonia Argosy, serving northern Sumner County; and the Haysville Sun-Times.
“When Cathy told me she was ready to retire, it didn’t take long for me to take the next step,” said Times-Sentinel owner and publisher Paul Rhodes. “We needed to get together and talk.”
An agreement to purchase the East Wichita News was reached late last year, and Times-Sentinel Newspapers began publishing the newspaper with this month’s issue. Cathy Feemster said she’s happy with the transition.
“I know Paul Rhodes will continue what I’ve started, and probably do a much better job,” she said. “He’s got a very professional organization and a long-running background in community newspapers.”
Rhodes said he appreciates the support the Feemsters have shown him and his staff through the transition, and the opportunity to work with Cathy during the transition to meet many of her regular advertisers.
“I’ve dedicated my career, and much of my life, to community journalism, and the East Wichita News truly fits that definition for me,” said Rhodes. “East Wichita is a community unto itself, and we hope we can build off the foundation Cathy and Mike have established for this monthly newspaper.”
Rhodes has been involved with journalism since 1975. He was editor of his high school (Smith Center, Kan.) and college (Kansas State University) newspapers, and had stints with several weekly and daily newspapers in Kansas and Georgia before launching Times-Sentinel Newspapers in 1992.
The newspaper group is headquartered in Cheney, Kan., just west of Wichita. Contact information for the East Wichita News will remain the same, including the newspaper’s phone number (316-214-3278) and its website, www.eastwichitanews.com.
“We’ll be making some minor changes to the publication to reflect some of our news style and focus on local feature stories and coverage,” said Rhodes. “We’ve got great staff members who are dedicated to the responsibilities of this profession, and at the same time love this job.
“We hope that commitment shows through to our readers in East Wichita.”
Reflections on my career with the East Wichita News
By Cathy Feemster
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and most other writers will tell you to write about what you know. If I know anything, it’s about East Wichita. That’s why, when I was in a go-nowhere job, I decided to do what I’ve always wanted to do – run a newspaper.
East Wichita News was on its last legs, and when I picked up the December 1992 issue and saw the paper was for sale, I knew it had nowhere to go but up. My husband, Mike, was very supportive, so we and partners Larry and Brenda Agan dived in. After the purchase in January 1993, we published our first issue in only three weeks.
Though Larry and Brenda had to bow out after the first year, we had a great time creating, learning, and working until all hours on our monthly project, which was always about my hometown neighborhood of East Wichita. I grew up in College Hill, and attended elementary school there, then went on to Robinson Junior High and East High. I did take two years away at the University of Tulsa, but returned after Mike and I married to graduate from Wichita State University, majoring in journalism with a minor in political science.
I knew a lot about Wichita, but I’ve learned a lot, too. But mostly, I’ve enjoyed all the people I’ve met while running the paper. When I bought it, the lead story was usually “rich person of the month.” I decided there were a lot of other people who deserved the spotlight . . . so my job for the next 21 years was to find them. It wasn’t hard; interesting people are everywhere. Some are rich, and we’ve done our share of stories about them, but most are not rich and not well known.
Our criteria for choosing people for our personality profiles was that the person had to be interesting or be doing something interesting. Little did I realize in 1993 that would lead me to such different personalities – other entrepreneurs, every school superintendent, each WSU men’s basketball coach, soldiers returning from Iraq, artists, museum directors, entertainers, and Wichita’s movers and shakers.
One of the things I knew I wanted to do was cover elections in a very even-handed way. My first chance came in August of 1994 when Wichita Public Schools called for a vote on their local option budget that would raise property taxes. I asked Claradine Johnson, a member of the Board of Education, and Chuck Kriel of Project Educate for interviews and gave their “pro” and “con” answers in articles side by side. This method became very popular as the paper grew and became respected in the community. Tiahrt vs. Rathbun followed in 1996, and many more local, county, state, and Congressional races were covered using the question and answer format. I believe that the last two elections we have covered, the Ambassador Hotel tax issue and the fluoride issue, were both impacted by East Wichita News articles.
One of the most memorable people we profiled was Bill Wedekind in January 2003 (our 10th anniversary issue). Not many people remember him or had heard of him, but his story, written by Arlene Graber, was so inspirational. I was speechless as I took the pictures of this Vietnam veteran who was both blind and had no hands. And what did he do for a living? He was a sculptor. It was amazing.
So many of our lead stories were about Wichitans who have succeeded in their lives, going up against great odds, but finally living their dreams. Maybe they aren’t famous, but their stories are worth telling, and I’ve been privileged to make that happen, of course with the help of my wonderful writers—Graber, Carolyn Ramsey, Pam Porvaznik, Helen Bullock, and David Austin.
And those writers include my columnists. Did you know East Wichita News did the first story on Olympian Caroline Bruce, courtesy of writer David Austin? Maria Mannani was the first to tell the world about “Tatoos for Your Teeth.” Philip Holmes has covered every Symphony Showhouse for the past 21 years. Who but Michele Harris would figure that her health article should cover fingernail fitness? Jerry Juhnke gave our readers the lowdown on “Putting Your Business in Cyberspace” in 1996, long before most of us knew about websites. Jeanne Erikson gave us “The Love Challenge.” Carolyn Ramsey gave us the symptoms of her “Addiction to Gardening.” Helping business owners through trial and troubles, Ken Lerman loves to remember the Fezziwig business in “A Christmas Carol.”
Then there is the irrepressible Jim Erickson, our movie reviewer. My favorite quote from him is from his review of “Waterworld” in August 1995: “People whose whole world is water apparently never wash anything.” He only gave that movie 2-1/2 stars. I also can’t forget our man-on-the street interviewer, Helen Bullock. Her “What’s the Buzz” articles have covered everything from immigration reform and gay marriage to the downtown arena.
I owe most of the success of East Wichita News to these and several other writers, who, month-in and month-out, came up with great topics and creative writing to entice the readers. We usually had two parties a year, so we could pick each other’s brains for ideas. Those were great times.
I also want to thank the many advertisers who took a chance on a newcomer. Downing & Lahey Mortuary was the only signed advertiser when I bought the paper. I’m so glad they are still with us. Most of our advertisers have been with us for years, and I’m very grateful, because we couldn’t have told Wichita’s stories without their support.
I know Paul Rhodes will continue what I’ve started, and probably do a much better job. He’s got a very professional organization and a long running background in community newspapers. I can’t wait to read his first issue.