The first issue of The Webster Times rolled off the presses on July 13, 1978. Initially a monthly publication, the newspaper was written, produced and distributed by a handful of recent Webster College graduates, along with a new-to-town Webster College journalism professor.
Though money was tight and salaries virtually non-existent during those early months, determined owners weathered the storm. The Times never missed publishing a scheduled issue.
In April 1979, the newspaper expanded its circulation to become the Webster-Kirkwood Times. It also went from a monthly newspaper to publishing every two weeks.
Early in the newspaper’s history, owners wore many hats. The first press run was stuffed into two VW Beetles for the ride from the printer to distributors to the office. The budget was run on a shoestring; everyone wrote stories and involved themselves in the newspaper’s production.
With success came expansion. The Times moved from its small office in Old Webster directly across the street into several second floor offices in the historic Lockwood Building.
The Webster-Kirkwood Times began publishing weekly on Friday, April 13, 1984. Everyone’s favorite “Hometown Newspaper” now serves residents living in Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Shrewsbury, Oakland, Des Peres, Warson Woods, Glendale and Rock Hill.
Two original owners remained from the early years: Publisher Dwight Bitikofer and Editor-in-Chief Don Corrigan. They had overseen a staff of more than 25 employees.
On September 8, 2020 the Webster-Kirkwood Times was purchased by a group of former employees Randy Drilingas, Jaime Mowers and Kent Tentschert. Kent's brother Eric also is an owner who provided financial support for the purchase of the newspaper. Their first issue was published on September 25, 2020.
The new ownership has started with a total of 9 employees but plans to expand that number some time in the future. There are also hopes to bring the South County Times and West End Word back to print but no dates are currently on the horizon due to the pandemic and the uncertainty of local businesses in the area.
Residents in the circulation area receive their papers free of charge, tossed on their lawns every Thursday evening, in time to read the latest news over coffee on Friday morning. A large number of newspapers are also placed each week in stores and restaurants, making available copies to those who live outside of the distribution area.
SOUTH COUNTY TIMES
On April 4, 1986, Webster-Kirkwood Times, Inc. grew its successful company with the addition of a second newspaper — Gravois-Watson Times — that targeted 30,000 readers in the Crestwood, Sunset Hills, Affton and Sappington areas.
In addition to weekly coverage of people, places and events, the South County Times reported on local government news and the happenings out of the Affton and Lindbergh school districts.
“We’re very proud of this first issue. We think it’s a strong beginning with a promise of what’s to come,” wrote Editor Don Corrigan, introducing readers to the Gravois-Watson Times.
The front page article of that maiden issue posed the question: “Will This Man’s House Be Saved?” The man was Ulysses S. Grant; the home and surrounding property is today a U.S. National Historic Site.
In February 1989, the name Gravois-Watson Times changed to South County-News Times to reflect the Times’ acquisition of the South St. Louis County News. The County News had served the Affton area since 1947, and its purchase gave the Times an even stronger foothold in the community. An additional 15,000 newspaper copies were printed each week.
The name South County News-Times would later be shortened to South County Times. Concord Village was added to the distribution area, and eventually Fenton would fall under the South County Times’ umbrella.
WEST END WORD
In 2011, the West End Word became part of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, Inc. family of community newspapers.
Founded in August 1972 by a group of civic-minded Central West End residents, the newspaper was a way to shine a light on the good things happening in St. Louis, and a way to keep residents informed of news in their own slice of the city.
Ownership of the paper changed a handful of times over the years. In 1989, the Fister family purchased the Word and expanded the readership to include neighboring communities.
Publisher Dwight Bitikofer had just moved to St. Louis when the West End Word debuted in 1972.
“I could never have imagined that one day I would come to own the newspaper,” Bitikofer said. “St. Louis is a great place to live. I am happy that the West End Word is still here more than 40 years later to serve and represent a vibrant corridor of our town – ‘from the Arch to the Innerbelt.’”