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The inside story of how The Bulletin got started

By John Toth

The Bulletin

In December, 1992, my brother-in-law and I went to Walmart in Angleton to shop for Christmas presents and came across something that would lead to the birth of The Bulletin.

The idea to publish a weekly paper was proposed by Sharon, my wife, a few months earlier. We put it on the back burner. It was just an idea.

Harold Allen, my brother-in-law, was a tech geek back then (and still is), and he started looking through a discount bin that contained early DOS desktop computer programs.

They were mostly simple games on a 5.25-inch floppy disk. I didn’t pay much attention, because I was not interested in computer games. I only had a desktop computer issued to me by the Houston Chronicle, and I wasn’t about to load it up with discounted games.

Harold kept digging through the bin and excitedly pulled out a box of nine floppies manufactured by Softkey in Florida labeled “Key Publisher”.

“John, look at this. It’s half price,” he said. “It’s only $10.”

He was buying one. Since I have never met a bigger geek than Harold, I decided to buy one also. I figured that if he got excited about something like this, it’s worth $10.

“I would have bought it at $20. I can’t believe they threw them in the discount bin,” he said.

The floppies sat on my desk for a few weeks. I was not that interested in messing with it.

Harold called and asked what I thought of it. I hadn’t even touched it yet. I’ll get to it later, I said.

“You’ll love it,” he said. “It’s exactly what you need.”

I wasn’t sure if we even wanted to start a paper. I had a good career at the Chronicle.

Sharon was busy being a mom and free-lancing for several publications.

 We had a mortgage and a good income. Why would I risk giving up my security to jump into the high-risk field of weekly newspaper publishing?

Out of curiosity, I loaded the program disks into the Chronicle computer to see what Harold was raving about.

 That was a game changer. I stayed up several nights to learn it. The more time I spent on it,  the more convinced I was that this program could handle our composing needs, if we started a paper.

I showed Sharon what it could do. It printed articles on a page in any column format. The columns would then have to be cut and pasted on a layout sheet.

It wasn’t anything like today’s composing technology, but not shabby compared to much more expensive publishing programs in those days.

Sharon and I started discussing more seriously the possibility of starting our own newspaper.

 I continued to learn the program and started researching what other production equipment we needed and how much it would all cost. We spent all of 1993 planning, but the odds against us making such a drastic change were still very high.

 Why would I walk away from being a staff reporter for the fourth-largest newspaper in the country?

I liked my job. It was interesting, exciting and competitive. I worked for the late Mary Moody, who was one of the best editors and department heads in the business.

I was driven. I wanted to be in first place all the time, with the rest of the news gang following. I looked for big Page 1 stories and felt dissatisfied if I went a long time without coming up with one. I still have those clips. I look back at them from time to time. I was paid to have a lot of fun.

As 1994 began, Sharon and I got more serious about planning the paper. She wanted to call it The Bulletin. I thought the name was too newsy, but she liked it, so we kept it.

I started pricing computer equipment and everything else we needed and looked for sales. We bought a less-than top-of-the-line Hewlett-Packard desktop and a Panasonic 300 DPI laserjet printer. I wished we could have gone higher grade, but desktops were priced out of this world back in those days. That’s all we could afford.

We began searching for a job press. Much of the free time we had was tied up in planning and research. Sharon started calling on businesses we have dealt with in the past, like Ragland Dodge and Mason Evans Travel, and we managed to put together enough of a very small client base to pay for the first press run. We also put together a distribution location list.

On June 30, 1994, we printed the first issue of The Bulletin. It was dated July 4, 1994.

After a year and a half of planning, we were distributing the paper around Brazoria County. I made the official jump to The Bulletin eight months later, after the birth of our daughter.

We had three children and a mortgage and risked everything to chase our dream. What’s the worst thing that could have happened?

If we took a financial bath, we’d just return to regular jobs.

But we didn’t. We were really good at this and spent a lot of time doing it. The clock on the wall didn’t mean anything. We got things done, no matter what.

Here we are, 30 years later, and still publishing The Bulletin. We have no plans of doing anything else. We are as excited about the next issue as we were about our first one. We enjoy the business more now than ever.

Thank you to our readers and advertisers who have made all this possible.

 We are forever grateful to all of you for enabling us to live our dream for 30 years and running.


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