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What are roots, lineage, of The Rockport Pilot?

By Vickie Moon Merchant
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County

The Rockport Pilot can trace its roots back to Charles F. Bailey when he established The Transcript in 1869. This was the same year Ulysses S. Grant became President of the United States and before Aransas County was formed from Refugio County. In 1888, The Rockport Enterprise was founded. In 1898, Bailey died.

In 1916, The Rockport Enterprise merged with The Rockport Pilot. This was the same year Woodrow Wilson was reelected President of the U.S. In 1920, Tom W. Willie was editor of The Rockport Pilot and Camp C. Ezell became editor in 1922. As the Depression approached, J.O. Blackwell purchased The Rockport Register-Pilot in 1929. He also printed the 70th anniversary of the newspaper. By 1940, Jack Blackwell, son of J.O., owned The Rockport Pilot.

During this time, the Pilot was produced by injecting molten-type metal into a mold with the same shape as one or more glyphs, or symbols. Each represented readable characters to spell a word within a sentence. This method required manual, letter-by-letter typesetting and using a composing stick and drawers of letters.

In 1945, Harry S. Truman was reelected President of the U.S. The next year, Roy V. Rogero, Sr. and R. Roy Woods purchased The Rockport Pilot and published the 77th anniversary of the paper. In 1969, Woods and Rogero published The Centennial Edition, or 100th anniversary issue, of the Pilot. In 1971, Rogero bought out Woods’ interest and Roy Rogero Jr. returned to Rockport to help manage the paper with his father.

Production of The Pilot between 1946 and 1986 relied on linotype machines. Before Mergenthaler’s invention in 1884 of the Linotype Machine, no newspaper contained more than eight pages. From the 19th century to the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, the linotype machine was used to print newspapers, magazines and posters. This machine revolutionized typesetting, and made it possible for fewer number of workers to be employed to set type for many pages on a daily basis. It produced an entire line of metal type at once, rather than manual, letter-by-letter typesetting using a composing stick and drawers of letters. Lines of text were assembled through the use of a keyboard, much like typewriters or computer keyboards of today.

In 1976, Roy Rogero Sr. sold The Rockport Pilot to Fred Hartman Newspapers. At this time, Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. In 1984, Hartman hired Mike Probst to be the editor and publisher of The Rockport Pilot. That was the year the Texas Sesquicentennial Edition was published.

Beginning in 1986, The Rockport Pilot began using Desktop Publishing with Apple McIntosh Plus Computers and Pagemaker Software, which replaced bulky Compugraphic equipment. Compugraphic used Kodak film, which was expensive, and the copy had to be developed, dried, cut and pasted with wax on layout pages. The equipment was unreliable and repair costs were expensive.

Before 1999, the press shot negatives and burned plates, which were then placed on the press. The Pilot constantly upgraded its Apple Computers. Quark Xpress was implemented replacing Pagemaker. Layouts were “cut and pasted.” In 1999, The Pilot began all-digital production by laying out the newspaper completely on the computer desktop. Currently, InDesign software is used to digitally layout the pages. Those digital images then go directly to plate at the press in Port Lavaca.

After 30 years of editing and publishing The Rockport Pilot, Mike Probst continues in that position.

Due to hurricanes, storms and fires, some of the information regarding the history of The Rockport Pilot has been lost, but this information has been located in surviving editions. Even though the names of The Rockport Pilot may have changed over the years, the roots of The Rockport Pilot can be traced back 145 years to Charles F. Bailey’s establishment of The Transcript.

An exhibit of the 145th anniversary of The Rockport Pilot will be on display at the History Center for Aransas County from Nov. 1 through January. The History Center is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It is located at 801 E. Cedar St.

What are roots, lineage, of The Rockport Pilot?
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