Chief Printing Press Slows to a Halt in Custer County, Printing Moving to Kearney

Chief Printing Press Slows to a Halt in Custer County, Printing Moving to Kearney
Custer County Chief ran its press for the last time on March 2. Printing will be relocated to Kearney.

BROKEN BOW—Though the Custer County Chief will no longer be printed in Custer County, the 126-year-old paper will continue to serve the community. Printing operations will relocate to Kearney beginning with this week’s issue. Printing at the Kearney Hub will mean more color and a high quality look. Chief headquarters for staff will remain on 10th Avenue in Broken Bow, where it has been since 1929.

Local roots run deep for the Custer County Chief. Emerson Purcell founded the paper in 1892 and worked as publisher until 1943. His son-in-law Parke Keays took over until 1946 until handing over the reins to Emerson’s son Harry Purcell (publisher from 1946 to 1984). The paper was sold to Smith Brothers Corporation in the mid-1980s. It was sold to cnhi in 2001, and then Horizon Publications out of Chicago, who currently owns the paper.

The paper stayed in the family when Harry Purcell’s daughter (and Emerson’s granddaughter) Deb McCaslin served as publisher for more than 15 years. Bill Parsons took over in October 2015, and Donnis Hueftle-Bullock was named General Manager in November 2017.

“It’s a good thing too, because you know the color we have available. Like I’ve said before, there’s not a farmer that harvests corn with a 1950s combine. You know, and nobody’s still driving a 1950s vehicle up and down the road and that’s what we’ve got,” Hueftle-Bullock said.

Since the 1950s, the Chief has printed on a Goss Community 1956 Press, capable of producing up to 10,000 copies per hour. Four separate roller presses have been printing the Chief and the X-TRA using black ink and spot color.

Managing Editor Mona Weatherly knows the world is changing but she and the staff plan to continue preserving the history of the area.

“It’s the history of it. This press has seen a lot of history and if you think about all the stories and all the families and all the photos that have gone through it, I can kind of get emotional,” Weatherly said.

With this change in printing locations, some Chief employees have lost their jobs on staff. Positions previously designed for inserting will now be automated in Kearney.

Pressman David White will oversee custom printing jobs on a smaller press because longtime employee Galen Ellingson is set to retire this spring. White and Ellingson combined have operated Chief presses for more than 50 years. Employees recounted an “ominous sound” as the press slowed to a halt for the last time. Purcell’s other granddaughter Penny Ashenfelter was also there to watch the last press run on Friday morning.

Despite the pressure of deadlines and changes to daily operations, Weatherly said everyone on staff exudes passion for they work they do.

“I just believe especially in this era that we should do everything we can to represent people with respect and accuracy and that’s what I strive to do,” Weatherly said.

The March 1 issue was the last paper to be printed in Custer County. (The March 5 edition of the X-TRA was the last item to be printed on the Goss Community Press.) As of the March 8 issue of the Chief, the paper will be printed in Kearney.

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