The very first newspaper in Santa Rosa, the parent of today's Press Democrat, was begun in 1857, just three years after Santa Rosa was chosen as the seat of Sonoma County and seven years after California became a part of the United States.
Called the Sonoma Democrat this newspaper was a four-page weekly. Its name reflected the politics of the Santa Rosa and Russian River valleys, which were settled in the 1840s and '50s by farmers from Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The founding publisher was Alpheus Russell, a merchant with some newspaper experience who came to open a general store on Third Street. John Taylor, a prosperous rancher south of the new town, encouraged Russell to establish the paper, giving him a five-dollar gold piece for the first subscription.
At the end of a year, Russell sold the paper to printer E.R. Budd, who sold it again in 1860. The new owner was Thomas Thompson, a young Virginian who had edited Petaluma's Sonoma County Journal five years earlier at the age of 17.
Thompson was a supporter of the Southern cause and conventional wisdom of the time said that Democratic party money, perhaps Confederate money, helped Thompson buy the paper to oppose the election of Abraham Lincoln.
Thompson and Samuel Cassiday, the Republican editor of the Petaluma paper, carried on a Civil War of words, in which Thompson was victorious.
Lincoln did not carry Sonoma County in either 1860 or 1864 elections.
Thompson played a major role in politics in Santa Rosa, the state, and later as U.S. Amabassador to Brazil. He sold the Sonoma Democrat in 1897 to Ernest L. Finley, owner of The Evening Press who merged the two papers and renamed the new publication The Press Democrat. Finley also bought The Santa Rosa Republican, the paper's long-time competitor, in 1927. Ernest Finley's wife, Ruth, was very much a part of the affairs of the newspaper. She encouraged him, also, to establish radio station KSRO in 1936. Control of the newspaper and radio station passed to Ruth at his death in 1942.
Mrs. Finley, described as a gentle, soft-spoken woman, co-published the two newspapers along with her son-in-law, Evert Person, for the next 31 years. During that time circulation of the newspaper rose from 10,000 to 55,000 subscribers. In 1948 the Santa Rosa Republican and The Press Democrat were merged. The Republican was renamed The Evening Press and continued as the afternoon edition. The morning edition continued as The Press Democrat. In 1951 The Evening Press died and The Press Democrat became the sole evening edition.
At Mrs. Finley's death in 1973, ownership of The Press Democrat passed to her son-in-law and daughter, Evert and Ruth Person.
In 1985, shortly before Ruth Person died, the Persons sold The Press Democrat to The New York Times Company. In August 1985, three months after its takeover of the newspaper, The New York Times Company began construction on a $31 million, 78,000 square foot Rohnert Park production plant. Just one year later, the new Press Democrat rolled off the brand new 4-story presses and the community was urged to "Take A New Look."
In January 2012, the Press Democrat Media Company briefly joined Halifax Media Holdings, a Florida-based company, ending the Press Democrat's association with The New York Times Company. In November 2012, Sonoma Media Investments, LLC, (http://sonomamediainvestments.com) consisting of a group of local investors and community leaders, purchased The Press Democrat along with the North Bay Business Journal and the Petaluma Argus Courier, and all affiliated websites. This returned the Press Democrat to local ownership after nearly three decades.
Today, with a readership of about a quarter million adults, The Press Democrat is the largest newspaper between San Francisco and the Oregon border.
Even now, the paper remains a reflection of the community it serves, through its Celebrate Community program and through additional contributions to area charities such as Starcross Community (funding for work with AIDS babies), the Holiday Spirit Drive for Coalition Against Hunger, the Helping Hand Fund and the United Way, as well as acting as a major sponsor of the Volunteer Center for the annual Human Race event.
The Press Democrat is also active in contributing to numerous education and other organizations such as the Sonoma State University Press Democrat Youth Service Award for high school seniors, awarded for youth service work.
Additionally, the company participates in community events and agencies such as the 4th of July Celebration of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Family YMCA.
Unlike most other major newspapers, The Press Democrat has literally grown up with the area it serves. As Northern California continues to develop into the 21st century, so too will The Press Democrat.
About the Press Democrat Media Co. websites
delivers fresh local news & views to users who count on pressdemocrat.com for comprehensive up-to-the-minute information, access to the latest in sports, entertainment, shopping and dining venues and other interactive tools such as local weather and real time traffic reports. The site covers Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties with continuously updated news, weather, sports, entertainment, events, blogs, photos, videos and more. It also includes real-time news from the Bay Area, the state, the nation and the world. Stay in touch with the Press Democrat on your desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet with our customized digital sites.
Towns: Press Democrat
is our community-based site devoted to news, events and opinions from local communities. It includes specialized material for individual Sonoma County towns and brings in blogs, news stories, columns and other content from around the Web relating to those communities. Each town has its own correspondents who help shape the conversation in those towns and provide timely updates on local news of note. Watch the Towns sites for conversation and news on local events, news stories and photos shared by readers.
The Press Democrat e-edition:
Get each day's exact version of the printed newspaper edition, delivered digitally to your desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet. The electronic edition, also known as our e-edition, is a high-tech replica of the newspaper. Share pages or articles from the newspaper, save them for later, search past issues instantly, have articles read aloud in English or Spanish, browse the paper online or offline and don't miss a day of the paper when you're away from home.
Click here to see a demo of The Press Democrat e-edition.
Sonoma magazine?s aim is to capture and celebrate this landscape and lifestyle. The magazine explores the food and wine culture that drives the region, its homes, outdoors, cuisine, personalities, cultural attractions, and style with a fresh, informed voice, a curatorial point of view, and gorgeous visuals.
is the leading source for insider views and news on the Petaluma experience, the second largest city in Sonoma County. The Argus-Courier's award-winning web site was launched in 2007 and includes breaking news updates, photo galleries, local videos, a lively forums section, bloggers, news archives, local search capability, a comprehensive community calendar and much more.
The Sonoma Index-Tribune is a 5,300-circulation newspaper covering all of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley. Founded in 1879, the paper is now published twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and also produces a website at
, a news bulletin emailed to subscribers seven days a week, and several social media feeds.
is the premier business-to-business news site in the North San Francisco Bay Area region. It offers a wealth of news coverage of the business community as well as sponsoring business community events that showcase the region and encourage networking and business growth.
is our site dedicated to high school sports coverage in the North Bay region. We have scores, stats, schedules, news and photos from the prep sports world from Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties. Follow our bloggers on everything from high school track and cross country, to football and youth and community sports. Share PDPreps content on Facebook or Twitter and watch for live-game blogging, score updates, standings and daily news.
Anonymous? No way. Pretentious? Please.
foists a fork at everything from farm markets to four-star restaurants; taco trucks to top chefs, getting to the oooey, gooey creamy center in no-time flat. Wine Country dining. Drive-through sensibility. BiteClubEats is Heather Irwin's nationally-recognized award-winning dish on Sonoma, Napa and the North Bay's best restaurant bets. Come along for the ride. Eaters welcome at this reader-centered food site.
is a site geared towards families and parents in Sonoma County. It's a place to swap stories, learn about family friendly events in the area, and share tips and ideas on kids, parenting, and raising a family. The conversations range from light-hearted to more in-depth. Being a parent is a busy job, The Village makes finding new friends and getting information that much more convenient for families.
Inside the 49ers
is the premier site for news and conversation about the San Francisco 49ers as they battle each season for the National Football League's NFC West Division title and ultimately a Super Bowl. The blog is staffed and contributed to throughout the year, starting from the NFL combine and draft each spring, to the preseason games and training camp, through the regular season and into the playoffs. Discuss each personnel move and preview and breakdown each game with other fans of the 49ers. Inside the 49ers is moderated by Grant Cohn, who shares his insights on the 49ers each day, and leads discussions on all team topics. It attracts fan voices from around the globe.
is a partnership that supports local community efforts. We lead by volunteering our time, donating cash and promotions to many local area nonprofit organizations each year. Donated promotions help local organizations and individuals to discover ways that we can all work together to solve key community challenges. For more information about Celebrate Community, contact Lolly.Petroni@pressdemocrat.com
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