William C. Simonton
Induction Year: 2009
The Covington Leader
William C. Simonton began his 32-year weekly newspaper career as a small boy in the business office of The Covington Leader, working under the supervision of his father, Joseph. W. Simonton. It was the lessons learned in the business office that taught him it was the little things about “newspapering” that made the difference between profit and loss.
After high school and one year in the World War I U.S. Army officer corps, Simonton returned home and asked his father for advice about possible career choices. He was told he could return to working cows on the family dairy farm, or he could return to the family’s Tipton County newspaper. Simonton chose newspaper work because he felt life would be more interesting working with people at the newspaper rather than working on the farm.
From 1918 until his death in 1950, Simonton was co-owner and assistant manager of The Covington Leader. He performed every back shop job of his newspaper and became a proficient operator of the Linotype typesetting machine. He wrote his prize winning newspaper editorials on the Linotype, not a typewriter, and also was the newspaper’s head photographer and photoengraver.
Bill Simonton enjoyed calling on his Covington business community friends, and deftly employed his jocular good wit to sell the benefits of newspaper advertising to local merchants. He often said the job of running an effective community newspaper was one half “effective listening”, and the other half “effective writing and reporting” on what he heard while taking his community’s pulse.
As president of the Tipton County Draft Board and a member of the Tennessee State Guard during World War II, Simonton was known for providing somber advice on the value of U.S. Savings Bonds advertising in newspapers, and what leadership of the business community should do to support American combat troops fighting in Europe and Asia.
Simonton believed passionately in the value of a strong newspaper industry trade association which would provide regular and intelligent communication with its membership about industry and government issues affecting newspapers. He felt if newspapers benefited from sound management practices, then newspaper editors and owners were bound to become informed managers. To him, that meant regular mailed bulletins about what other newspapers were doing in other states, what issues they faced, and a printed monthly newsletter with photographs and news stories about activities and concerns of Tennessee newspapers.
And he was a confident leader among the small group of Tennessee newspapermen who worked diligently to revitalize the Tennessee Press Association in the years leading up to World War II. He provided peer leadership among state newspapermen, and was among the original 14 incorporators of the Tennessee Press Association on November 17, 1941. He served as president of the Tennessee Press Association 1945-1946, having previously served as president of the West Tennessee division of the Tennessee Press Association from 1920 to 1941.
After completing his term as president, Simonton shared freely his well-grounded observations on lessons he had learned in trade association leadership. Among those were that the economic survival of the Tennessee Press Association as an effective industry trade group rested on its membership getting serious about selling newspaper advertising across the entire state. That meant creating a network of newspaper outlets united in their sales efforts to reach customers seeking to communicate with newspaper audiences throughout Tennessee.
To that end, he joined two others as the original three incorporators of an advertising placement service completely owned by members of the Tennessee Press Association. It was incorporated June 2, 1947, as the Tennessee Press Service, and he served as its first president from 1947 until 1950, establishing many of its lasting administrative procedures for TPS and its customers. Simonton was presented the President’s Cup of the Tennessee Press Association in June 1950 in recognition of his leadership service to both TPA and TPS.
Simonton was a big man in stature, and he was big in vision and leadership contributions for the Tennessee Press Association, and its subsidiary, the Tennessee Press Service.