The Public Opinion was founded on March 25, 1887, shortly after the town of Watertown was platted. The P/O began as a weekly newspaper but became a daily in June of 1893.
There were various newspaper owners and publishers going back as far as 1882, before South Dakota gained statehood. Mr. L. D. Lyon who ran the Courier, another of Watertown's early newspapers (other early papers included the Dakota Enterprise, and Dakota News) ended up running the P/O until he sold it in 1893 to three individuals, Geddes, Ransom and Cory.
It was in 1908 that S. X. (Stitzel) Way and W. F. Bancroft bought the Public Opinion and created the company and newspaper that exists today. One of the first things Way did in 1911 was to move the P/O into a new facility with newer equipment at what is now the Watertown City Hall. Way was publisher until his death in 1942, when his son Kenneth B. Way took over as publisher.
K.B. Way's uncle, Julius F. Bacon, a native of Iowa and a newspaper owner from Grand Forks, ND (where he was part owner of the Grand Forks Herald until he sold his interests to what became the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain), moved to Watertown in 1929 and became an investor/owner of the Public Opinion in 1930 with his brother-in-law and publisher S.X. Way. In the ensuing years Bacon held the title of General Manager (until 1952) and president of the Public Opinion company (until 1959). Bacon is credited with good management capacity and was responsible for placing the newspaper on a firm financial footing during the difficult 1930s.
K.B. Way served as publisher for 43 years (1942-1985). General Manager John Lowrie, who was Way’s son-in-law and an employee at the Public Opinion since 1950, succeeded Way.
In the early 1970s Way and Lowrie decided to update the newspaper’s production to the new technology of offset printing. Their current building would not accommodate this conversion and a new Harris 845N five-unit press. So in 1971 Way announced the purchase of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 120 Third Ave. NW. By early 1972 the newspaper and companion P/O Printing and Graphics commercial printing operation were relocated to the new and present location.
Steve Lowrie, a fourth generation family member and great grandson of S.X. Way, joined the P/O in 1978 and was named general manager in 1988. Lowrie was named publisher in 1994.
On March 1, 2002 Steve Lowrie, then sole owner of the Public Opinion, sold the company to the Howard J. Brown family of Kenosha, Wisconsin and the P/O became part of the United Communications Corporation family of newspapers and TV stations. It was at that time, Mark S. Roby, another Watertown native and second generation P/O employee, returned to Watertown as the new publisher of the P/O. Roby’s father, J. J. Roby, Sr. was hired by K.B. Way and worked as business manager of the P/O from 1960 until he retired in 1991.
Today the P/O is delivered to 55 communities in northeastern South Dakota and western Minnesota each day and read by thousands on the World Wide Web (www.thepublicopinion.com). Our company over the years has grown to include:
Thanks for reading and learning about the Watertown Public Opinion!
Watertown Public Opinion
“Serving the Glacial Lakes Region of South Dakota and Minnesota since 1887”
120 Third Ave NW
Watertown, SD 57201