Robert N. Brown · 1976
Robert N. Brown, Columbus, Ind., president of Home News Enterprises, publishers of newspapers in Columbus, Franklin, Greenfield, Plainfield and Greenwood, was inducted into the Indiana Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1976.
Above the desk of Robert N. Brown in the spacious modern Republic building in downtown Columbus hang three handsome matching portraits, those of his great-grandfather, his grandfather and his father, all of whose footsteps he has followed as publisher of The Republic, now a six-day daily with a circulation of 21,500.
The Columbus newspaper was founded in 1872 as a weekly by Isaac T. Brown (1848-1917), grandfather of Robert Brown. Perhaps because his son was only 24 years old at that time, Isaac m. Brown (1821-1891) joined Isaac T. in publishing the Columbus Evening Republican as it was originally called.
Isaac M. Brown had been a colonel in the Union Army and had been captured by Confederate cousins during the Civil War. A prominent old-time publisher who had owned newspapers in Terre Haute and other Midwest towns, Isaac M. Brown was honored posthumously by his inclusion in the Indiana Newspaper Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1966.
Raymond S. Brown (1885-1964), grandson of Isaac M. Brown, grew up in Columbus and obtained a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University, and later, around 1910, furthered his studies at Harvard.
Before settling down at the newspaper, Raymond went West to Utah, where he met his future wife, a member of the Mormon faith, who came to live in Columbus. The couple had three children, Elizabeth (whose husband, Robert J. Marshall was in the editorial department of the Columbus newspaper for 36 years, and who was editor for 10 years), Robert, born in Columbus on May 7, 1920, and Richard, who became a medical doctor.
Robert N. Brown also acquired a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue. After graduation he worked as an engineer trainee and pneumatic tool sales representative for Ingersoll-Rand Co., New York. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a technical officer in charge of a fighter control station in the European Theater.
Undecided as to which occupation he wished to follow after the war, Robert was asked by his father to help at the newspaper while he was making up his mind. The younger Brown soon became involved in community projects and decided to stay, assuming chairmanship of the Red Cross Fund Drive in 1946 and continuing participation in local organizations until he again went on active duty with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. In 1951-52, he traveled throughout the country lecturing on new Army equipment.
He was married on August 9, 1947. The former Alice Elizabeth Frantz, Mrs. Brown was born in Marion, Ind., on Dec. 15, 1923, the daughter of John Henry and Lela Martin Frantz. She is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in music and is a member of Sigma Kappa sorority. The Brown couple are parents of Peggy DeClue, who was born in 1949; Susan Alice Brown, born in 1952, who is a veterinarian in St. Louis, Mo., and Rebecca Elizabeth and Jeffery Newell, born in 1954 and 1959 respectively.
Upon his return to civilian life in September of 1952, Brown again became active in community organizations, in 1953 assuming the deaconship in the North Christian Church, one of many offices he was to hold in the church through the years.
In 1963, brown founded The Daily Journal in Franklin, Ind., first published on July 22 of that year.
A long and bitter fight with the newspaper already established there, The Franklin Star, ensued and ended in 1968 with The Journal purchasing The Star. The Journal today is a six-day daily with a circulation of 13,000.
On Feb. 14, 1964, Brown purchased the semi-weekly The Plainfield Messenger, which presently has a circulation of 3,000, and the weekly News Leader, which were combined, with the name of the former retained.
In March of 1965, he purchased the weekly The Johnson County News in Greenwood, changing the name to The Greenwood News. The News has been overshadowed by The Journal and now has only several hundred subscribers.
The Greenfield Reporter was added to Home News Enterprises on May 25, 1973. A six-day daily, The Reporter has a circulation of 6,000.
Robert N. Brown told this reporter in an interview on April 4, 1978, that though he writes for the newspaper occasionally, his main interests lie in “running the business” – the production and management sides of newspapering. In these capacities, his studies in engineering have served him well.
Brown designed the beautiful building, completed in 1971, which houses The Republic, putting to use both his own ideas and those of others for facilitating newspaper production, so that publishers from throughout the country visit the Columbus plant.
Among Brown’s own inventions is the Copy Cutter, a device for trimming photographicaly composed material for column use, which was patented in 1964 and continues to be sold by Home News Enterprises. Another Brown invention was the column Flo Camera for classified advertisement composition, the patent for which was sold to the Merganthaler Linotype Company, New York, in 1966. The process has since been replaced.
Brown’s contributions to state, national and international press groups have been many and varied.
He first took on the tasks of discussion leader for the American Press Institute in 1960, and has continued in this capacity at the twice-a-year conventions for the past 17 years. Among the many topics of which he has lectured or lead discussions are management and costs, new processes, and Middle East, Far East, Central American and African Publishers.
Since 1975, he has served on the board of directors of API, and in 1977 on the nominating committee as well.
In 1961, he was named chairman of the Hoosier State Press Association’s Legal Advertising Study Committee, and in ’62 and ’63 was a director. In 1964-65, he served as president.
Brown was named to the Mechanical Committee of the Inland Daily Press Association in 1964, serving on panels on offset printing at both meetings in 1965. For two years, ’66 and ’67, he was chairman of that committee, and continued to work as a member through 1970.
In 1971, he became a member of the board of directors of the Inland Daily Press Association, in ’73, vice president, and served as president in 1974-75 and chairman of the board 1975-76.
Brown has also been active in the American Newspaper Publishers’ Association, serving as chairman and vice-chairman of the Tuesday sessions at a conventions for several years, starting in 1964. In 1967, he became a member of the Laboratory Advisory Committee of the ANPA, on which he continued to serve through 1972.
In 1969, he was named to the ANPA Research Institute board of directors, continuing to work with that group (which became the Executive Committee) through 1975. In 1975, he also served on the Format Committee, as he did again in 1976 and ’77.
In 1968, Brown had planned and chaired a Citizens’ Conference on State Legislature, a state-wide newspaper meeting in Columbus. In 1970, he was one of the sponsors of a News Media Conference on Constitutional Amendments in Indianapolis and since 1970 has served on the board of directors of the Indiana Forum , a not-for-profit organization designed to provide information about the Indiana state government to citizens of the state.
In 1974, he became a member of the Advisory Board of United Press International and chairman of the Technology Committee, in which capacity he continued through ’75. In 1976, he again served on the advisory committee.
“I feel that newspapers have the responsibility to present the news completely and fairly,” Robert Brown said in the April 4 interview. “I also feel that newspaper employees should take pride in their paper and their work and serve as examples to the community.”
The number and variety of Brown’s personal contributions in time and effort he has made to Columbus and Bartholomew County rival those he has made to his profession.
In addition to serving as deacon in the North Christian Church from 1953 through 1955, he headed the Ever Member Canvass there in 1956 and ’57 and through the years was trustee, chairman of trustees, secretary and elder.
One of Brown’s early projects was serving on the Boys’ Club Council through the years 1948-50. He also was a director and treasurer of the Foundation for Youth for several years, and was co-chairman of the industry drive for that organization in 1974.
Brown was a director of the Columbus Jaycees in 1948-49 and was active as a director of the Rotary Club for several years, serving as president in 1962-63.
Brown has been active in the Columbus Chamber of Commerce since 1954, when he was first elected a director. He served as a member of chairman of the following committees over the years: Greater Columbus Action, Hospital and Nursing, ; Education, Promotion, Local Government, and Economic Development.
In 1963, Brown received the Chamber’s Community Service Award.
During the years 1955-61, he was a director of the Irwin Union Bank and Trust Co.
Brown has made many contributions in the health field in Bartholomew County, serving as a director or officer of the Bartholomew County Hospital Foundation every years since 1955.
In 1971, he served on the Joint Steering Committee to Study County Health Operations.
In 1956, he served on the City of Columbus Advisory Commission, the same year working with a committee to conduct a study on Fact-Finding and Research for the Aged. Other work for the city included a stint on the Sewer and Water Service Subcommittee in 1958. For several years following 1966, he was a member of the Mayor’s Committee on Civic Affairs.
Brown also has taken an active interest in education; he was a director of the Columbus School Foundation from 1955 to 1957, and he was appointed by the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board as a member of the Curriculum Study Committee in 1965. Since 1972, he has been a member of the Purdue University President’s Council, and since ’75, the Dean’s Advisory Council and the Purdue Exponent Study Committee as well. Since 1975, he has served on the board of trustees and the Education Policy Committee of Franklin College.
He served as a drive chairman for the United fund in 1972, a drive which raised $612,938, and he remained on the board of directors of the United Fund through 1975.
In 1975 and 1976, he was appointed a commissioner for the Bicentennial Commission.
In an article about Brown, “Engineer Turned Publisher to Head Inland Group, in the Oct. 12, 1974 edition of Editor and Publisher, Gerald B. Healey writes that Brown “is a man with many ideas and the knack for bringing them to fruition with rapidity.”