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About the Vilas County News-Review

Thank you for your interest in the Vilas County News-Review and The Three Lakes News.

There’s been a newspaper in Eagle River since March 1886, and its 125-year history makes the Vilas County News-Review one of the oldest businesses in the community.

There have been many owners, some for a short time and others for a third of a century. There have been enormous changes in technology, from hand setting to computerized typesetting, on-screen pagination and the speed of electronic messaging.

The newspaper has a colorful past, starting with what founder Patrick O’Brien called the Vindicator. He started the paper in 1886, seven years before Vilas County became a county. The vast territory to the north was then booming with the powerful lumbering industry and its population consisted mainly of lumberjacks and a few settlers. Little was known of O’Brien, and there was little equipment and not much more experience. O’Brien continued the paper until the following July, when he sold to Orrin Moon, a local attorney, who remained its proprietor for three years.

Near the close of that period, in June 1890, the Eagle River Review was started by Dewar and McIntyre. Concerned about the new competition, Moon bought the Review only a month after it was started and sold his Vindicator to Samuel Shaw of Crandon, who moved the publication to Rhinelander, where it continued for 10 years. Eventually, the Vindicator became the Rhinelander Daily News.

One week after the creation of Vilas County in 1893, the village had two newspapers. Vilas County came into existence April 12, 1893, and April 22, the first issue of the Eagle River Democrat made its appearance. A number of people were involved in the operation of the Democrat, until it was purchased by Daniel Riordan, who, in turn, changed its name to the Vilas County News. From then until 1927, the two newspapers continued to publish separately, and their ownership and management changed several times.

It was in June 1927 that the Richards sisters, who operated the Review, were bought out and the two papers consolidated under Walt Gander and Carl Fredrichs. It then became the Vilas County News-Review. Fredrichs and Gander also started The Three Lakes News at that time and it continued primarily as a separate publication until the present time. For a brief period, The Three Lakes News was merged with the News-Review, but a separate publication was resumed in the late 1970s.

In 1940, Fredrichs sold his interest to Joyce Larkin and Bea Treutel, who continued to operate it until 1952 when they sold to J.R. Satran and his sons, Daniel and Robert. The Satrans built an average weekly into one of Wisconsin’s best, proven by the many awards for general excellence, editorials and photographs. The circulation quickly grew from a mere 2,500 to nearly 10,000 during the 1970s and 1980s. The Satrans, trained at Marquette University, operated the paper longer than any other owners of the Vilas County publication — 32 years.

The Satrans sold the paper March 1, 1985, to Delphos Herald Inc. of Delphos, Ohio, a newspaper group made up primarily of small-town weeklies. The publications now include the Vilas County News-Review, The Three Lakes News, the North Woods Trader, Vacation Week, the Headwaters Area Guide and Action Tracks (formerly SnoTimes).

For the next 26 years, the publisher was Byron McNutt and the editor was Kurt Krueger.  With contributions from Assistant Editor Gary Ridderbusch, the News-Review team captured more than 150 newspaper contest awards on the state and national level. Some of the most noteworthy came with first-place honors from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association in the coveted General Excellence category in 1998 and 2001. From the National Newspaper Association (NNA), the News-Review won second place in General Excellence in 2001. And in the fall of 2006, the NNA awarded the News-Review first place for Best Use of Photos among weekly newspapers in the 50 states with a circulation of 6,000 or more.

The News-Review's leadership changed Jan. 1, 2011, when McNutt retired and Krueger was named the new publisher. Ridderbusch was named editor. The two longtime News-Review staffers are commited to continuing the newspaper's tradition of excellence and award-winning quality. The News-Review is one of the city's biggest employers.