It was the end of an era in San Joaquin County newspaper history last week, when Fred Weybret died July 7 at the age of 96.
Fred, the son of a state senator from Salinas, had been the longtime publisher of the Lodi News-Sentinel, coming to Lodi from Paso Robles in 1959 and continuing to head the six-day daily newspaper until he turned it over to his son, Marty, in 1998.
With Fred serving as company chairman and publisher emeritus, the Weybret family continued to operate the News-Sentinel until 2015, when it was sold to Central Valley News-Sentinel Inc., a branch of a Canadian-based media company.
I had known Fred and his family since their arrival in San Joaquin County in 1959, not long after my brother Tom and I started working at the Tracy Press.
We often talked to Fred at periodic meetings of the 3-S Unit of the California Newspaper Association and also when Tom and I approached him to hear his views on publishing a newspaper.
We found Fred to be thoughtful, articulate and well-versed about the topic at hand, qualities that he demonstrated during his tenure as publisher and community leader in Lodi, and also his many decades as a member of the board of directors of state newspaper associations.
In addition to serving on the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s board and as president in 1973, Fred was chairman of the California Press Association committee that annually selected historic California publishers, many long-deceased, to have their names added to the California Newspaper Hall of Fame. It took a lot of work coordinating the research and making the selection, but Fred, in his calm, thorough way, always got the job done.
I mentioned above that Fred’s son, Marty, took over from Fred as publisher of the Lodi News-Sentinel in 1998. Before that, Marty was a reporter and editor of that paper. And yes, before that, he was a reporter for the Tracy Press.
With a freshly minted bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State, he applied for an opening on the Press news staff in the 1970s. Marty wanted to gain some experience in community journalism, and he got a heavy dose of that at the Press. During his three-year stint here, he was an energetic reporter who became well-known throughout the community, especially to everyone at City Hall, the Tracy police and fire departments, and local school boards.
After leaving the Press, Marty worked at an English-language newspaper in Mexico City for a year or so and then joined the news staff of the News-Sentinel.
Over the years, Marty and I have kept in touch, and I was pleased to learn last December that he was named winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Press Association, a state association that preserves the history and traditions of California journalism.
Fortunately, Fred Weybret lived long enough to see his son recognized for carrying on those traditions.