MARCO ISLAND — Editor’s note: Cheryl Ferrara was publisher of the Marco Eagle from April 1995 to June 2006.
MARCO ISLAND — One of the oldest continuous businesses on Marco Island, the Marco Eagle, is marking its 45th anniversary with a mini-celebration to thank its patrons and the community.
As part of the island’s “Thursdays at the Esplanade” music and libations, the newspaper invites the community to join in an evening of prizes, giveaways, and in the spirit of the celebration, mini-cupcakes.
Prize registration, cupcakes and gifts will be available at the Eagle’s tent from 5-7 p.m., Thursday, March 7, at CJ’s on the Bay.
The first issue of the Marco Eagle was published in 1968 under the ownership of local resident Bill Tamplin. The island was young and full of promise for the budding newspaper.
Tamplin, a retired employee of the New York Times Company, moved to the island with his wife, Jeanne. By opening the newspaper, he hoped to chronicle Marco Island society and foster the early businesses that embodied the core of the island.
As real estate boomed, his first 8-page publication expanded to more than 100 pages weekly.
Tamplin’s generosity and influence reached beyond the printed page. He was active in civic organizations and worked for the betterment of the fledging community. He started the first charity golf tournament on the island to support the American Cancer Society. Noted professional golfers participated in the event held annually at the Island County Club.
The tournament continues today and is organized for the newspaper by the island’s two Rotary Clubs. Proceeds go to the Marco Island Charter Middle School and other local charities.
Sandi Riedemann Lazarus, executive director of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, remembers those pioneer days. As an employee working for Tamplin, she admired the newspaper’s sense of community responsibility and the spirit it fostered.
“Bill Tamplin was a friendly, fair and honest person,” she said. “Everybody loved him. Bill and Jeanne didn’t have children, so to them, everyone at the Eagle was family.”
The newspaper’s unique tall-tabloid format made it easy to mail to a growing number of “snowbirds” attracted to the island. The newspaper was slipped into a crinkly, brown wrapper, then labeled and mailed locally and to more than 40 states and 15 countries. The Eagle became a broadsheet newspaper in November 2000.
When Tamplin died, his wife sold the newspaper to the New York Times Company.
Under the Times, Lazarus rose from the advertising department to become publisher. She was at the helm during Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that hit Florida’s East Coast early in the 1992 hurricane season.
“What I remember about Andrew is that we couldn’t leave the Eagle building until all was clear. Then, the streets were lined with National Guards and CNN was there.”
Homestead. Fla., received the greatest damage from Hurricane Andrew, so the Eagle staff printed and sold a special hurricane edition. All proceeds from the project were sent to aid victims of the hurricane in Homestead.
On Aug. 29, 1997, the Eagle had the honor of donating and raising the first U.S. flag for the City of Marco Island. In days prior, registered voters cast ballots to designate Marco Island an incorporated city.
In 2000, the New York Times sold the Marco Eagle to the E.W. Scripps Company, owner of the Naples Daily News.
Mary Quinton, community outreach manager for local Scripps newspapers including the Eagle, saw its growth from both sides of the purchase.
“I started working for the Naples Daily News in 1993 selling advertising on the island as a competitor to the Marco Eagle,” she said. “I was always amazed at how powerful the Eagle was as a community news and advertising medium.”
After the purchase, Quinton became advertising/marketing manager for the Eagle and played a pivotal role in combining the efforts of the two newspapers.
Both newspapers have been long-standing supporters of island charities. In 2003, the Eagle was a major sponsor of Dolphin Debut, a community-wide fundraising campaign.
The season-long event raised $123,500 by auctioning 36 fiberglass dolphins created and designed by local artists. Net proceeds went to the Greater Marco Family YMCA and Marco Island Center for the Arts.
Today, the Eagle is published twice weekly, Tuesdays and Fridays, with T.J. Boone managing the paper and Bill Green, editing.
“The Marco Eagle continues to serve our community disseminating news, information and features,” Boone said. “Every time I see an Islander pick up the Eagle from their driveway or from a newsrack, I am reminded of our duty and commitment to Marco residents, visitors and businesses.”
To this day, the Eagle remains imbedded in the fabric of Marco’s society and growth.
“Our team’s passion for Marco Island and the surrounding areas will ensure a strong, vibrant Marco Eagle for another 45 years,” Boone said.