At about 10 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, July 7, 1996 Guidry News Service began faxing the first edition of Galveston Fax, a newsletter covering posted public meetings on Galveston Island. First Issue
It was a new adventure for Lynda and me, who had just married on February 29, Leap Day, of the same year. The computer we were using was our very first personal computer and I had only used the fax software briefly at my previous job. The person who sold us the computer and software was very skeptical about publishing news in that manner, but we forged ahead anyway.
We used the Galveston Chamber of Commerce Membership Directory as our prospect list, choosing people and businesses who knew us well and already were familiar with my credentials as a news reporter. Our goal was to deliver the newsletter by 7 a.m. each day.
The process was called "broadcast fax" and the computer would send one newsletter and then another, one at a time, until they were all sent. At the time, I did not know how to turn off the sound, so all night long we could hear the computer dialing, connecting and then making that awful sound that faxes make. Although I later learned to turn off the sound, that night it was music to my ears.
Lynda compared the adventure to having a new baby in the house, something neither she nor I had experienced for several years. When we got up in the night for any reason, the first thing we did was go to the computer to make sure the faxes were going.
Galveston Fax was an immediate critical success and checks for subscriptions soon began to arrive and we were hopeful of having a financial success as well. I had imagined that the newsletter would be a sideline occupation, but it soon became apparent that it was a full time job. Lynda quickly realized the need to make the venture into a real business and soon acquired software to send invoices and to otherwise manage the project.
Within a year we had acquired a second computer and a third modem and were sending out hundreds of newsletters each night.
Also within a year we had joined the online generation, adding email to our "send" capacity and had commissioned a website designer to build what we called Guidry News Service Online, which has evolved into GuidryNews.com - The Online News Station.
Galveston Fax also evolved. First we expanded to Bay Area Houston with a second newsletter called Clear Lake Area E-news; and other communities were asking us to cover their meetings. Rather than try to manage newsletters in a number of overlapping areas, we combined our products into one newsletter - Gulf Coast E-news. We chose that name so that we would be free to expand our coverage to include the entire Gulf Coast from Brownsville to Key West if we wished. We now serve the Texas-Louisiana coast roughly from Freeport to Lake Charles.
Gulf Coast E-news, while a niche publication, serves as the journalistic base of our news service. By covering commissioners courts and city councils, as well as port authorities and councils of government in several counties, we have established ourselves as a respected news source in the Gulf Coast Region. Our method of reporting the pass-and-fail information of the posted public meetings has remained the same and is appreciated by those who are in government or who do business with governments. The newsletter has also proved to be a good "read" for others who have supported it with subscriptions throughout the years.
GuidryNews.com has developed into a mass media competitor with daily newspapers as well as radio and television stations in the region, with a continually growing advertising base. When we first began the website, very few people were online and those who did use the Internet had slow dial-up connections. Those who advertised at that time did it mostly to support our efforts to provide an alternative source of news to the public. Now, almost everybody is online and most people have broadband so that they can enjoy our streaming audio and video, as well as the photos and text that we use to document public meetings, special events and community news.
GuidryNews.com has evolved into a full service news organ, with pages dedicated to weather, business, arts and entertainment, faith and values, gardening, obituaries, education and specialty columns such as Pat Patton Interviews. We also feature a very active Forum page that provides a place that citizens, public officials and others may publish their thoughts on any issue with no space or other artificial limitations.
We recently launched a third publication, the Guidry News Gazette, to provide a print option for those who still are not totally comfortable with reading their news on a computer screen. The Guidry News Gazette is a free publication which is published each Sunday as a PDF document that can be downloaded from GuidryNews.com. It is not intended to replace Gulf Coast E-news or GuidryNews.com, but provides a concise review of the past week's news and a preview of the meetings, events and entertainment opportunities of the next week. We encourage businesses and other organizations to download, print and provide copies of the Guidry News Gazette to their employees, customers and visitors.
Lynda and I have had a lot of help from a lot of people throughout the years - too many to name here. But there are some who deserve special recognition, including my brother Carl Guidry who first signed on to help manage our Obituary Page and later assisted with our penetration into Jefferson County and has been our primary representative in the Golden Triangle.
Our staff now includes Garrett Bryce, who is our managing editor; and Ashley Ayala, an administrative assistant who helps to edit Gulf Coast E-news and handles special projects for Lynda. Lisa Torres is covering meetings in Galveston County and also is assisting with our marketing efforts. Robert Mihovil and Juan Peña are special photographic contributors in Galveston. Jim Richardson and Jim Cook are contributing reporters in Washington, D.C. Pat Patton is our primary publicist.
We have recently relocated our residence and headquarters to Midtown Houston and have expanded our coverage of meetings and events in Harris County. However, we remain committed to Galveston County and have opened an office in the Marine Building in Downtown Galveston. We have had an office in the historic San Jacinto Building in Downtown Beaumont for several years. We are continually seeking reporters and marketing representatives in Harris, Galveston, Jefferson and Brazoria counties.
We are very excited about the future of Guidry News Service and very appreciative of those who have helped position us to be the dominant news source in the Gulf Coast Region in the 21st Century.