Texas Center for Community Journalism
Texas Newspaper Oral History
Roy J. Eaton
Wise County Messenger
Hall of Fame Class of 2007
Roy J. Eaton is president and publisher of the Wise County Messenger, a twice-weekly newspaper in Decatur, Texas. The newspaper, which was established in 1880, has been owned by Roy & Jeannine Eaton since 1973. He began his journalism career as a part-time reporter for a Fort Worth, Texas radio station in 1956 following his freshman year at Texas Christian University. While still a student at TCU, he was named news director of the station in 1958.
He became news director of the NBC radio affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth in 1968 and later became director of television news coverage and news anchorman for the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC television affiliate. He returned to his home town and purchased the Wise County Messenger in 1973 when it was a weekly publication of 2,500 circulation. The paper began publishing twice-weekly in 1980 and now has a paid circulation of more than 7,000. Combined with a Total Market Coverage publication "All Around Wise" the Messenger has a mid-week circulation of more than 21,000.
The Messenger has won more than 150 awards for excellence in news coverage, advertising and design in the past 30 years, including 21 awards in a single year in the National Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contests. The Messenger won NNA's coveted "General Excellence" award for twice-weekly newspapers in 2005. Eaton was elected to the National Newspaper Association board of directors in 1992 representing Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. He was president of NNA in 1996-97 and has also served as chairman of the NNA Postal and Membership committees.
He is a past president of the Texas Press Association and the Texas Newspaper Foundation and the Fort Worth Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a past director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Eaton has received the Harold Hudson Memorial Award from the West Texas Press Association and the Sam C. Holloway Award from the North and East Texas Press Association. For the past 40 years, he has served as a livestock show and parade announcer for the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth. For four consecutive years he received the "Master Editor" award from the Antique Automobile Club of America for his work as editor of the Texas Region AACA newsletter. He owns eight collectible automobiles.
He has served his community in a number of ways and was named Decatur's "Citizen of the Year" in 1980 for his work in developing a county-wide emergency medical service system. Response to an editorial he wrote resulted in a campus of a community college for Decatur and he was instrumental in the building of a new $5 million Civic Center for Decatur. He has served as president of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, chairman-of-the-board of the Wise Regional Health System, chief of the Decatur Volunteer Fire Department and chairman of the Decatur Airport Advisory Committee. He is a former director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments and for the past eight years has served as secretary of the Dallas/Fort Worth long-range water planning authority, appointed by the Texas Water Development Board.
He was presented the 2005 "Ethics Award" by the Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University. The award was presented "in recognition of a career dedicated to achieving and demanding the highest ethical standards in the profession of journalism."
A past president of the Texas Newspaper Foundation, he was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2007, as a member of its first class of honorees.
Roy and his wife Jeannine are both graduates of Texas Christian University. Jeannine is vice president/treasurer of the Wise County Messenger and the Messenger Office Supply in Decatur. The Eaton's have three sons and four grandchildren.