Staley McBrayer, newspaper publishing innovator, has been named the 1984-85 College of Communication Outstanding Alumnus.
McBrayer attended East Texas State Teachers College (now the Commerce campus of Texas A&M) before studying journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.
McBrayer became the advertising and business manager of The Commerce Journal and eventually bought several small newspapers in the Fort Worth area. Jenkins Garrett, a lawyer who was McBrayer’s partner in publishing, said, “He was a real genius at being successful and developing small-town newspapers and emphasizing local news.”
After buying an unwanted German-made offset press for $10,000 McBrayer sought to blend the cold-type single-sheet printing technology with the newspaper press. At the time major press manufacturers did not think the offset process could be made to work with fast-running rotary newspaper presses. McBrayer’s press, which was cobbled together from bits and pieces of existing technology, was followed by more sophisticated models that made color images, once the province of Sunday supplements, a regular part of newspaper front pages. This technology made the skills needed to turn hot metal into the printed word irrelevant.
Otha C. Spencer, professor emeritus of journalism, photography and printing at Texas A&M University's campus in Commerce, said many smaller newspapers “would have gone out of business” without the offset press. Less than three decades after McBrayer's first press was finished “99% of the country's newspapers were offset,” said Spencer.