The Islander News has been covering “The Life and Times of Key Biscayne, Florida” since Nov. 2, 1966, when it was founded by Sue Morton as The Islander Key Biscayne Weekly Bulletin, selling for 15 cents per issue or 50 cents for a monthly subscription.
That first issue led with the story, “Key Biscayne is changing,” which detailed new shops and homes on the island, and heralded the impending opening of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on the island’s southern tip. It announced a Lion’s Club lightbulb sale, the Key Biscayne Music and Drama Club’s production of Mary Mary, the volunteer fire department’s search for more volunteers and a three-bedroom home renting for $225 per month.
Since then The Islander has helped see “The Island Paradise” through hurricanes, the years of President Richard Nixon’s “Winter White House,” the incorporation of the Village of Key Biscayne and much more. The newspaper’s offices have moved from private homes to beachfront resorts to the current home in Key Executive Building; it has been produced under a number of publishers and editors; and it has changed ownership five times.
Through it all, The Islander News has remained committed to accurate reporting, as well as being an active, engaged and productive member of the community.
Efforts to start a newspaper in Key Biscayne date back to 1954 when John Crouse served as the editor of The Key Journal. The Sandpiper followed in 1958 with Crouse as vice president and Philip DeBerard Jr. as president, and the Key Biscayne Island Post was published from 1958-1959 by Coconut Grove Publishing Co., with legendary environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas serving as associate editor.
The Key Biscayne Shopper was briefly published in 1961 by John Maloney, and archives hold one copy of Important Events, published by Cal-Press Inc. in 1962. The Key Biscayne Islander offered a monthly product from 1963-1964 with Pat Murphy serving as editor and publisher.
Morton began publishing The Islander Key Biscayne Weekly Bulletin out of her Palmwood Lane home as a newsletter to serve the handful of families that had chosen to call then-isolated Key Biscayne their home. She stated a mission that rings true to this day: “Most importantly, we want the needs of the community to form and guide the policies on the development of this paper.” Two years later, a young woman from Chicago named Anne Owens would join the staff of The Islander as a “paste-up” person for graphics and advertising. She would ultimately become its longtime owner and the face and heart of The Islander News.
First, however, the newspaper would undergo a series of changes as it continued to grow with the community.
Morton sold the paper to Key Biscayne Publishing Company in 1967. Richard McCulloch Jones became the new publisher, and Renate Davids became managing editor. They worked out of the 850 Crandon office building and then the Galen Beach Hotel, later the Sheraton Royal Biscayne.
Marg and Sam Ha bought The Islander in 1968, with Marg, who stated Key Biscayne “needs and wants a newspaper,” serving as editor and publisher. They formed Samar Publishing to run the operation out of their home just a few blocks away from Morton’s residence on Palmwood Lane.
The newspaper changed hands again in 1971, when Thomas O’Brien purchased The Islander and moved its offices to the 24 West Enid Drive medical center. Ann K. Tennis served as editor.
Under O’Brien’s management, The Islander moved first to the Sonesta Beach Resort, and then to its current home at the Key Executive Building, 104 Crandon Boulevard, Suite 301.
In 1985, Owens and her husband Clyde became the owners of the newspaper, beginning a 30-year legacy of award-winning journalism and civic engagement during which both Key Biscayne and The Islander News grew by leaps and bounds. As Anne Owens, who would serve as editor and publisher, stated at the time, “We plan to continue recording the lives, hopes, dreams, ideas, struggles, joys and the times of our community in a fair and truthful way.”
While it would be a period of great change for Key Biscayne, it was an era of significant stability for The Islander.
In 1987, upon Clyde’s death, Owens selected Linda Thornton to serve as editor and publisher, and hired Nancye Ray as the newspaper’s lead reporter. Ray would go on to steer the ship as editor and publisher during a career that spanned 28 years until her retirement in 2015.
Also in 2015, Owens sold The Islander to American Hometown Publishing Inc., which owns newspapers in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. In January 2016, American Hometown President and CEO Brad Dennison named Donna Dickey, a South Florida native and Miami Herald veteran, as The Islander’s publisher. In April 2016, longtime Islander staffer Kelly Josephsen was named the newspaper’s editor.
Since its early days in 1966, The Islander News has reported on the seminal events in Key Biscayne history and taken the community from its inception an isolated island outpost to its current position as one of Miami’s most elite suburbs.
When The Islander was founded, Key Biscayne was a fledging community governed by Miami-Dade County and occupied by “pioneer families” willing to brave rather unique conditions. The island was connected to the mainland by only a drawbridge, meaning boat traffic passing below could shut down access for hours. For years, there was just one telephone on the island, in the old Vernon’s Drug Store, shared by everyone in town. Families lived in small one-story Mackle homes, named for the brothers who developed them, and gathered in their backyards or the few bars and restaurants on “the Key” for entertainment.
It fostered a sense of community that eventually prompted a group of local residents to pursue incorporation as a municipality with its own government, police force, fire department, zoning laws, public works services and parks and recreation department. That dream became a reality in 1991 when the Village of Key Biscayne was created. The Islander News was on the front lines of reporting on the incorporation movement and covering the community’s brand new government.
Through it all, a rich local lore took shape between the idyllic beaches and lush green parks that surround the Village.
President Nixon made Key Biscayne the home of his Winter White House, building a helipad to fly in and out of his bayfront complex. The Islander featured photos of the president taking a break at the Key Colony Golf Course and attending church on the island. In 1991, Hurricane Andrew devastated the Key, damaging homes and ripping trees from the state park. Despite the mayhem, The Islander did not miss a publication, even though it meant moving production to Ray’s home on the east side of the island, where power service had been restored. The Islander also kept its weekly schedule after Hurricane Wilma slammed South Florida in 2005, producing an abbreviated print run by using the office photocopier and putting the pages together by hand.
Today, the newspaper continues to pride itself on being Key Biscayne’s most trusted source of local news, and not only telling the Village’s stories, but participating in its events and civic life. We look forward to continuing the share in the progress of the Island Paradise as the community moves into its second 25 years as the Village of Key Biscayne and The Islander marks its second half century of sharing its “life and times.”