The West Side Index, one of the most highly-regarded community newspapers in the state of California, was founded in 1890 by Innis Sturgeon, who went into the publishing business with partner T.C Duffy after the duo had failed in a previous enterprise as painting contractors. The Index was Newman's second newspaper, and it managed to survive despite tight financial constraints. At the time, Newman was also home to The Newman Tribune, a publication founded by Bert Eachus in 1888, the year Newman itself was established. The Tribune folded several years later, leaving the Index as the sole newspaper in the young city.
It was during Sturgeon's tenure that the Index first moved to a different location: from the west side of O Street to a small wood-framed building on O Street. Turn-of-the-century readers could subscribe to The Index for $2 a year, $1 for six months or 50 cents for three months. A commitment to local news and community service, which has remained strong throughout the history of The Index, was reflected in the mottos used by Sturgeon. They included "Our Readers get the Local News", "We Courteously Reply to all Inquiries from Advertisers", "Our Advertisers get the Local Trade" and "A Home Paper for Home People".
Sturgeon, the son of prominent pioneer rancher Ed Sturgeon, succumbed to pneumonia in July 1903. Duffy continued publishing the newspaper before selling to Alvin Fleharty in November of that year. Fleharty went on to record the longest tenure of any Index publisher to date, keeping the newspaper for some 33 years. His weekly column, "Yesterday and the Day Before", became the publisher's trademark for being the first to offer readers his insights. The column appeared on the front page of each issue, and mixed Fleharty's stinging commentary with a witty outlook on the day's happenings, but in a way that kept the publisher free of rebuttals from his faithful readers.
Fleharty moved The Index offices three times during his tenure - including one change of locale due to a devastating fire. The blaze broke out July 4, 1905, in the O Street office, quickly demolishing the office and the newspaper files from the early years of the Index. Boys playing with firecrackers were believed to have started the Independence Day blaze.
On July 28, the paper set up shop in a new building, hastily constructed in the wake of the blaze. The Index moved again in 1917, into an office at the corner of Fresno and O Streets, where it remained for more than a decade before moving to its present location at 1021 Fresno St, in 1929. Fleharty liked to point out that the new building was supposedly fireproof.
Crows Landing businessman Frank McGinnis purchased the Index in 1936, trading his coal, ice and feed business for a career in newspapering, becoming the publication's third publisher. McGinnis brought to The Index a more conservative approach that was reflected in the paper's coverage. Unlike his predecessor Fleharty, McGinnis avoided controversial topics and often chose to write of such things as holidays and the weather
In 1959, McGinnis sold The Index to his son, William McGinnis, who published The Index for 18 years before selling the newspaper to Newman native William H. Mattos in 1976. During his tenure, The Index made the quantum leap from letterpress to offset publishing, a major technological change. Instead of heavy metal mats and massive linotype machines were computerized typesetting systems which created the newspaper on paper rather than in row upon row of typecast characters. However, the change also marked an end to local printing of The Index. And it would be almost 40 years until the publication would be locally-printed again.
In the early 1990s, the newspaper made another major advancement with the switch to Macintosh-based desktop publishing systems. Susan Mattos took over as the sixth publisher in 2005 and ushered in a new era of growth and advancement for the publication and its sister paper in Gustine. In 2006, a great deal of money was invested to modernize the publication's production. New computer systems were purchased, eliminating the weekly paste-up process and drastically improving print quality. A new press facility was also constructed in the industrial area east of Highway 33, marking the return of local printing. In addition, the Index staff grew by almost 50 percent.