The Abilene Reporter-News began as a weekly newspaper called the Abilene Reporter on June 17, 1881. The paper was founded by Charles Edwin Gilbert from Navasota, Texas, and printed at the Abilene Steam Printing House. A daily edition appeared by 1885. The paper was operated by Dr. Alfred H. H. Tolar fromMarch 1886 to the fall of 1887 and by John Hoeny, Jr., and F. S. Brittain between July 1888 and February 1895. It subsequently went into financial receivership. In 1896 George S. Anderson and several investors formed a partnership known as the Abilene Publishing Company to purchase the paper and publish it as the Abilene Daily Reporter. The paper continued with intermittent weekly or semiweekly supplements thereafter as the Abilene Reporter, Morning Reporter, Morning Reporter News, and Weekly Reporter.
In 1906, when the paper was incorporated, Bernard Hanks became its general manager and one of several stockholders. Hanks, who had joined the firm in 1897, retained independent ownership even after 1921, when he entered the partnership with Houston Harte that later became Harte-Hanks Communications. In 1923 the paper divided into separate printing and publishing companies, and in 1930 Hanks was named president of the publishing company. A morning edition, the Abilene Morning News, appeared from 1926 until about 1934. In 1937 the paper merged the Abilene Morning News and the Reporter to form thedaily Abilene Reporter News, which was published in morning, evening, and Sunday editions in the 1950s. After Hanks's death in 1948, the paper was run by his wife until her death in 1967. Hanks's daughter, Mrs. Andrew B. Shelton, served subsequently as chairman of the board. In the 1990s the paper had a circulation of 43,437, and was published by Andrew B. Shelton.
The Reporter-News was the first newspaper in West Texas to fight the open range, to advocate crop diversification and stock farming, and to join the Associated Press. It claims to have been the first daily in Texas to ban whiskey advertisements and to be among the first in American journalism to use special columns for classified advertising.