Dave Targe was the hard-charging leader of the advertising and marketing department that helped turn a once-fledgling Newsday into one of the largest newspapers in the nation.
“He did as much for Newsday’s success as anyone that I can think of because he generated the capital that enabled us to do a lot of pretty grand things,” said former Newsday editor Anthony Insolia. “He brought tons of money in.”
Another former editor, Howard Schneider, said, “We could not have supported the kind of quality journalism we did without his hard-charging leadership on the business side. He was an amazing salesman and motivator.”
Targe died Tuesday at the St. James Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in St. James. He was 95.
He started his decadeslong career at Newsday as a 15-year-old carrier delivering the paper when it cost three cents a copy in the early 1940s. He joined the regular staff just after World War II when Long Island began a period of explosive growth and Newsday grew with it.
Targe recalled that when he joined the advertising staff in 1948 it consisted of 12 people, and a full-page ad in the 86,000-circulation newspaper cost $240.
By the time he retired four decades later, in 1988, circulation reached 700,000, the ad staff was more than 250 people, and a full-page ad went for about $7,000.
In the heyday of the business, Newsday had so many potential advertisers that many were turned away for lack of space in the paper, he said.
“I remember the days when we had limitations on space and we had to go to Macys, A&S, the old Korvettes, and tell them all they could get,” Targe told Editor & Publisher when he retired. “I mean, when you had to go to a major department store and tell them that because of press limitations all we could take is three pages on Wednesday, four pages on Thursday, three pages on Friday, this was really difficult. We just had no room.”
Part of his success, he said, was keeping a broad list of advertisers.
“I’d always felt the importance of Newsday in the market was the fact that the key to our success was over 2,000 retail accounts, not tying ourselves up with one account,” he said.
He also said there was no “wheeling and dealing ever in Newsday’s rate card. Whatever was the rate on the card was the rate.”
Working at the paper “was a way of life,” Targe said, with many 9-to-5 staffers staying until 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night. “It’s been 40 years of fun, growth and it sure as hell has been an exciting way to work.”
He was known for his innovative methods.
Schneider said although the news and business sides of Newsday remained strictly separated, he recalled one meeting he attended with Targe’s advertising sales force to discuss a new editorial project.
“I arrived in time to hear him tell the attendees to take a dollar bill out of their wallets and then rip it up,” Schneider recalled. “‘This is what's going to happen if we let the competition take away our business,’ he told them. I can still picture the floor littered with pieces of torn up dollar bills."
Targe once created a series of promotions for a TV and appliance store that was a steady Newsday advertiser. One was an offer of a $50 discount on air conditioners for anyone who brought in a jar of hot air, according to the book “Newsday: A Candid History of the Respectable Tabloid” by former Newsday reporter Robert F. Keeler.
“People would actually come into the stores with jars and say, ‘Can you really get a $50 discount if I give you this jar?'" Targe recalled in the book.
Targe grew up in Hempstead, and graduated from Hempstead High School. Before he did, though, he signed up to serve in the Merchant Marine — and even wore his dress uniform to his graduation, said one of his sons, Rick Targe, who has worked in Newsday’s advertising department for 44 years — continuing a 72-year family tradition.
The elder Targe served during World War II aboard ships ferrying supplies to Europe and Asia, said his son, of Smithtown. Two of those ships were torpedoed.
After the war, he briefly sold encyclopedias, ran his own juice-vending business, and joined Newsday in 1948 “in the middle of the Levittown explosion” of postwar population growth on Long Island, according to Keeler’s book.
Targe recalled that he initially applied to the circulation department since he had been a paper carrier and figured “I know all about circulation.” They had no openings that day, but he was sent down the hall to the advertising department. There was an opening — and he got the job.
He steadily moved up through the organization, spending his last 10 years as executive vice president/marketing.
When he retired, former Newsday publisher and CEO David Laventhol said, “When the history of Newsday is written, Dave Targe will be one of the seminal figures. His imagination, energy and drive has been a key to what Newsday has been all about — from its early days in a Hempstead garage to its position now as one of the leading papers in the country.”
In addition to his son Rick, Targe is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Renee, of Lake Grove; sons Mark, of Alabama, and Doug, of Commack; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A funeral service will be held at Star of David Memorial Chapel in West Babylon at noon on Friday.