Home Town News: William Allen White and the Emporia Gazette

By Sally Foreman Griffith | Go to book overview

3
A Practical Printer

In 1901 William Allen White wrote the president of a projected new railroad to propose "a practical business scheme" that he thought would make them both some money. "I am a practical printer and have made the Newspaper business a financial success and I know how to run a printing office." Though this scheme failed to materialize, White was right. As much as he was an aspiring writer, politician, and community leader, he was a shrewd businessman. During his first decade as proprietor of the Gazette, White turned a second-rate newspaper with an antiquated print shop into a flourishing enterprise that employed the latest printing technologies to expand readership and increase advertising revenues. He accomplished this transformation through a carefully planned program of gradually acquiring new printing machinery, expanding circulation, and attracting new advertising contracts. 1

The Gazette's growth and prosperity were common to the experience of small-town newspapers at the turn of the twentieth century. Although its expansion was sometimes aided by White's ability to invest income from his outside writing, in most cases it was funded by reinvesting the newspaper's profits. Above all, the fundamental causes for the Gazette's success were not unique to White but the result of developments in the wider society that transformed the economic base of small-town journalism in this period. Foremost among these were the introduction of rural free delivery and the rise of the national advertising industry. Many of the newspapers published by White's colleagues in Kansas during this period became at least as prosperous as the Gazette. 2

A newspaper is the result of a manufacturing process, and its contents at any particular period are shaped by the state of the technology used to produce it. Consequently, White's improvements in the Gazette's circulation and contents were closely linked to changes in its print shop. Expanding circulation required similar growth in the capacity of his machinery, both to accommodate larger press runs and to make it possible to include more and timelier news. Increased circulation, in turn, was essential if White was to take advantage of new advertising revenues. Although changes in the Gazette's technology, contents, and advertising were closely intertwined, for purposes of clarity this chapter will discuss each in turn. In the end, being a practical newspaperman in the early twentieth century meant that White

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Home Town News: William Allen White and the Emporia Gazette
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I - The New Man 11
  • 1 - The Education of a Somebody"" 13
  • 2 - The New Editor 32
  • Part II - The Old Order Changeth 65
  • 3 - A Practical Printer 67
  • 4 - The Making of a Progressive 92
  • 5 - Booster Progressivism 113
  • 6 - Spokesman for Community 139
  • 7 - Community Journalism 159
  • Part III - Nationalizing the Community 185
  • 8 - Booster Nationalism 187
  • 9 - Mass Media Come to the Small Town 211
  • Epilogue 240
  • Notes 243
  • Index 283
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