Newspapers and Politics Share Colorful Histories

Article excerpt

Byline: Sammi King


CORRECTION/date 08-27-2004: The Daily Herald should not have been included on a list of Batavia newspapers cited by the Illinois Newspaper Project in a story in Thursday's Neighbor section. Instead, a second incarnation of the Batavia Herald should have been listed.


Democrats call newspapers the "conservative press." Republicans refer to us as the "liberal media." Is any newspaper really fair and balanced these days?

"I think newspapers are far more balanced than what they were 40 years ago," said Marge Holbrook, Batavia's own grande dame of newspapers.

A former editor of the Batavia Herald, Holbrook spent 50 years writing for area newspapers, ending her career as a section editor for an Elgin daily.

"Years ago you would definitely see the bias in the papers, pro one party or the other," she added. "In the last five years I was working, the managing editor repeatedly told us to 'walk it right down the middle,' not take one side or the other."

Nowadays the letters-to-the-editor section of the paper is loaded with opinions from both sides of the political aisle. Fifty years ago, newspaper stories would be filled with political positions woven in. One hundred years ago the politics of the paper was emblazoned on the front page.

One can learn about Illinois newspapers through the Illinois Newspaper Project, which is part of a cooperative effort between the federal government and the states to locate, catalog, and preserve on microfilm newspapers from the 18th century to the present. This effort is part of the United States Newspaper Project, a Library of Congress-coordinated program, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The INP has five Batavia newspapers registered, the earliest being the 1876 Batavia News. The Batavia Bulletin Record followed in 1891 and the Batavia Herald in 1893. Other papers include the Fox River Star, the Batavia Chronicle and now the Daily Herald.

Many of the early papers were the only communication from the federal and state government to the people. …