“Give Light, and the People will find their own way,” was the motto of Scripps Howard newspapers in the 20th Century. “Democracy dies in Darkness,” declared the Washington Post.” “Newspapers: the first rough draft of history” was the motto of Journalism in America in the 20th Century.
But what happens in competitive two-paper cities when one of the two dies?
When the 104 year-old Cleveland Press afternoon daily perished in 1982 it was felled in a storm of economics that also took down other newspapers across the country, its stories now mostly hidden and turning to sepia tones in the vaults of Cleveland State University.
TV, the internet and a new office building quickly swallowed its remains.
But this was no ordinary tree that fell. The Press was a giant oak, founded in 1878 and the major competitor to the morning Plain Dealer (founded 1842). Its library was saved to Cleveland State University, whose vaults today hold more than a MILLION stories and pictures.
But The Press died just before the era of digitization, almost requiring an archaeologist to dig them out. The tragedy is that no click of a computer mouse will bring them instantly to your living room.
You want the full history of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio as seen by newspapers? Today you will find them primarily in the Plain Dealer, victor of that century-old competition. Two generations of researchers and public have now passed effectively in ignorance of The Press’ significance and its legacy.
History cares. Accuracy cares. Attitudes care. For most of the life of the Cleveland area The Press helped shape its development: The Penny Press, the ‘working man’s paper’, there at your door when working men and women came home from the area’s factories and offices. It asked questions, investigated people, places and things, and each day provided unique information to many thousands of people. It published stories the other paper didn’t.
Its reporters and editors loved it. Its characters and freedom to write made it special, as the late Press columnist Dick Feagler so often declared.
What follows is the story of just one of its journalists, Peter Almond, who arrived from England in January, 1970, and was there at the death of the Press in June, 1982.
And then let the reader say that The Press doesn’t matter, that the surviving opposition should be allowed a monopoly on Cleveland’s newspaper history.