Newspaper Industry News

Wheeling paper added to national historic list

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register image
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register image

WHEELING, W.Va. — From opposing Virginia’s secession from the Union to playing a key role in the birth of West Virginia, to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s “Red Scare” speech, The Intelligencer has been at the forefront of covering important historical events.

For its impact on the community and its place in history, the newspaper this week was named by the Society of Professional Journalists as a National Historic Site in Journalism.

Since 1942, the society has honored the people and places that have played important roles in the history of journalism. Past selections include newspapers such as the Freedom Journal, the first black newspaper published in the United States; the Maryland Gazette for its coverage of the Revolutionary War; the Hartford Courant, which is the oldest newspaper of continuous publication in the United States; and individuals such as John Scull of Pittsburgh, who was the first editor to transport type and a printing press across the Alleghenies to establish journalism via the Pittsburgh Gazette.

The Intelligencer’s honor was announced this week, and came about through the work of Kevin Z. Smith, a West Virginia native who now serves as deputy director of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University.

Smith – a 36-year SPJ member and former president and board member – said he was in San Francisco and came across the plaque signifying William Randolph Hearst and the San Francisco Examiner as an historic journalism site.

“It got me thinking that I didn’t know of any place in West Virginia that had one,” he said. “I thought there has got to be something of value that has happened in West Virginia that deserved to be recognized.”

In researching the state’s journalism history, Smith expected to find a worthy site in Harper’s Ferry or the Eastern Panhandle for its coverage of the Colonial period. However, his research instead led him to Wheeling and The Intelligencer, which he deemed “perfect.”

“In my nomination letter, I talked about how instrumental the paper was in convincing people and Congress to establish a new state and secede from Virginia,” he said. “Not too many newspapers can say they were instrumental in creating a state.”

In announcing the honor, SPJ officials said The Intelligencer “has been associated with many historical events. The call for Abraham Lincoln to run for president was led by The Intelligencer. The paper strongly opposed the secession of Virginia during the Civil War and supported the creation of West Virginia. U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy gave his speech that launched his ‘Red Scare’ in Wheeling.”

The Intelligencer is West Virginia’s oldest, continuously published daily newspaper – older than the state itself. The paper began publishing on Aug. 24, 1852.

“Effective newspapers have a strong voice, and for more than 160 years, The Intelligencer’s voice has carried across our region, state and nation to help guide leaders, form public opinion and shape our communities,” said John McCabe, the newspaper’s managing editor. “As we work to continue providing our readers with comprehensive local, state and national coverage each day, an award such as this reaffirms our commitment to quality journalism – both in our news coverage and on our opinion pages.”

“We’re proud to have played key roles in very historic events, but the measure of a good newspaper is its consistent service to the community through the years,” added Executive Editor J. Michael Myer. “Here at The Intelligencer, we remain dedicated to comprehensive coverage, day in and day out, of news important to our readers. No one devotes more resources to local news and no one has a better report on what’s happening in our valley. At the same time, we recognize a newspaper’s role requires providing leadership. Our editorial pages are strong advocates not for any particular ideology or special interest – but for the public.”

For Smith, the honor proves the importance of newspapers in communities large and small.

This honor shows “newspapers can have a real impact, can create powerful voices for their communities and have this call to action,” he said. “I hope readers recognize that newspapers can be a really strong vehicle for public discourse and action.”

Smith said he was especially proud to see a newspaper in his home state finally be given recognition.

“Good journalism isn’t determined by popular metro centers – we do really good journalism in West Virginia, from Wheeling to Bluefield,” he said. “We can do it, we have a history of doing it, and The Intelligencer is a perfect example of that: nearly 170 years of quality journalism and shaping the future of the country through the power of the press and the voice of the people.”

The honor will be commemorated with a bronze plaque at The Intelligencer’s office at 1500 Main St., Wheeling.

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