February 24, 2018
The Family of the News-Press & Gazette Company
DEFINITION: Unswerving loyalty.
St. Joseph’s media ventures have served as the world’s window into the exciting adventure, politics, risk-taking and expansion of the western edge of America’s Midwest for nearly 175 years. Objectivity and what we now consider quality journalism, however, were not always as prevalent on the St. Joseph scene as they have been in the last 70 years.
The powerful presses of the community’s first 100 years met many challenges. In the words of Elwood L. McDonald in his work “The History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph, Missouri” published in 1915, “There have been many ephemeral publications in St. Joseph, principally weekly society ventures, whose graves are unmarked, that started briskly and with the assurance of a high-school essayist upon the road to fame and fortune, but inevitably went to pieces upon the same old financial rock.”
These are flowery words just to say that a lot of papers crashed, however McDonald wasn’t kidding. There are seven pages of pioneer owners, editors, investors and competing newspapers listed in his history book covering just the first few decades.
Today’s News-Press & Gazette Company has had far more staying power than this early history suggests. The newspaper’s roots run as far back as April 25, 1845, when the city’s first paper, The Gazette, was published by William Ridenbaugh and edited by a prominent attorney of the time, Lawrence Archer. As one would imagine of the printed storyteller of Americana’s real-life Wild West stories, the newspaper has had some interesting stories of its own.
According to McDonald, the first type and press equipment were pulled out of the river and brought to St. Joseph after they had been thrown into the Missouri by “Gentiles” in an effort “to suppress the Mormons” who were settling in Independence, Mo., and the surrounding northwest Missouri countryside. Cleaning up water-logged equipment that survived one of many skirmishes over the years between people of all faiths, nationalities, colors and agendas was just the beginning of thousands of intriguing stories about the people who have made their home in and around St. Joseph. For instance, The Gazette was the only newspaper to be sent west with the first Pony Express rider in 1860. And, wielding political words was paused in the middle of that decade to wield Civil War swords until The Gazette fired up its presses again in 1868.
Many of the most interesting stories were surely published by its biggest rival, The Evening News, which began publication on May 3, 1879, by Judge Andrew Royal and George H. Cross. It launched claiming no political position (unusual for that time) with a note that it would be “devoted to gab, gossip and paid locals (ads).” This approach of mixing unbiased hard news with lighter topics worked as The Evening News quickly grew to a circulation larger than all the daily and weekly papers in the city combined.
In 1889, The Evening News was acquired by Charles M. Palmer, a broker for famed publisher William Randolph Hearst, who brought on entrepreneur and marketer Christian (Chris) L. Rutt as editor. Rutt is credited with originating the recipe for the famous Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix and trademarking the character of Aunt Jemima during a challenging transition time for agricultural markets. He helped push the newspaper into the 20th century.
The roller coaster history of media in St. Joseph settled down somewhat in 1903 when Palmer bought another competing paper, The St. Joseph Post, and renamed it St. Joseph News and Press. He moved the headquarters of his growing empire in 1913 to the same stately brick headquarters that the company calls home today at Eighth and Edmond streets.
Palmer also bought The Gazette in 1928, giving him both a morning and afternoon edition. A talented president and general manager of the Bridgeport Times-Star in Connecticut, Henry D.Bradley, was hired in 1939 to serve as publisher of the merged enterprises. This hire, more than any other in the long list of Bradley’s predecessors, laid a stabilizing foundation for journalism in St. Joseph.
Bradley made his home and lifelong career in St. Joseph, eventually buying the papers from Palmer’s estate in 1951 and focusing the company’s efforts on one morning daily. He was truly a man made with uncommon character who built a reputation for honesty, fairness, hard work and seeking “win-win” outcomes.
The company’s website says, “Our reputation is everything to our future. We have an ongoing commitment to uphold the trustworthy relationships News-Press & Gazette Company [NPG] has built and been known for since 1951.” It is clear that today’s generation of Bradleys are still operating with the same integrity benchmarks of their patriarch Henry D. and his son, David Bradley Sr., as they focus on building strong communities, exceeding customer expectations, and perhaps most notably, engaging exemplary employees.
Steve Booher, news director and 33-year employee said, “Four generations of the same family have owned the organization. Plus, we have many employees who have worked for the company for decades.”
The Bradleys value their employees so much they host an annual gathering of the “25 Year Club” to celebrate people who have dedicated the better part of their careers to NPG. Members of this club, as well as those with fewer years of service, express many meaningful actions that speak volumes about NPG’s family atmosphere.
“In my darkest hour, my work family was there for me in ways that I could not have imagined. From owners, COOs, directors, colleagues and employees, each one showed support and love for me,” said Inside Sales Manager Amber Casada, a 16-year employee.
Nic Stevens, newspaper operations director and a 13-year employee stated, “When something happens not just inside the four walls of the building, but outside, you feel the love of your ‘work family.’ The Bradley family is always willing to put themselves out there to help this community, as well as help this company. They have donated time and time again to worthy causes, and then remain behind the scenes without seeking any thanks.”
Tony Luke, field sales director and a 26-year employee, said, “I know that they make a positive difference within the community. This company doesn’t try to make it public, but I know the support is there for the arts, schools, and efforts or organizations that keep the community growing.”
NPG’s 25-Year Club gathering in October, 2017. Front Row Left to Right: Alice McVicker, Judy McCoy, Vivian Price, Russell Pettijohn, Steve Booher, Shirley Cresap. Back Row Left to Right: Gary Chilcote; Mickey Kneale, Dennis Smith, Bob Simpson, Lee Schott, David Bradley, Lyle Leimkuhler, Bill Scott, Judy Moreno, Perry Linderer, Carole Dunn, Kevin Smith, Jackie Dix, Terry Durfee, Marty Novak, Jim Shipley.
Creative Services Artist Jackie Dix, a 29-year employee, shared, “I was in awe when David Bradley Jr. helped build a roof with other News-Press employees for Habitat for Humanity. I also admired each time the Bradleys showed up with the rest of us at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to throw papers on Carriers Day Off.” Dix went on to say, “The company has been handed down through generations, and though they’ve ventured into other areas of the media (successfully, I might add) there’s still the unity of family. Siblings and cousins alike have a single vision for the organization and pull together to make it work.”
In many ways, each generation’s innovative and forward-thinking actions have handed up the opportunity to take the organization to each new level. NPG’s vision is “to build a diverse media and technology company dominant in serving communities with the best local news, sales and information.”
The company seems to be living out its vision. According to its website, it has newspapers in several northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas communities, and broadcast stations that it either owns or operates in seven states. It even has a printing company specializing in newsprint products. While the company’s reach is wide, it’s the home base of St. Joseph that serves as the center of the organization and the Bradley family.
Here, the third and fourth generations of Bradleys, led by David, chairman and CEO; Hank, treasurer of the board; Brian, president; Eric, vice president of business development; and Rall, general manager of News-Press TV LLC; have the region’s largest converged newsroom, creating content in partnership with their flagship daily newspaper, the St. Joseph News-Press; and their television stations NBC 21 KNPG, FOX 26 KNPN, CBS 30 KCJO, News-Press NOW ONPN, CW 6 NNPG and Telemundo 21 ONPG.
Hilary Smith, director of marketing for News-Press NOW, said, “Over the last six years we have added FOX, NBC, CBS and Telemundo affiliates to the St. Joseph market. Launching these networks is an investment in St. Joseph and examples of continued growth in our community. The daily newspaper, six broadcast stations and newspressnow.com work together to deliver news when, where and how you want it. The merging of these operations forms an unbeatable team that will continue to deliver the most timely, relevant and high-quality news and entertainment to our audience.”
With so many opportunities for influence, there is an equal amount of responsibility to ensure fair and equitable coverage of the news. This balancing act is representative of what working and living in St. Joseph is all about. Part of what makes the community so attractive is the “big city opportunities with the small town feel,” according to Dana Plowman, multimedia marketing consultant and recruitment products specialist and a 13-year employee.
Dix summarizes the feelings of many with her comment, “St. Joseph is small enough to be hometown and large enough to be progressive. It is the best of both worlds.”
The diversity of perspectives helps balance the community and NPG’s long-standing coverage of St. Joseph’s people, places and events. Building community takes everyone. The loyalty shown by one family for seven decades is an impressive example of the steadfast dedication shown by so many who love and serve St. Joseph, a city made with uncommon character that is unique in the very best of ways.
The History of Buchanan County and St. Joseph, Mo. by Elwood L. McDonald (1915) The St. Joseph News-Press: 150 years of St. Joseph News by Preston Filbert – News-Press & Gazette Co (1995) “The History of Aunt Jemima’s Mill: Branding an American Wheat Product” by Amy Halloran N.Y. Correspondent (Nov 9, 2013) http://www.lancasterfarming.com/news/main_edition/the-history-of-aunt-jemima-s-mill-branding-an-american/article_26fc99b9-d1b8-5bc1-b036-d2e4cacbfc35.html “More Route 66 food history: the real Aunt Jemima” by Michael Mink (October 31, 2015) https://curioustraveler66.com/2015/10/31/more-route-66-food-history-the-real-aunt-jemima-2/
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