The rise of a multi-story press building on the city's downtown skyline is the latest development in the dynamic 173-year history of newspapers in Fort Wayne. The News-Sentinel and The Journal Gazette once bitter competitors are partners investing $34.8 million to build a state-of-the-art printing facility.
The two newspapers are still competitors, of course competitors whose goal is to outdo each other in providing the best of community service journalism and the highest quality news coverage and advertising medium to the people of the Fort Wayne area.
The seeds of the partnership and competition were planted in 1833 when the Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel was founded and 30 years later when the Fort Wayne Daily Gazette began. The Sentinel, originally four pages, was the fledgling citys first newspaper, and as one ancestor of The News-Sentinel it is now the oldest continually operating business in Allen County.
In 1833, construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal was under way and Fort Waynes community leaders wanted the city to have a newspaper. Two Indianapolis newspaper men, Thomas Tigar and S.V.B. Noel (whose father lived in Fort Wayne), accepted an invitation to move to Fort Wayne to found the Sentinel. They hauled a Washington hand press, which had been used to print the Indiana State Journal, to Fort Wayne over muddy roads and across bridgeless streams, finally arriving in June to set up an office on West Columbia Street. The first edition was published on July 6, 1833, featuring Hugh McCullochs Fourth of July oration and the text of the Declaration of Independence.
The Sentinel’s founding inspiration foreshadows the important role that Fort Wayne Newspapers and the two newspaper companies that jointly own it play in the community and its economy today. Charles R. Poinsatte, a Fort Wayne native who went on to be a professor of history at St. Mary’s College and to write two books on Fort Wayne’s early history, quotes journalism historian Frank Luther Mott: "Wherever a town sprang up, there a printer with a rude press ... was sure to appear as by magic. It was not magic, however; these pioneer towns all wanted and secured newspapers for both promotional and political reasons. In the first place they wanted them as ‘boosters,’ and the pioneers sent these sheets, filled with propaganda for the new country, back to the East, where they were effective in keeping up the flow of emigration."
The Sentinel began publication with a neutral editorial stance, but it proved hard to maintain. Noel, a Whig, stayed with the paper only about a year. That left Tigar, a staunch Jacksonian Democrat, to provide its editorial voice.
In its early years, there were many competitors for the Sentinel, including a German-language daily. One of the competitors was the Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, founded in 1863 by David W. Jones, a printer and attorney from Marion, who began by hauling a printing press to Fort Wayne. Jones and his partner, Isaac Jenkinson, were dedicated Republicans and their newspaper supported President Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause in the Civil War. Fort Wayne was a Democratic stronghold with many Southern sympathizers at the time with the Sentinel calling for peace with the Confederacy and the ouster of Lincoln as president.
The newspaper industry was a risky business after the Civil War. The name of the Sentinel disappeared for a few years during a series of acquisitions. The Gazette experienced eight different publishers in its first 36 years of business.
Another Republican newspaper, The Fort Wayne Journal, began publication as a weekly in 1868 under the ownership of Thomas S. Taylor and Samuel T. Hanna. Financial problems at the Journal led to its purchase by Democrats in1872. In the 1880s, the Journal was a more powerful and popular Democratic newspaper than even the Sentinel. The Gazette soldiered on as the voice of the Republicans.
While the fortunes in local journalism ebbed and flowed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, what it meant to be a Republican or Democratic paper changed to what we know today. The first edition of the Fort Wayne Daily News appeared in 1874 as an independent paper under owners William D. Page and Charles F. Taylor. The News, which gradually became a Republican newspaper, was viewed as racier than its counterparts. In 1899, the Journal bought the Gazette, establishing The Journal Gazette as the voice of the Democrats in northeast Indiana. The News owners purchased the Sentinel in 1918 and launched The News and Sentinel as an afternoon daily with a Republican editorial policy. (The paper dropped the "and" in 1921.)
In the early 20th century, The Journal Gazette became the first local newspaper to employ a full-time photographer and the first to maintain a fully developed sports section. The News-Sentinel added a Sunday edition in 1921 to compete with The Journal Gazette, and The Journal Gazette founded the Evening Press to compete directly with The News-Sentinel. It was a short-lived competition, with the newspapers reverting to their original publication days in 1922.
The owners who brought the two newspapers into todays form have a long history with the two businesses.
The Foellinger family had been in control of The News-Sentinel since 1920, with Oscar Foellinger as publisher. His daughter Helene became the nations youngest publisher at age 25, and one of only a few female CEOs of a major corporation, in 1936 after her fathers unexpected death. Helene Foellinger sold The News-Sentinel to Knight Ridder Newspapers in 1980. Ogden Newspapers, based in Wheeling, W. Va., bought The News-Sentinel in 2006.
The Inskeep familys involvement in The Journal Gazette began in 1934 when Virgil Simmons (Harriett Inskeep's uncle), James Fleming and Paul McNutt bought the newspaper. In 1949, Harriett's husband Richard Inskeep took a job in the purchasing department. Over the years he worked in every department of the newspaper, becoming managing editor in 1958 and publisher in 1973. His daughter Julie Inskeep joined the newspaper staff in 1984 and became publisher in 1997.
In 1950, Journal Gazette co-publishers, Virgil Simmons and James R. Fleming, and News-Sentinel publisher, Helene Foellinger, negotiated the first joint operating agreement. The joint operating agreement merged the non-newsroom operations of the two newspaper companies, including advertising, circulation, accounting, administration, promotion, printing and distributing the papers. They named the new agency corporation Fort Wayne Newspapers.
The two newsrooms, still under their different owners, remained separate and very competitive even though they were housed in the same building. All the shared departments were concentrated at The News-Sentinels building, now the Foellinger Center on Barr Street at Washington Boulevard, but The Journal Gazettes corporate offices stayed in The Journal Gazette building on South Clinton and Main streets.
The new partners designed and built a new home for themselves at 600 W. Main St., where they celebrated the opening of the state-of-the-art facility in 1958. Both newsrooms had space in the building, which also included all the Fort Wayne Newspapers departments and the printing presses.
Both newspapers launched Web sites in 1996, taking advantage of the Internet to provide news and advertising for the first time.
The joint operating agreement was renegotiated when Knight Ridder bought The News-Sentinel, maintaining majority interest in Fort Wayne Newspapers for The News-Sentinels owners, and it was renewed in 2003. Knight-Ridder put itself up for sale in 2005, and Ogden Newspapers bought The News-Sentinel and Knight-Ridders interest in Fort Wayne Newspapers in 2006.
The competition and joint-operating-agreement cooperation will continue in this rare two newspaper town and the new press facility trumpets Fort Wayne Newspapers belief in the future of our newspapers and of downtown Fort Wayne.