Messenger-Inquirer marks 125th anniversay
By Karla Dooley
The rich history of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer’s presence in the community was the focus of a large-scale birthday celebration last month.
“We really wanted to involve the community,” said Publisher Ed Riney. “To be around for 125 years recognizes that … we’re fortunate enough to be in a community that recognizes and appreciates the kind of newspapering that we do.”
So on June 1, exactly 125 and a half years from the date of the paper’s first publication, the Messenger-Inquirer began the party by rolling out a 32-page tabloid special section commemorating the day. It sponsored a chamber of commerce breakfast, complete with a display of famous front pages and held a catered luncheon for the paper’s 180-member staff, who participated in a contest to identify old photos of longtime employees.
“People loved it,” Marketing and Community Relations Manager Mary Embry said of the contest. “They all laughed and talked about ‘oh, remember when.’”
On June 2, the whole city was invited to share a piece of birthday cake with the Messenger-Inquirer at a street fair down by the river. The paper also invited attendees to visit a tent where they could meet the news team.
At the same time the street fair was happening, advertisers and local officials were taking a peek at an exhibit the paper unveiled at the Owensboro Area Museum of Science and History.
To make the exhibit come to life, Embry said the Messenger-Inquirer had employees on hand to demonstrate how some of the past and present equipment works.
The exhibit runs through Aug. 31 and features reproductions of two newspaper workstations – one from the early 1900s and one representing newspapering in 2000. Antique presses, as well as old cameras, font books, photographs and aprons are also on display.
Riney said the historical threads that ran throughout the two-day event were important, since that’s where the paper’s heart lies.
“We’re just temporary stewards of this organization,” he said. “The foundation was built 125 years ago.”
The paper was founded by Lee Lumpkin in 1875 in the form of The Examiner. In the first issue of the new publication, Lumpkin pledged “to aid in disseminating truth and intelligence in persuading the masses to be true to their country and just to their fellowmen.”
Urey Woodson was editor of the Messenger from 1880 to 1929, when it was sold to the Hager family, who already owned the Owensboro Inquirer. That family maintained ownership of the paper until 1996.
But though looking back was important, Riney said the celebration was also a milestone that caused the paper to look forward, to re-evaluate the way it provides services.
That lead to a renewed commitment to help the paper’s online services grow (and pay).
“Our goal really is for our website to be the gathering place for the community,” he said.
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