By Danielle Lanning, ONA intern
The Canton Repository in Stark County and the Akron Beacon Journal in Summit County are celebrating milestone anniversaries and including their communities every step of the way.
The Canton Repository
A few years ago, the Repository began planning for its bicentennial because the newspaper wanted this celebration to be really big, says Maureen Ater, the chair of the anniversary events and the general manager of the Massillon Independent, the Repository’s sister publication in western Stark County. “Although it’s our birthday party, it’s really about the community,” she said. “The Repository is a direct reflection of our community.”
A years’ worth of celebrations will kick off on March 30, 2015. Throughout the year, the Repository will publish four premium editions of the newspaper each quarter. Each edition will cover the community and the Repository’s history in 50-year increments.
Starting in March, every day for 366 days, the Repository will also reprint a historic front page or great stories. These reprints will cover everything from Canton native President McKinley to Canton’s mobster activity which gave the city the nickname “Little Chicago.”
By the beginning of August 2014, Ater said about 190 high-resolution images, out of the years’ worth needed, were already gathered from working back through microfilm.
Some news decisions made are surprising in hindsight. For example, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball didn’t make the front page.
“I’m looking forward to debuting front pages,” said Teri Hayt, the executive editor of the Repository. Hayt acknowledges the need to be “covering news and taking the journalist watchdog role seriously” every day, but she said it has been fun to go through the archives because she finds the history of news fascinating.
Hayt said it is phenomenal to be a newspaper celebrating a 200th anniversary in this day and age. The anniversary, she says, shows the power of the press and how involved newspapers are in the local community.
Hayt considers the Repository a community paper. “You wouldn’t have a newspaper without the community,” she said.
In the front lobby of the Repository’s building, there will be an exhibit of antiques from the newspaper along with historic information. Ater said this could potentially become a traveling exhibit. Still in the works is a possibility of having a visual exhibit showing the evolution of technology and news in the front lobby as well.
At the time of the Repository’s founding, Ater says there were about 300 families in Canton and the newspaper cost about $2 per year. If subscribers couldn’t pay their bill, John Saxton, the founder, would trade pork, wax or linen in exchange.
Ater said the year-long celebration is about honoring the Repository’s past but it is also about what the paper is going to look like moving forward.
Looking forward, Hayt said newspapers must be more digitally focused. She envisions multiple digital platforms with a continuation of the print product.
“All platforms need a lot of tweaking,” she said. “Mobile is key. That is where people are going when they are out and about. They are looking for alerts on their phone.”
Hayt said stories need different headlines for different platforms and continual updates to stories to keep readers coming back. “Don’t serve the same product to people who are looking for different experiences,” she said.
The celebration planning has found interesting relationships as the staff and community volunteers recognized their shared history with the paper. Ater said everyone involved is rekindling old friendships and making new ones.
“We want to engage the community in every way,” Ater said. “News is a two-way conversation with readers.”
The Akron Beacon Journal
Less than 25 miles away from the Canton Repository sits the Akron Beacon Journal. Not quite to a bicentennial, the Beacon Journal is still in the midst of celebrating a significant anniversary of 175 years.
The Beacon Journal celebrated its 1839 founding by sponsoring a home game for the Akron Rubber Ducks on April 15, 2014, the paper’s anniversary date. Unfortunately, northeast Ohio’s winter weather returned and brought snow and freezing temperatures rescheduling the game after Mark Cohen, the Beacon Journal’s publisher, threw out the first pitch.
“We are looking back but equally excited about being a continued key voice in the coming years,” Cohen said in an email. “We have had a lot of fun this year celebrating with our community the wonderful history capturing the essence of Greater Akron.”
Invites were extended to all readers and advertisers for the baseball game, where the Journal had sheet cakes to share for its birthday. Because of the “snow out,” the cakes were not eaten at the game and instead donated to a local homeless shelter, according to Nikki Hawk, the Beacon Journal’s marketing director.
As part of the celebration, from March through July 2014, the paper was wrapped about five different times with a spadea that included a note from the publisher and featured nine to 12 historic front pages, according to Hawk. Readers were scheduled to vote on their favorite covers at the end of July.
The Beacon Journal has made changes and updates that push the paper into the future. Little by little the Beacon Journal has launched a website redesign for ohio.com and introduced a new membership plan for subscribers to have online access included in their subscription price.
“We are well positioned for the media transition ahead and are ready for our leadership role as watchdog, community partner and chief storyteller for Akron and the surrounding area,” Cohen said in an email. “We have been fortunate enough to chronicle that journey for 175 years and we are energized to have that same passion for what is ahead.”
“Past Proud. Future Focused” is the tagline for the anniversary celebrations, and for good reason. “We are moving into the future, not just celebrating,” Hawk said.
On April 15, the Beacon Journal held a big birthday party in the newsroom with hot dogs, birthday cake, a photo booth, a cornhole tournament and door prizes. The staff even sang the happy birthday song.
Who said journalists couldn’t have fun?
The Canton Repository and the Akron Beacon Journal have events and editorial features scheduled throughout the year to celebrate their anniversaries with their communities and newsroom. Check out what they have planned:
March 20, 2015 – A formal gala kicks off the celebrations. 500 guests or more are expected.
April 3, 2015 – A Canton First Friday is dedicated to newspapers and will feature an artist competition surrounding the theme.
Canton Food Tours will host historical tours with “on this spot” news stories while dining at different places next April through November.
200 acts of kindness: Newsroom staff will participate in partnership with United Way.
Fall 2015: A photography exhibit will be displayed at the Joseph Saxton Gallery in Canton. Joseph Saxton, is a decent of Repository founder John Saxton. He is also contributing monologues and plays to the celebrations.
Every Monday the paper has been running “History in Beacon Journal Headlines” featuring headlines from 10, 25, 50 and 100 years ago.
Starting Sept. 12, 2014, the Akron Art Museum will host a photojournalism exhibit, “Beyond the News: Photographs from the Akron Beacon Journal Achieves.” It could become a traveling exhibit for schools and libraries.
A special section will appear in the paper in September 2014 with reflections and memories from current and past journalists, some of whom are second and third generation employees of the Beacon Journal. Readers were also invited to share stories.
The Beacon Journal is getting together with Thirsty Dog Brewing to create an Akron-made beer called Beacon Brown 175, which is a nut brown ale and will be available in stores starting Labor Day weekend 2014.
October 25, 2014 – the Beacon Journal will host a 175th anniversary gala. More than 400 people are expected to attend.
Recently, an old sign from the Beacon Journal clock tower of the letters “BJ” was lit up by Bob Jones, at a museum located directly beneath Jones Group Interiors, to help honor the paper’s anniversary.
Governor John Kasich recognized the Beacon Journal’s anniversary with a resolution for the paper’s history and future.
Staff members produced a video in which staff members, community leaders and local celebrities wished the newspaper a happy birthday.
According to Hawk, there is a scholarship fund for journalism students in the works.