The William Maxwell award

Centinel of the Northwestern Territory

Presented by The Ohio Newspaper Association in recognition of outstanding individual achievement in the advancement of the newspaper profession.


The William Maxwell Award is named for the publisher and editor of The Centinel of the Northwestern Territory.  Established in Cincinnati in 1793, The Centinel was the first newspaper in what would become the state of Ohio, admitted to the Union in 1803.

A soldier in the American Revolution who ventured west from New Jersey, Maxwell set up a small press in a log cabin in what is now downtown Cincinnati and published the first edition on Nov. 9, 1793, adopting the Boston spelling of “The Centinel.”  Maxwell’s newspaper had local news, news from the East and from Europe, as well as a variety of advertisements from merchants and settlers.

According to one account, Maxwell’s newspaper also contained verse, “some of it breathing the spirit of the new world, articles of a serious character, and occasionally a quotation calculated to raise a smile.” The Centinel’s motto was “Open to all parties, influenced by none.”

Maxwell is also credited with printing the laws of the Northwest Territory and Ohio’s first book, titled Maxwell’s Code.  He eventually sold The Centinel and moved to Greene County where he was elected to the first Ohio General Assembly in 1803.  He died in 1809.

Maxwell’s courage and vision led to the advancement of newspapers that continue to inform residents every day with print and online editions in communities throughout Ohio.


A recipient of the William Maxwell Award is chosen based on a written nomination that describes an individual’s outstanding accomplishments or contributions in at least one of the following areas:

  • Defense of the First Amendment
  • Championing freedom of information & the public’s right to know
  • Exceptional service to the community through projects, news coverage, special features or continuous newspaper publication
  • Technical innovations or improvements to a newspaper’s operations, physical facilities, products or services
  • Acts of heroism in the course of publishing or delivering the newspaper to its readers
  • Dedication or special care shown to employees
  • Advancement of journalism principles or journalism education

Nominees may be active in the newspaper profession at any level, may be retired from the newspaper profession, or may be involved outside the newspaper profession (examples include elected officials, community leaders, teachers, and readers).

Nomination Process

Only members in good standing of The Ohio Newspaper Association may submit written nominations.

Nominations may be based on the most recent calendar year or may be based on examples of continued service during an extended period of time or during a newspaper career.

The annual deadline for nominations is Dec. 15.  Nominations will be reviewed by the Maxwell Award Committee which includes the president of The Ohio Newspaper Association, members of the board of trustees, and additional at-large representatives.

Nominations are reviewed annually, but recipients are not necessarily chosen annually.  Recipients are chosen according to merit as documented in the nomination materials.

The award is presented at The Ohio Newspaper Association Annual Convention.


2009: Loenard Downie, VP of The Washington Post

2012: Representative Randy Gardner