Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


To receive a television signal at our southeastern Montana ranch in the early 1960s our family had to work as a team. My father climbed the old wind-charger tower on which our antenna was mounted. I stayed inside to adjust the set, while my younger sister and brother stood outside the window to relay messages to Dad on the tower behind the house. "Hold it," I'd yell. "There. No. Back just a little the other way. No. Back again sloooowly." I'd shout my instructions out the window to my sister, who shouted to my brother at the corner of the house, and he'd shout up to Dad. The tower was barely within shouting distance on a windy day. With the antenna pointed northeast, we could get stations from Dickinson and Williston in North Dakota. A slight turn west of north picked up the signal from Glendive, Montana. The reward for this effort could be a Saturday evening watching Richard Boone as Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel, followed by James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke. These network programs were exceptional because local stations had to earn their network programs one at a time in those days. Most of the programs were nonnetwork fare such as old movies and professional wrestling, which Dad enjoyed far more than anyone else in the family. Reception depended upon the weather.

To get a newspaper, we could drive five miles to Ismay to pick up the mail, which carried the previous day's edition of the Miles City Star, published sixty-five miles away. Otherwise, we could wait for mail delivery on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. When we'd pick up the mail at the Ismay Post Office, Postmaster Esther Heigh could give an abstract of the day's news as she handed the paper through the oldfashioned counter window. Besides the Star, our subscriptions included the weekly Life magazine and several farm magazines. The weekly Fallon County Times was published in Baker thirty miles away.

We could see a movie at a drive-in twenty miles away. Radio and phonographs provided music. In the time we lived there, KFLN began broadcasting from Baker, carrying agricultural market reports and country music, as did KATAL (the "Cattle Call") from Miles City, but a hill west of our house made reception difficult. Occasionally, we received stations like KFAB in Omaha, who in Des Moines, and CKCK in Regina, but none came in well enough for us to become devoted listeners. At night, however, we received several clear-channel stations. As teenagers we listened to rock station KOMA in Oklahoma City. Advertisements on that station promoted events from Oklahoma to Kansas. In the late 1990s KOMA played the same music, but the format then was called "golden oldies." I grew up believing that scratchy radio reception, snowy television, and late newspapers were a way of life in the country.

Early Mass Communication

Linking isolated towns and ranches in the Great Plains with the larger society has always been a challenge. Early settlers, longing for news from major population centers they had left behind, gathered at stage and railroad stations likely to carry mail and newspapers. Taverns and cafes increased their appeal by subscribing to major newspapers. When local newspapers were established, editors often supported their publications with commercial printing. Editors lifted much of their news from the "exchanges," distant newspapers that editors traded so they could borrow news from one another. Editors sought to attract new settlers and subscribers. Because they had a stake in the town's success, editors often boosted the virtues of their towns. Sometimes town developers even gave them lots to sell as an additional incentive.

The earliest mass media in the Great Plains, of course, relied on simple technology. The Washington handpress, for example, printed hundreds of small-town newspapers across the Plains throughout the nineteenth century. This press differed little from the press Benjamin Franklin operated in colonial America, and it allowed one printer to produce the newspaper alone or with a single assistant, apprentice, or slave. A variation patented by Samuel Rust in 1821 moved west in wagons because innovations, like hollow legs, made it lighter to move than its cast-iron competitors. The Ramage press with some wooden components was introduced to compete with Rust. Besides the heavy iron press, printers needed paper, ink, and cases filled with type.

When William N. Byers left Omaha for the mining country with his Washington handpress and related equipment in 1859, the press was so heavy and the streets of Omaha so muddy that the wagon carrying the press got bogged down before it got out of town. The train of wagons sported banners promising a new newspaper without naming a location, but the group set out for Fort Laramie. The wagons covered a mere eight miles on their first day. Byers had already set the forms for half of his first run of the Rocky Mountain News, even though he did not know where the newspaper would be published. Spacers were inserted to hold room for the place and date of the first pressrun. When the entourage stopped, the forms were opened and new type was inserted to give the date and place of publication. The outside two pages of the first issue of the Rocky Mountain News of April 22, 1859, contained some news that was more than a year old and other items that were not news at all. Throughout the nineteenth century, newspapers carried nonnews items such as fiction, poetry, essays, and morality tales.

Byers started the News in Auraria across Cherry Creek from Denver City, Colorado, and it began by appealing to residents of both towns. Timely news was hard to get because the nearest post office was more than 100 miles away at Fort Laramie. Without mail or telegraph service, residents settled for older news. At least it was newer than word of mouth around town. Even after newspapers became established, they often printed the old news on the outside–the front and back pages –of a four-page newspaper. These outside pages could be printed a day or two early and the inside pages printed later with recent news and editorial comment.

In promoting their idea of "progress," editors often attacked the original inhabitants of the land as "savages" who did not deserve to own the land. Some western editors, with the help of eastern "exchanges," exaggerated Indian atrocities and even faked at least one massacre. In 1867 the normally respectable New York Tribune, published by Horace Greeley, reported on a massacre of eighty people at the mouth of the Yellowstone River near Fort Buford. The story even gave details of a small number of soldiers holding off thousands of Indians before being overwhelmed. The newspaper said a colonel shot his wife to save her from a fate worse than death. When the Tribune discovered that the story was a fake, it admitted that it had been duped. Other major newspapers, however, let the error stand. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper once published a faked story under a picture of "General" George Armstrong Custer talking to the surviving members of a homestead family attacked by Indians. At the end of the story, the newspaper said the event never happened but contended that stories like this often did happen in the West. Especially after each discovery of gold, newspapers in both the East and West said Native Americans stood in the way of national prosperity.

Native American Media

Native American publications in the Great Plains shared many challenges of small-town publications. They faced shortages of supplies and money, carried small subscription lists, confronted dilemmas related to political sponsorship, and found national advertising illusive. Native papers and many Native-owned broadcast stations continue to receive support from their tribal councils, and, as a result, they often face complex political pressures, including the pressure to satisfy patrons while covering the news.

Their traditional dilemmas began with the earliest Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, published in both English and Cherokee in the late 1820s in the original Cherokee capital at New Echota, Georgia. Editor Elias Boudinot stood up to the power of both the tribal council and their white, racist neighbors. Boudinot waged a courageous fight against white abuse of Cherokees and reported on dissension within the tribal council over Cherokee removal from Georgia to Indian Territory. The editor got caught in tribal factionalism, however, and was killed in Indian Territory in 1839 for signing the treaty that ceded the Cherokees' original land.

The Reverend Samuel Worcester and printer John F. Wheeler, both of whom served Georgia prison time for their work on the Phoenix, helped the Cherokees start the Cherokee Advocate in 1844 in the new Cherokee capital of Tahlequah in Indian Territory, with William P. Ross, the chief 's nephew, as editor. The Advocate continued the Phoenix's policies of free distribution and publication in both Cherokee and English. The newspaper's objectives were to spread important news among the Cherokee people, to advance their general interests, and to defend Indian rights. Clearly, the goals reflected a partisan commitment to the cause of Native peoples, but the newspaper also reflected factionalism among the Cherokees and continued, with missionary sponsorship, to advocate assimilation and defend human rights within that context. Although Cherokee law prevented editors from printing personal and partisan items, political debate occasionally became intensely personal and sometimes violent. After the Civil War, the Cherokee Advocate was published under the same format until it ceased publication in 1906. The federal government ordered the Cherokee type preserved in the Smithsonian Institution and the rest of the equipment sold in 1911.

The second Native American newspaper, the Shawnee Sun (Siwinowe Kesibi), began in 1835 under the editorship of Johnston Lykins and with the assistance of the Reverend Jotham Meeker, a missionary who took a printing press with him to his duties at the large Baptist mission at Shawnee Mission, Kansas. The press at Shawnee Mission published part of the newspaper in the Shawnee language using the English alphabet. Meeker translated religious messages and songs and published Indian material in the Native language. His press was the first in the area that is now Kansas. The newspaper was published monthly or semimonthly until its suspension in 1839. It resumed publication in 1841 and apparently lasted until 1844.

By the end of the twentieth century, one of the three national Native American newspapers was published in the Great Plains. The editorial headquarters for Indian Country Today, formerly the Lakota Times, are located in Rapid City, South Dakota. Other examples of Native voices from the Great Plains included the 2000-watt tribally owned kili, voice of the Lakota Nation, in Porcupine Butte, South Dakota, and its sister station, kini, in Rosebud.

Newspaper War in the West

When white settlers arrived in Kansas, they immediately engaged in a war of words. The first English-only newspaper in Kansas was the Kansas Weekly Herald, published in Leavenworth from 1854 to 1861. The Kansas-Nebraska Act had created such a rush by competing groups to settle Kansas that the first issue of the proslavery Herald was published under a tree, even before the rest of the town appeared. Three free-state papers began in Lawrence in January 1855: the Kansas Herald of Freedom, the Kansas Free State, and the Kansas Tribune. More than 100 newspapers were published during Kansas's territorial period between 1854 and 1861. Like many newspapers, the Tribune had trouble getting started on a regular footing. Two-dollar annual subscriptions were payable in advance, and early issues appeared sporadically.

After passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 let voters decide whether new states would be slave or free, war broke out over which faction would rule Kansas. Every faction had its newspaper. Local editors risked their lives in this fight. Missouri bushwhackers attacked newspaper offices, destroying presses so they could not be repaired and scattering type into the street. When slave-state raiders from Missouri attacked Lawrence in 1856, they systematically destroyed two newspaper offices and wrecked the presses. Contemporary observers said only someone who understood printing could have done such an effective job of destroying the presses.

Newspaper Rivalries

Elsewhere in the Great Plains, newspaper rivalries were also intense. Like the Lawrence contest over who would be first, two Denver newspapers raced for the same honor in that city. William N. Byers and the Rocky Mountain News faced stiff competition in the drive to control the Denver market. In April 1859 John L. Merrick, who had published the St. Joseph Gazette in Missouri (probably printed on a press fished out of the Missouri River at Independence after anti-Mormon rioters had sunk it there), moved his newspaper equipment to Denver City to begin the Cherry Creek Pioneer. Once the editors became aware of each other, they raced to be first. Byers won by twenty minutes, and Merrick's Pioneer folded after the first issue. His primitive press was capable of printing only seven-by-teninch sheets one side at a time, putting him at a severe disadvantage. The victorious News enjoyed no luxuries. It was published in an attic room above a saloon whose ceiling had to be reinforced to prevent bullets fired into the air from hitting printers at work. Above the press, a leaky roof allowed rain to drip on the equipment.

Like that of its short-term competitor, the Rocky Mountain News's press could also boast a colorful history. Byers's press may have printed Nebraska Territory's first newspaper. The Nebraska Palladium and Platte Valley Advocate had appeared on November 15, 1854, in Bellevue and reached a peak of 500 subscribers before its death the following April. The press later issued the Bellevue Gazette on October 23, 1856, and ran for about two years, ending when Byers bought it. From the upstairs office in Auraria, Byers moved his office into a new building along Cherry Creek. The press reached a dramatic end when a fastmoving Cherry Creek swept away the Rocky Mountain News building, its press, and all its equipment in the flood of May 19, 1864.

Many western newspapers had short lives. One of Byers's most persistent early competitors, Thomas Gibson, tried several times to start newspapers. He started the Rocky Mountain Gold Reporter and Mountain City Herald on August 6, 1859, in Mountain City, Colorado, but soon gave up and returned to Omaha. Later he managed the Western Mountaineer, owned by the founders of Golden, Colorado. The Western Mountaineer began publication on December 4, 1859, and folded in early 1860. Gibson returned to Denver to compete with Byers and started Colorado's first daily newspaper, the Daily Herald and Rocky Mountain Advertiser, on May 1, 1860. Gibson started a weekly edition, the Rocky Mountain Herald, on May 5, 1860.

The Denver Evening Post appeared for the first time in August 1892, but its editors misjudged their audience. They supported the gold standard at a time when their readers supported William Jennings Bryan and free silver, and the paper died after its first year. Determined not to make the same mistake, two new owners, Frederick G. Bonfils and Harry Heye Tammen, revived the Evening Post as a daily in 1894. They reached new heights in sensationalism and antiauthoritarianism. The Post's publishers called their red-painted office the "red room," but local residents took to calling it the "bucket of blood." Like William Randolph Hearst in New York, Tammen and Bonfils exploited sensationalism and identified with the common folks by attacking politicians. In one early issue, the Post editors attacked child labor in department stores: "As you enter one of them, a little, pale-faced girl opens the door, standing in the dangerous drafts, for people are coming and going. This method of employing child labor at starvation wages which are all the way from $1 to $1.50 a week, for which they work from sixty-five to seventy hours a week, may be fashionable in Baxter Street, New York, but we desire to serve notice on these establishments that it will not go in the great West." A story on the Denver water company said city residents were drinking sewage, among other things: "The site of an old slaughterhouse in Mount Vernon gulch was visited. Water was running through it washing the old bones and eventually finding its way into the city water mains." Editors assumed that journalism was political, and their readers believed in the innocent West, in contrast to a corrupt East, as the reference to New York indicates.

Like other western newspapers both big and small, the Post saw itself as an engine of progress. From its first day, the Post promised to "devote special and ceaseless attention to the material interests of the state and to the development of her vast and varied resources." It campaigned to "direct its efforts that more acres of land shall be brought under cultivation" and to promote trade, mining, and industrial development. In 2001 the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News entered into a joint operating agreement. The two papers remain competitors in one of the few U.S. metropolitan areas to have competing major newspapers.

Media Standardization Moves West

Despite their local flavor, small-town western newspapers often reflected evidence of mass production. Beginning in the 1870s, syndication services supplied "patent pages" or "ready prints"–pages already printed on one side–to local printers, who then printed on the backs of the pages. Local newspapers could order preprinted pages and simply use the other side of the sheet (two of the newspaper's four pages) for local news and advertising. Some of the national syndicates also supplied boilerplate, preset pages of lead type ready to be printed. All these services saved time and money for printers who still set type one letter at a time while standing at a type case. In the 1880s the Linotype machine allowed a typesetter to sit at a keyboard and call up letters as brass forms into which lead was poured one line at a time, making local news easier to print. However, the boilerplate and ready-print services supplied enough material to fill entire pages or parts of pages, leaving little space to be filled locally.

The preset syndication services helped some publishers create "satellite papers" in which several towns could have virtually the same newspaper with some minor changes in the local news columns. Newspapers could then be printed in nearby towns with the printer inserting a minimum of local news. Local governments helped by requiring legal notices, such as claims for cattle brands and homesteads, to be published for several consecutive weeks. With these notices already set for several weeks, the printer did not have to revise entire columns from week to week.

Editors and Their Agendas

Newspapers across the Plains worked to overcome the label of the Great American Desert applied by early explorers. Town boosters reported fantasies as well as facts, hoping their eastern colleagues would reprint articles extolling the virtues of frontier life. Editors in homesteader towns dreamed in print of the day when miraculous farming techniques would transform gumbo flats into blooming gardens. Even winter looked good in booster columns, improving the health and hardiness of residents. Similarly, boomtown newspapers predicted a peaceful future for their towns, while drunken cowboys loped their horses through the streets, yelling and shooting their guns into the air. In Denver, for example, Byers's Rocky Mountain News encouraged farming as a source of long-term stability, even while miners celebrated short-term successes. Newspapers in small homestead towns promoted dryland farming on the theory that once the land was plowed the increased moisture in the air would stimulate rain, hence the slogan, "rainfall follows the plow."

On the other hand, some editors in towns dependent upon cattle and mining turned their backs on reformers. Saloons, gambling, prostitution, and tolerance of violence often helped local business for the short term. Editors often became a saloon's best customers. The editor wanted to put a good face on town news, but the saloon, so often a source of conflict, attracted business. Saloons were dependable advertisers; in fact, critics said frontier newspapers contained too many liquor advertisements. Temperance advocates frequently wrote letters and, occasionally, became editors, but they left little evidence that miners showed any interest in receiving temperance lectures through the press.

Reports of minor crimes revealed the usual mix of editorial comment and news. Some newspapers threatened to help enforce the law by printing the names of people who persisted in wild riding through the streets. Editors often balanced calls for law and order with comments about the increasing number of families making their homes within the town. Frontier editors faced a basic dilemma in deciding whether to report the seamy side of town life or to put forth a wholesome image to attract families. Many editors advocated community reform without calling attention to town problems. Editorial campaigns for law and order frequently supported anonymous vigilance committees, ironically operating outside the law to rid the community of undesirables.

Editors in railhead towns at the end of the Texas to Kansas cattle drives in the 1870s boosted their towns in the competition to attract cattle drives. They ignored the indiscretions of visiting trail hands, who deposited their wages at saloons. Town delegations occasionally met the drives on the trail to persuade drovers to come to their towns. The towns also fought over railroads; railroads held out for concessions that could include free land for rights of way, depots, stockyards, and cash payments. Editors participated in this process, defending the promotional expenses to local readers and extolling the town's virtues to readers beyond the local trade area. Cow town editors depended upon the cattle trade because their towns did, and editors received reliable revenue from legal notices necessary for ranchers to establish their ownership of livestock brands. Editors who at first sided with cattle drovers on such issues as street violence and herd laws to protect fenced farms came to see the future differently as railheads moved west and waves of immigrants settled in the country.

Early historians and dime novelists created stereotypes of frontier editors, especially itinerant ones. Two such editors, Legh Freeman and Frederic E. Lockley, have received scholarly attention. Lockley, who had been a journalist in Cleveland and New York City, moved west to cover Indian Territory, Salt Lake City, and several Kansas towns. During one of his two stints as a newspaper owner, Lockley owned the Arkansas City Traveler in the Kansas border town founded during the Oklahoma land rush. "I felt myself in a humble way to be a public teacher; a sound and moral newspaper press I thought had much to do with our national life," he wrote at the turn of the century. But he found that his hours reading exchanges, condensing news, and writing editorials were wasted on people who wanted "little local squibs telling who comes and goes and booming the town on all occasions."

While involved in land-speculation and town-promotion schemes, Legh Freeman tried to live the stereotypical life of a frontier scout. His Frontier Index, called the "press on wheels" because of his frequent moves, traveled from town to town ahead of the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah. Like the mythic mountain man Jim Bridger, whom Freeman may have interviewed early in life, the editor tried to stay ahead of advancing civilization. Toward the end of Freeman's life, his wife and family ran the paper while he traveled and sent home columns.

Humorist Edgar Wilson "Bill" Nye followed Mark Twain in writing widely reprinted newspaper columns and popular books and in touring the lecture circuit. Nye, who edited the Laramie Boomerang in Wyoming, proposed a school to train frontier journalists, with the training including self-defense, first aid, theology, medicine, and politics (just to keep up on frontier issues). By the age of ninety-five, Nye concluded, "The student will have lost that wild, reckless and impulsive style so common among younger and less experienced journalists." At that point the most pressing question would be whether to invest in government bonds or real estate in a growing town. Like many small-town editors, Nye also worked as postmaster. William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette in Kansas, gained national attention in the early twentieth century for his politics and his articulate advocacy of the West.

Great Plains newspapers provided other celebrities as well as national leaders. Canada's fifth prime minister, Mackenzie Bowell, was once a compositor on the Calgary Herald. Sir Clifford Sifton, owner of the Manitoba Free Press, and his editor, John Wesley Dafoe, became national figures from 1901 through the late 1920s, while Sifton played a major role as a national party and provincial leader in defining Canada's independence from Great Britain. Dafoe's sixty-year journalism career made the Free Press a major liberal and progressive voice in the West. George Creel, who headed the U.S. propaganda effort during World War I, had been a Post reporter and police commissioner in Denver. Willa Cather worked as a theater and music critic for two newspapers in Lincoln before moving to Pittsburgh and New York City journalism. L. Frank Baum wrote and edited an Aberdeen, South Dakota, newspaper before he wrote The Wizard of Oz.

Plains Radio

Like newspapers, radio linked the Plains with the rest of the world. As early as 1917, Plains residents as far away as Texas occasionally heard the daily University of Wisconsin weather and agricultural bulletins broadcast in Morse code for Wisconsin farmers. Texans got their own weather and crop reports from the University of Texas at Austin, where physics professor S. Leroy Brown built a radio station before World War I. During the war, however, the federal government imposed an embargo on radio development except for military purposes.

Unlicensed pirates continued to broadcast through the war and after. In 1920 Ashley Clayton Dixon began broadcasting music by a pickup orchestra among neighbors from his new home near Three Mile Trading Post north of Stevensville, Montana. Dixon and other amateurs around the nation created an interest in radio that was exploited by Westinghouse employees, who began the first commercial radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, in 1920. (The world's oldest commercial radio station, CFCF in Montreal, had already gone on the air as experimental station XWA.) Westinghouse immediately saw the value of broadcasting to sell wireless receiving sets while major corporations fought over patent rights.

University of Nebraska faculty, who had experimented with voice transmission in 1921, began offering courses by radio at $12.50 per student. The cost included textbook, exams, and two credits for those who passed. By the spring of 1922 at least nineteen other U.S. academic institutions had radio stations. The University of Texas at Austin had two stations, but they had merged by 1922 into the 500-watt KUT station, which broadcast from 8 to 10 P.M. three nights a week. One of the best-equipped stations in the nation at the time, KUT carried agricultural and marketing reports, music, and lectures. It aired a church service on Sundays and football games in season. In the mid-1920s the station became KNOW in Austin and carried no news, sponsored programs, or commercials. Commercial radio began in Texas in 1922, and by the end of the year the state hosted twenty-five stations, including WBAP and KFLZ in Fort Worth and kgnc in Amarillo. In 1923 WBAP began a country music variety show featuring local talent similar to the style later developed in Nashville as the Grand Ole Opry.

Before the government allotted frequencies in 1927 and 1928, many stations tried operating on the same frequencies. The Kansas City Star operated WDAF and regularly went off the air at 7 P.M. to allow WHB, also in Kansas City, to have the frequency–until one evening when a local politician was scheduled to appear on WHB to attack the Star. WDAF retained control over the frequency that evening to create a weird effect while the man spoke. Consumers buying radios sometimes hoped to receive distant stations, so a Chicago newspaper promoted weekly silent nights–in Kansas City it was Saturday night–during which time the local stations would be silent so residents could listen for distant stations. The silent nights ended by 1927 with recriminations and complaints of revenue losses. The idea of long-distance broadcasting, except for a few clear-channel frequencies, ended with it.

Many early radio stations were formed to promote specific businesses that used radio to sell products. For example, KHD was run by a marble company in Colorado Springs. In 1923 Dr. John Richard Brinkley began one of the most unusual radio stations, KFKB ("Kansas First, Kansas Best" or "Kansas Folks Know Best") in Milford, to promote his combination of fundamentalist religion and miracle cures using goat glands. He also broadcast other church services, Kansas State College courses, Masonic lectures, and orchestra concerts. His broadcasts were so lucrative that he was able to build a large portion of Milford. However, the Federal Radio Commission revoked his license for operating contrary to the public interest, broadcasting indecent material, and using point-to-point communication for commercial purposes, an illegal activity at the time. The Kansas State Medical Board later revoked his medical license, challenging his goat-gland cures.

After being discredited in the United States, Brinkley persuaded the Mexican government to license him to broadcast from a powerful station, in part as revenge to the United States and Canada for dividing up all the radio frequencies among themselves. In 1931 his XER broadcast from 300-foot towers across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, and became one of the first superpower "border radio" stations. When the Mexican government sought to prohibit Brinkley's medical broadcasts by keeping him out of the country, he began a remote broadcast from a hotel in downtown Del Rio, with his voice going to the transmitter in Mexico and back into the U.S. airwaves.

Radio grew rapidly across the continent. The American public's investment in equipment grew from $60 million in 1922 to $358 million in 1924. Commercial radio stations in Canada faced stiff competition for both frequencies and listeners from the United States and even from the powerful Mexican border stations. Like U.S. stations, Canadian stations argued over frequencies. In Saskatoon three stations shared the same wavelength in 1925. Canadian National Railways pioneered radio for train passengers and, because of the railway's public ownership, provided a model for the later British and Canadian Broadcasting Corporations. The remoteness of Canadian settlements in the West led to rapid public and private investment in broadcasting, while newspapers retained a primarily local focus through most of the twentieth century. Many Canadian stations forged agreements with U.S. stations to carry American programs, while the Canadian National Railways built what became the cbc with its strategically located stations and telephone links. The Canadian government took control over broadcast regulation and operation of the public network only after 1932.

In Regina the Leader newspaper started CKCK, Saskatchewan's first commercial radio station, in 1922. Both the newspaper and the station advised people on how to build their own receiving sets and warned against unscrupulous dealers who exaggerated the reception capabilities of their receivers. Like their American counterparts, Canadian listeners received a heavy dose of weather and agricultural and marketing information. In the days of distance broadcasting, CKCK's toughest competitors for listeners included WLS in Chicago, KOA in Denver, and kfnf in Hastings, Nebraska.

Although Plains stations began by broadcasting with local talent, they eventually adopted standard formats, especially after television usurped the demand for dramatic and musical programming. Many national media personalities such as Johnny Carson and Lawrence Welk starred on the Plains. Carson, an Iowa native who was host of NBC television's The Tonight Show for thirty years, started on Nebraska radio stations, including KFAB and wow radio and television in Omaha, before moving to Los Angeles and New York. Welk, who grew up in Strasburg, North Dakota, began his broadcasting career on WNAX radio in Yankton, South Dakota. Chet Huntley, who played with his first crystal radio set as a child in Montana, became coanchor with David Brinkley of NBC's The Huntley-Brinkley Report, the leading network evening newscast for much of its fifteen years on the air, beginning in 1956. Their chief competitor, Walter Cronkite, who anchored The CBS Evening News from 1962 through 1981, spent his early years in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a newspaper and wire-service reporter in Houston, Kansas City, Dallas, Austin, and El Paso. His cbs colleague Eric Sevareid developed an interest in journalism as a child in Velva, North Dakota.

The Mass Media Become Concentrated

Despite the myth of individualistic western editors, the mass media became concentrated in regional and national chains almost from the beginning. Montana's notorious copper kings created a major chain when they bought up most of the state's daily newspapers in 1900 during their war over the location of the state's capital. The Anaconda Company controlled those newspapers until it sold them to the Iowa-based Lee Enterprises in the 1950s. Although its major holdings were in the Midwest, Lee owned newspapers and television stations across the Plains by the end of the twentieth century. In Montana Lee continued to own the daily Billings Gazette, the Montana Standard of Butte, the Independent Record of Helena, the Missoulian of Missoula, and twelve weekly shoppers and other specialized publications in Montana alone. In Nebraska Lee owned the daily Lincoln Journal-Star, the weekly Plattsmouth Journal, and KMTV, CBSA. liated Channel 3 in Omaha. The Lincoln Journal-Star was formed in 1995 when Lee Enterprises purchased the Lincoln Journal, which had been owned by the Seacrest family for generations. The Journal had begun as the Nebraska Commonwealth in Nebraska City in 1867 and moved to Lincoln within a year. The first Sunday edition appeared in 1871 and became the State Journal in 1882. A year before their merger, the Lincoln newspapers claimed independence from each other through a joint operating agreement.

Newspapers had spread across the Northern Plains of both the United States and Canada in the wake of settlement by the end of the nineteenth century, well after newspapers had been established in the Central Plains. While Kansas newspapers fought the Civil War, European Americans were yet to settle the Northern Plains. North Dakota's oldest daily newspaper, the Bismarck Tribune, was founded in Dakota Territory by Clement Lounsberry only in 1873.

Some editors made the purpose of their newspapers clear in their names, like the Calgary Herald, Mining and Ranch Advocate and General Advertiser. Despite the pretentious name, this paper had humble origins in a tent beside the Elbow River in 1883. In 1908 William Southam purchased the Calgary newspaper as his newspaper empire moved westward from its base in London, Ontario. Southam purchased the Edmonton Journal in 1912 and engaged in a journalism war of sensationalism with the Bulletin, which had a simple slogan: "Read the Bible and the Bulletin." The Southam Corporation grew over the century both in the number of newspapers and in other industrial interests, including steel mills, crushed stone, and carriage manufacturing.

In the mid-1990s, the financially troubled Southam Corporation merged with Hollinger International Inc., a newspaper chain controlled by media mogul Conrad Black, who had a reputation for operating newspapers as businesses, holding journalists in contempt, and advocating tougher libel laws. Hollinger's far-ranging interests included the Jerusalem Post in Israel, the Chicago Sun-Times in the United States, the London Daily Telegraph in England, and the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia. The merged corporation published hundreds of nondaily newspapers and specialized magazines covering diverse topics such as fishing and trucking. Hollinger has taken a leading role in online publications in each nation.

In response to the growing threat from chains, some smaller newspapers created organizations such as the Southern Saskatchewan Press Association. One of its active members was a newspaper that, like many other Plains publications, followed the railroads west. The Courier appeared in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, soon after the settlers disembarked from the Canadian Pacific Railway. The newspaper, now called the World-Spectator, celebrated its first century in October 1984. As early as 1918 several Saskatoon residents founded Turner's Weekly to be an independent weekly newspaper with literary aspirations for the general public. It died in 1920, but one of its founders, legislator Harris Turner, started the Progressive in 1923 with the slogan "Reliable News– Unfettered Opinions–Western Rights." The publication soon became the Western Producer weekly newspaper and continued into the twenty-first century.

The Toronto Sun founded several newspapers toward the end of the century to compete with Hollinger and Southam. The Edmonton Sun opened in 1978 and the Calgary Sun in 1980. In October 1996 the employees purchased the Edmonton Sun and the Calgary Sun from Rogers Communications Inc., a newspaper chain that had been founded twenty-five years earlier and sold to Maclean Hunter and then to Rogers.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was created, in part, to reach isolated residents in the West in the 1930s. Like the CBC, U.S. public broadcasting networks reached into the Plains with an alternative to American commercial broadcasting. Because of government underfunding, the CBC came to rely on commercial stations to buy its services. Some U.S. radio stations on the Northern Plains carried CBC services.

At least one of the world's largest media companies emerged from the Great Plains. At the end of the twentieth century, Tele- Communication, Inc., of Englewood, Colorado, supplied television to more than 300 markets in North America. Its TCI Cablevision supplied many Plains cities, including the Colorado cities of Denver, Grand Junction, Greeley, Pueblo, and Thornton; the Texas cities of Abilene, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Garland, Harlingen, Port Arthur, and Tyler; and the Wyoming cities of Casper and Cheyenne. TCI also covered Bellevue, Nebraska; Billings, Montana; Topeka, Kansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. It owned smaller cable systems throughout the United States.

The Plains Remain Isolated for Some

Although they were a dying breed, many small-town newspapers remained local with local owners. Others joined smaller newspaper groups, like the Yellowstone Newspapers of Montana that controlled the daily Miles City Star and Livingston Enterprise, the weekly Glendive Ranger-Review, and KATL radio in Miles City. From 1969 to 1984 David and Ella Rivenes operated kyus television in Miles City, one of the smallest stations in the nation. Miles City had competing KATL ("Cattle") radio and KYUS ("Cayuse") television, both occasionally using horses with their logos.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, then, no one in Ismay, Montana, climbed a tower to turn an antenna by hand the way we did forty years earlier. Like television viewers around the world, residents of Ismay get as much television as they can afford. They can purchase several kinds of disks and then subscribe to satellite services that provide hundreds of channels carrying public affairs, old movies, premium services like HBO and Showtime, regional network affiliates carrying entertainment programs and advertising, and pay-per-view sporting events and movies. Ranchers and small-town residents no longer depend upon local stations to acquire network programming one show at a time. Westerns like Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel are still available, but only in reruns on cable channels or on video. Small-town values prevail, however, with some folks noticing when a bachelor neighbor has his disk turned in the direction of the Playboy channel. Despite a variety of choices, local news and weather are hard to find on satellite television, especially in remote areas. Some ranchers and their families, however, have chosen not to invest in the disks and transponders necessary to receive the new bounty. Some ranchers say their work takes too much time to warrant investing in recreational television.

See also CITIES AND TOWNS: Denver, Colorado/ IMAGES AND ICONS: Rainfall Follows the Plow / LITERARY TRADITIONS: Baum, Frank L.; Cather, Willa / MUSIC: Welk, Lawrence/ POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: Sifton, Clifford / WAR: Bleeding Kansas.

William E. Huntzicker Bemidji State University

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