Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


For more than 100 years, the Emporia Gazette has covered the city of Emporia, Kansas, its joys, heartaches, and scandals, and surrounding Lyon County, providing Kansas with news and opinion that includes the state, nation, and world. It has endured as one of the state's strongest small dailies and has been a training ground for some of the state's best journalists.

Emporia, from its very beginning, had a strong tradition of newspapers, as did many pioneer communities. Its first newspaper, the Kanzas News, began just a few months after the town was founded in 1857, when Senator Preston Plumb started the newspaper to promote development and the Republican Party. A former owner of the News, J. R. Graham, founded the Emporia Gazette in 1890 but sold it to W. Y. Morgan during the 1893 depression.

Five years after its founding, when newspapers and the country were struggling financially, the Gazette was purchased for $3,000 by William Allen White, a twenty-seven-year-old Republican newspaperman ready to hone his reporting and editing talents. After writing for several Kansas publications, White considered purchasing newspapers in several northeast Kansas cities, including Lawrence, but decided on Emporia, the town where he was born and where he had attended college. White borrowed the money to purchase the paper from Governor E. N. Morrill, from the estate of Senator Plumb, from Plumb's brother George, and from Major Calvin Hood. All were paid back quickly, mostly from money made from the sale of White's books and stories, which were gaining popularity.

White played the role of small-town country editor, conscious of his role in bolstering the community. His editorials, often in support of small-town values, were frequently printed in national newspapers and magazines, bringing recognition to the Gazette. With new and faster presses and more efficient distribution, larger editions and wider circulation became possible, and the increased subscription rates and advertising revenue put the paper on a sound financial footing.

In many respects, the Gazette is similar to most local hometown newspapers. It covers the local area; it reflects its community's tastes; it records the town's history. Unlike most dailies, however, the Gazette also gained national prominence, as William Allen White became well known through his political associations, national writings, and Pulitzer Prize. As its reputation grew, the newspaper began to attract starstruck young journalists, who were trained by various Gazette managing and city editors. Many went on to become some of the state's best journalists.

To this day, the Gazette, appearing six days a week, maintains its roots in community coverage. It has stayed in the White family, first with his son and daughter-in-law, William Lindsay and Kathrine White, then with his granddaughter and her husband, Barbara and David Walker, and now his grandson and his wife, Chris and Ashley Walker. While the newspaper remains a training ground for many novice reporters, its editors help maintain continuity with long careers in the newsroom.

Sally E. Turner Emporia State University

The Emporia Gazette's Album of Memories. Emporia KS: Emporia Gazette, 1976.

Griffith, Sally Foreman. Hometown News: William Allen White and the "Emporia Gazette." New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

White, William Allen. The Autobiography of William Allen White. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1946.

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