“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and cannot be limited without being lost.” - Thomas Jefferson
Missouri Press Association solely-funded the award-winning, nationally-televised documentary to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first newspaper in Missouri – The Missouri Gazette, which began in 1808 to print the laws of the new territory of Missouri and to publish news for St. Louis and the growing number of settlers to the region. Since that time, Missouri has had an illustrious history among our nation’s press.
We hear from publishers, editors, and writers who remember their early years learning the trade, like Ann Tezon, Publisher/Editor of The Hamilton Advocate. “When I was in journalism school, walking into the Missourian was like being intoxicated. The smell of ink was sweet to me. It was exciting to hear the rumble of the presses. It was heavy stuff.”
Community newspapers have long served as a beacon for social change, and have been a mirror of the people it serves. Rogers Hewitt, former publisher of Shelby County Herald, remembers catching heat when he wrote an editorial about a bent flagpole at the courthouse, and why wasn’t it fixed. “County commissioners fired back”, remembers Hewitt, `that flagpole wasn’t nearly as crooked as the person who wrote that editorial.’ It got their attention, anyway, and they got the flagpole fixed!”
The Missouri School of Journalism is also featured in the program with founder and first dean, Walter Williams, who played a large role in the Missouri press. Williams’ efforts led to international recognition of both the first journalism school in the world and the high quality of journalism practiced in the state. In addition, the history of the African-American press in Missouri, as well as the role of pioneer women journalists are included in the stories featured in Trustees for the Public.
The documentary project evolved when Doug Crews, Executive Director of Missouri Press Association began working with journalists and film-makers Scott Charton, Beth Pike, and Stephen Hudnell to capture on video the oral histories of newspaper men and women in our state. Recognizing that the industry is changing with many family-owned newspapers on the decline, compared to the larger chain newspapers, it was important to have their legacy on tape.
“In writing and doing research for this documentary, we discovered that these incredible stories of our past really puts a face on our state’s weeklies and dailies - and you find yourself rooting for the newspaper people who make it happen!” says the program’s producer/director Beth Pike. With recent news of cut-backs and layoffs in the industry, the documentary shows the efforts being made to keep up with the changing technology on how we deliver the news. While newspapers are learning how to better utilize the internet, the commitment to the printed word is still strong. In recent times, the Kansas City Star, part of the McClatchy newspaper group, completed a 0 million printing and distribution plant. Multi-million dollar presses have gone on-line in many parts of the state in recent years. Clippings and front pages of important events are part of our keepsakes, much like our family picture albums. Also, being able to read newsprint in your hands – the tactile feeling of holding a newspaper when you relax in your chair in the morning or evening and get caught up on the day’s news. People value their printed newspaper. Knowing the importance and history of our Missouri press puts faith in not just the legacy of newspapers, but its future.
“With increasing numbers of voters at the polls and the hopes to turn-around a depressed economy, our electorate is paying attention to civics and democracy, which can only survive with a free press. This documentary captures the importance of newspapers, and I think can be part of the rally cry for a stronger U.S. society.” Pike adds.
The documentary concludes with Author Ron Powers, a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who reads from the Journalists Creed by Walter Williams. And, viewers are left with the famous words by former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who helped establish the first newspaper in Missouri.
The following Public Broadcast Services (PBS) stations have aired Trustees for the Public – 200 Years of Missouri Newspapers
National Education Television Association (NETA) national broadcast feed to PBS stations.
2009 Regional PBS Broadcasts:
KMOS-TV, Warrensburg, MO
KCPT, Kansas City, MO
Ozarks Public Television, Springfield/Joplin, MO
KETC, St. Louis, MO
WSIU, Carbondale, IL
Jefferson Community College, Hillsboro
STL TV, St. Louis Education and Government Channel
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