Daily News thanks Mon Valley, publishes final edition after 131 years
The Daily News rolls off the presses for the final time today — about 40,000 editions and 131 years after it began.
“The people of McKeesport always have defined The Daily News using the same slogan that appears below its nameplate: ‘More than a newspaper, a community institution,'” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “From my time as a paper boy through my career in local politics, The Daily News has been a part of my life. I am saddened by our city's loss with the closure of this institution, and I'm sure the McKeesport community will continue to grieve as we are forced to search for new venues for local news.
“The Daily News is one of few media outlets to embrace McKeesport's message of ‘Respect, Dignity, Hope, and Love.' Even before this message was established, this newspaper's mission was to cover the many positive things happening every day in our own backyards. For more than 130 years, The Daily News has witnessed and shared countless good deeds here in our neighborhoods and schools.”
Circulation for the afternoon paper peaked at 46,836 in 1971. The circulation today is 8,641. At its peak, about 130 people produced The Daily News. Today, there are 52.
One of those employees was Ernie Harkless, who retired in 2003 as production manager after 44½ years.
Working at the News, Harkless said, was “very sustaining. It provided me with a decent living. I was able to provide a home for my family and put my girls through college. And the people I worked with were all good people. Putting the paper out on time every day was a ‘we' thing. It took everyone in the different departments working together to meet the deadlines every day, but every day we did it.
“It's difficult to believe the News is closing,” Harkless said. “I am very sad. Technology is great but I like to hold my newspaper in my hand. It's handy and you don't need a password. It's just there and I will miss not having that.”
There were several firsts attributed to The Daily News. In 1889, the News was the only building in the city illuminated by its private electric light. In 1938, the newspaper became the first with air conditioning.
McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center executive director Michelle Wardle said the News has been a rich source of history. “Having a local, continuous newspaper since 1884 has provided this community a wonderful historical resource. Thanks to The Daily News, we have captured over 130 years of our history. We are fortunate to have access to almost all of the newspapers ever published by The Daily News, allowing us to look back on our community's past and learn from it. Without such a reliable source, it would be more difficult to piece together our community's history.”
Trib Total Media, which purchased The Daily News in May 2007, spent several months trying to find a buyer for the paper.
“We have exhausted all of our options and sadly, nothing has come to fruition,” Trib President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto announced earlier this month.
On July 1, 1884, Edward B. Clark, Harry S. Dravo and William B. Dravo started The Daily News in a small wood building at 420 Locust St. The Dravos were working at the McKeesport Times when they decided to join forces with Clark to start a competing daily newspaper. The Daily News relocated several times before settling in at 409 Walnut St. in 1938.
Throughout most of its history, The Daily News was operated by the Mansfield family. They began their long relationship with the newspaper in March 1925, when state Sen. W.D. Mansfield, Dr. H.S. Arthur, Charles Shaw and William J. Cox purchased the paper. Mansfield remained publisher until his death on Oct. 11, 1952, and his son, William J. Mansfield Jr., assumed the position until his death 12 years later.
Thomas D. Mansfield, cousin of W.D. Mansfield, took the reins in January 1967 and served as publisher until his death on Feb. 12, 1993. His wife, Patricia J. Mansfield, took over in 1993 and turned over the job to daughter Patricia K. Mansfield in 1994.
“When I think of The Daily News I will always think of my father and all that he accomplished,” Patricia K. Mansfield said. “He loved the paper. If he were here today it would be very sad for him. This was such a part of my family.”
Not only was the News family owned for many decades, it was a place where family members often worked. It was not unusual to have husbands and wives or parents and children working together or in different departments.
The Mansfields' stewardship ended in November 2004, when Latrobe Printing and Publishing Co. purchased the paper. Two and a half years later, Trib Total Media became the publication's final owner.
The Trib invested its considerable resources in the McKeesport operation, most notably a 2009 upgrade of the press to allow for enhanced color capabilities and significantly more pages per edition. To keep up with the changing times, Trib Total Media also boosted the online presence, making most of the articles available on triblive.com.
“After over 40 years in the newspaper business I couldn't think of a better place to finish my career than in McKeesport and at The Daily News,” said Robert R. Hammond, the paper's general manager since 2007. “The people I've had the opportunity to work with here are first class. Always going the extra mile to publish a quality newspaper. The people in this area that I've been able to work with on community projects are second to none. Thanks for welcoming me with open arms. I wish each of you all the best in the future.”
State Sen. James Brewster said the News served as the paper of record for the Mon Valley for generations.
“We grew up knowing that our personal life-changing events — graduations, weddings, births and deaths — were all recorded in the newspaper. The Daily News was on-the-scene when elections were won or lost; when projects succeeded or failed. It reliably reported school happenings, sporting events, crimes, fires, burglaries, and robberies,” he said.
Brewster said the paper has been like a good friend — exasperating, perplexing and difficult but also comforting, thought-provoking and dependable.
“The Daily News has been a conduit for information and helped shine light on the truth,” he said. “The demise of the paper is a severe setback for our region. We will persevere and have to adjust to the absence of The Daily News as part of our daily lives.”
Michele Matuch, former executive director of the McKeesport Hospital Foundation, said it is “really sad that The Daily News will not be there any more. The Daily News was 100 percent with everything — the foundation, hospital and community. Now all the news that happens will be lost. This is such a detriment to our community. We were a community above other communities because we had our own newspaper.”
Maury Burgwin, president of the Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “The paper has been a valuable asset to our community and a valuable partner of the chamber. We will miss the positive news and insights that you have provided over your 131-year history. Farewell old friend.”
Jason Togyer, local historian and executive director of Tube City Community Media, said it is a “very bad day for democracy and for an informed community when any newspaper closes. Very few cities the size of McKeesport and Monessen have a daily newspaper any more. In fact much, much larger cities like Cleveland and New Orleans now have newspapers that only come out a few days per week.”
Carol Waterloo Frazier and Jeffrey Sisk are editorsfor Trib Total Media.