Dayton Daily News at 120: How our history is tied to the region’s journey, through highs and lows

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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James Cox bought the Dayton Evening News on Aug. 15, 1898, and transformed it into the Dayton Daily News, which has been serving the community for 120 years.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

In 1898 when school teacher and former congressional aide James M. Cox paid $28,000 for the Dayton Evening Herald, he became part of a long heritage of Dayton entrepreneurs who would leave their mark on our community and the nation.

For his money - most of it borrowed - he received a broken-down press, a list of subscribers that was half-fiction and a host of competitors eager to stomp his fledgling business out of existence.

But 120 years later, his newspaper survives as a daily part of Dayton life. And it became the cornerstone of a multi-billion-dollar international corporation that Cox’s family still operates.

The 1920 presidential election pitted two Ohioans - Ohio Gov. James Cox and U.S. Sen. Warren Harding - in an election that Harding won easily. Both were also newspapermen. Cox started his newspaper career in Dayton when he founded the Dayton Daily News.
Caption
The 1920 presidential election pitted two Ohioans - Ohio Gov. James Cox and U.S. Sen. Warren Harding - in an election that Harding won easily. Both were also newspapermen. Cox started his newspaper career in Dayton when he founded the Dayton Daily News.

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Cox renamed his new acquisition the Dayton Daily News on Aug. 22, 1898, and launched a company that focused on three essential components of his journalistic mission:

• Advocate relentlessly for Dayton and its residents

• Shed light on the actions of powerful interests – whether government or private industry — and how they impact this community

• Give our customers our best every day

This mission of service differentiated the Dayton Daily News and allowed it to thrive.

As the region grew – with aviation, paper manufacturing, agriculture, information technology, automotive and national defense as the foundation of the local economy – the Dayton Daily News covered the journey.

ExploreREAD MORE: The Dayton Daily News turns 120: The story of its founding and connection to the community

In the newsroom, generations of journalists have worked by rules that are as valid in the digital era as when newsprint was brought into the city by canal barge: Get out there. Go see for yourself. If you don’t know the answer, ask. Knock on the door. Ask the question again. Keep digging. Get it right.

Our advertising team has been driven by the same instincts: How do we help our clients grow by giving them access to the best audiences and information? How do we help them win by finding answers to their key business questions?

The story of the Dayton Daily News is also a mirror of the highs and lows of the Dayton region. Both stories have the same threads - early doubtful prospects, persistence, innovation, fantastic growth, challenges, adaptation, evolution, and constant, constant, constant effort.

On June 11, 1910 the newly constructed Dayton Daily News buiding at Fourth and Ludlow streets was opened to the public. During the celebration President William Howard Taft pushed a telegraph key at the White House which sent an electrical current that started the press.  DAYTON METRO LIBRARY
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On June 11, 1910 the newly constructed Dayton Daily News buiding at Fourth and Ludlow streets was opened to the public. During the celebration President William Howard Taft pushed a telegraph key at the White House which sent an electrical current that started the press. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY

Paging through past issues of the Dayton Daily News — available at libraries around the region, online and at a special collection managed by the Wright State University Libraries – gives a detailed, daily recollection of how our paper and our community have been intertwined.

ExploreREAD MORE: How the Dayton Daily News covered 7 major local and national news events of the past 120 years

In 1998 the Dayton Daily News won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for digging deep into problems with the way the Department of Defense provided health care to active duty service men and women and their families. The Pentagon stepped up in the wake of coverage and pledged to make improvements to the more than 600 hospitals and clinics it managed.

But the pages have also been filled with an uncountable number of small acts - chronicling Daytonians working, fighting, succeeding and grieving.

During the Vietnam War the paper ran “Letters to GIs” around the holidays - a list of dozens of mailing addresses to service men and women. The list was printed to encourage readers to write to these men and women at the holidays so they knew their service in the military was appreciated. “Take one or more of the names and addresses from today’s listing and send a card, a letter, a small package. It could do as much for you as it does for those who serve.”

August 15, 1945:  The front page of the Dayton Daily News covering the celebration in Dayton at the end of World War II. VIEW THE FULL-SIZE PAGE: https://www.daytondailynews.com/rw/Pub/p9/DaytonDailyNews/2018/08/14/Images/1945_08_15.jpg
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August 15, 1945: The front page of the Dayton Daily News covering the celebration in Dayton at the end of World War II. VIEW THE FULL-SIZE PAGE: https://www.daytondailynews.com/rw/Pub/p9/DaytonDailyNews/2018/08/14/Images/1945_08_15.jpg

The papers during World War II were produced with a dozen stories or more on the front pages every day. But the day war in the Pacific ended, the front page was filled instead with photos of euphoric Daytonians hugging. “Peace - Dayton Style”

Wars began and ended on our pages.

Floods came. Lives were lost. Healing began.

NCR started, grew, flourished, declined and left.

GM plants dotted the region. Strikes occurred. New lines were added. Gleaming cars rolled off busy production lines. Plants closed. And then - in some cases - reopened.

Desegregation. The 1960s. Suburbs boomed. The city evolved.

The Reds won. Pete Rose lost.

The Bengals made - and lost - two of the greatest Super Bowls in history.

Major institutions developed: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Wright State, the Schuster Center for the Performing Arts.

The University of Dayton men’s basketball team shocked the world - several times.

An Ohioan walked on the moon.

9/11 brought us to tears.

This summer we launched a team of journalists dedicated to getting to the bottom of three of the most persistent issues cited as holding our community back: the opioid epidemic, the quality of education provided by Dayton Public Schools and the need to ensure Dayton has the jobs of the future. This group is looking for answers, and a fantastic board of community contributors is giving them feedback all the way.

The stories of it all have been told in the pages of the Dayton Daily News, and it is work we are still proud to do. We tell these stories today in many different ways: in video, in podcasts, and across devices that fit in your hand and project on walls. But it does not matter whether the content is immersive or printed on paper - it’s the story that matters.

That’s why everyday thousands of people engage with our digital content. I hear from readers more often now with questions about our epaper than about our printed edition, which shows again how the governor’s product can evolve and adapt to stand the test of time. There is a quote from the governor on the walls that our employees pass by every day that says: We must never turn back the hands of the clock. We must go forward and not backward.

We break news when it happens, all day, online. Our staffs work in partnership with those of WHIO-TV and WHIO Radio so closely it is nearly impossible to tell where one starts and another stops. Then we print and deliver the most impactful investigations and articles of the day to doorsteps the next morning. It is an exciting, hard job that we love.

I am proud that The Dayton Daily News is still telling the stories of this community every day. It has been produced by Daytonians, for its readers for 120 years. And because of our steadfast commitment to serve, evolve and adapt, the Dayton Daily News will be here for many more.