Iowa's oldest newspaper celebrates 175 years in Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa's oldest newspaper celebrates 175 years in Dubuque


The Telegraph Herald in Dubuque traces its roots back to 1836.

On Monday, the paper is producing an 80-page commemorative edition, compiling the paper's coverage of Dubuque and the tri-state area.

Brian Cooper is the paper's executive editor.

"May 1836, John King showed up with a press that he had purchased in Ohio, and he brought it over in a wagon, set up his press in Dubuque, which there wasn't much to Dubuque at the time, and put out The Dubuque Visitor, and that was the first newspaper published in Iowa," Cooper said.

That one-page paper started just three years after Dubuque became a city.

"Really, the growth of Dubuque and the growth of the newspaper, what is now the Telegraph Herald, have run parallel for a really long time," Cooper said.

Gracing the front of one of the special edition's section is a black-and-white photo of a 16-year-old paper boy from 1966.

Months ago, the Telegraph Herald, or simply "the TH" as it's known locally, published the photo of an unidentified paper boy.

Once Dubuque man Steve Dougherty saw the picture, he knew it was him.

"I contacted the TH and told them it was me. 100 percent sure," he said. "I couldn't believe it. Where did they find that? And they said they dug it out of their vaults down there."

The commemorative paper is filled with old photos and big stories from the past 175 years.

"To be independent and to celebrate your 175th year is quite a celebration in today's media arena," TH publisher Jim Normandin said.

The company, he said, has evolved to fit the ways people consume news, which now ranges from reading the paper to eyeing the screen of a phone.

"Our goal is to provide the best possible quality products we can in any of those arenas on those platforms," Normandin said.

Woodward Communications, Inc. is the parent company of the Telegraph Herald. It's a majority ESOP, or employee stock ownership program, company, meaning employees are also owners. Tom Yunt is the president and CEO of the Dubuque-based company. He said there are several factors that have driven the TH's longevity and success.

"We're privately owned, so we're very nimble, we're very autonomous, we push decision-making down to the lowest level possible," Yunt said. "We don't live and die by quarterly earnings reports, so we're not trying to satisfy Wall Street on a 90-day cycle."

Yunt said the business and news models focus on "local."

"It's a pretty simple mantra: Local, local, local," Yunt said. "We pride ourselves in how we look and cover city and county government. How we look and focus on the local school systems. We look at how things in Des Moines are impacting Dubuque, Iowa," Yunt said.

"We have been able to bring our product above grade for most community newspapers," Normandin said. "We are not part of a conglomerate. We are part of our community, and I think that speaks volumes."

The commemorative paper has four main sections: Past, Present and Future; Legacies and Legends; Memorable Moments and Community Connections.

"We really think that it's going to be good, interesting information, not only about the newspaper, but about the community and the tri-state area that we've covered all these years," Cooper said.

As the Telegraph Herald has shown in its 175 years, not all history comes in the form of a textbook.

"It's local history," Cooper said. "They call it history 'on the fly' or 'in motion.' It's as it happens."

Seven-day subscribers will receive the special edition for free, delivered with the regular Monday paper.

Others can contact the Telegraph Herald for a copy.

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