Documentary details history of Missouri newspapers

Monday, December 8, 2008 | 5:58 p.m. CST; updated 6:04 p.m. CST, Monday, December 8, 2008

COLUMBIA — Philip Graham, the late publisher of the Washington Post, called news the first rough draft of history, but it is not often that the history of news itself is recorded and told.

The documentary “Trustees for the Public: 200 Years of Missouri Newspapers” tells the story of Missouri's news industry.

Trustees for the Public: 200 Years of Missouri New

What: Public screening of "Trustees for the Public: 200 years of Missouri Newspapers"

When: Thursday. Reception, 5:30 p.m.; screening, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Reynolds Journalism Institute, MU

Tickets and More Information:  Tickets cost $25 for everyone but students, who get in free.  The cost of a ticket includes a copy of the documentary.  Proceeds from ticket sales go toward funding internships for college journalism students at Missouri newspapers.

The project began three years ago when Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association, and Columbia-based journalists Scott Charton, Beth Pike and Stephen Hudnell came together with the goal of creating a video of oral histories about Missouri's journalists.

“It became clear when we did the oral histories that as we approached the 200th anniversary of the first Missouri newspaper, it was time to share these stories,” said Charton, a retired Associated Press journalist and consulting producer for the film.

Pike, producer and director for the program, described the documentary as "publishers and editors recounting stories from the days of hot type and newspaper carriers hawking copies on street corners to today’s high-speed presses and the emergence of newspapers’ use of the Internet.”

The documentary features the history of famous writers, such as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, who got their start at Missouri newspapers.  The history of the MU School of Journalism is also highlighted in the program through the founder and first dean, Walter Williams.

Histories of the black press and the role of women journalists are among the stories told.

"The totality of their stories shows the immense impact that Missouri newspapers have had in really documenting the history of Missouri since our statehood," Charton said.

To complement the storytelling, the documentary highlights the changes in how news is delivered across multiple platforms as well as the industry's transition to online reporting. However, it also makes a point of maintaining a commitment to print.

"People value their printed newspaper," Pike said. "Knowing the importance and history of our Missouri press puts faith in not just the legacy of newspapers but its future."

Charton described the impact of the printed page — the headlines, photos, detail and depth of reporting — as unrivaled.

At heart, the documentary is a celebration of the newspaper industry in Missouri.

“What you’ll see from the documentary is that newspaper and newspaper people are not just hearts of the community," Charton said. "They weave the tapestry together from the diverse stories of the community, and they do it with a depth and artistry that no other media can rival."

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