The founding of the Kansas City Kansan

In Google Books, I found some history on the Kansas City Kansan, which delivered its final print edition today. Which is drawn from the minutes of a meeting of something called the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Commercial Organization Secretaries.  The group appears to be somehow related to chambers of commerce.  The following speech by Mr. Gibbs was part of a competition for greatest accomplishment by a chamber.  Mr. Gibb’s beat out three other finalists (there were 119 entries overall).

MR. GIBBS: Imagine yourself without a newspaper! You sometimes want to cuss the newspaper, but imagine yourself without it.

Kansas City, Kansas, a city of 100,000, without a newspaper —the largest city in the State of Kansas without a newspaper— served by the newspapers of a neighboring city—Kansas City, Missouri.

Sometimes, in some of the issues of the Kansas City Star, the news of a city of 100,000 commanded 17 inches! We called upon them and asked them if they would not give us more space, and we were always received courteously but never received much results from our calls.

The problem was checked up with the Chamber of Commerce for the Chamber of Commerce to get us a newspaper.

Many had tried to get a newspaper; many failures had occurred, but none had been secured.

No suggestion was made as to how it might be done, except this: “No; we won’t put a cent into a newspaper. There have been too many failures.”

Analysis of the situation: We must get a man from outside to give us a newspaper. He must have qualifications. First, he must be a Kansan, a man who can speak the Kansas language. Second, he must be a thoroughgoing newspaper man, and third, he must have financial backing so he can take a loss for two or three years, if necessary, in getting the thing established.

Such a man was Arthur Capper, a big publisher.

After eight months of report, survey, turndown and comeback, Arthur Capper made us a proposition: “Get $200,000 in advertising contracts and 15,000 subscribers, showing the good faith of Kansas City, Kansas, and I will start the newspaper.”

A campaign was laid out and all of the features used in all the war campaigns were put into that campaign, and the result was that on our quota of $200,000 in advertising contracts, we turned in $210,000; and on 15,000 subscriptions, we turned in 16,000. (Applause.)

The next step: Wait for the newspaper. Arthur Capper had to buy a building and remodel the building, get the machinery in, build the organization so we might start that organization up here (indicating the top), and not at the bottom and build up.

We gave him the subscription and advertising contracts to start the newspaper right off with 15,000 circulation.

Of course, he was equal to the task, and on January 31 of this year, we received the first issue of the “Kansas City Kansan.”

If Irvin Cobb had been in Kansas City, Kansas, that day, he would have had a feature story for a magazine.

Imagine a city of 100,000 people waiting for this paper. Here is an instance of one newsboy who got his bundle of papers and started down the street toward his corner. He had gone about 10 feet from the office and he was literally mobbed, and when he woke up he had his hands full of money and money on the sidewalk— and no papers. (Laughter.)

5000 extra copies were taken that day.

And so, on we might go, but we had the thrill of seeing a city of 100,000 souls receiving their own daily newspaper for the first time.

What about the future of the paper? It has today a circulation of 21,000 and it is going strong. Here is the paper, last Friday’s issue—a 24-page paper. Probably some of you would like to see it.

But what about the future of it? What is the future of it? Men, I want to give you Arthur Capper’s creed, and this is the creed that is being followed by every man in that organization of 125 that is running that newspaper—and, by the way, the Kansas City Star now has 13 men in Kansas City, Kansas, instead of 4.

Here is the creed: To do the right thing in the right way at the right time; to do some things better than they were ever done before; to be honest and square in all dealings; to eliminate errors; to know both sides of the question; to be courteous; to be an example; to work for the love of work; to recognize no impediments; to master circumstances. (Applause.)

2 thoughts on “The founding of the Kansas City Kansan

  1. I can see this scenario playing out in eyars to come — maybe even without the chamber involvement — in communities much smaller than 100,000 that feel they don’t have a news srouce to call their own. Only it will be on the web.

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