Vicki Gowler: The Idaho Statesman turns 150 this year

February 2, 2014 

On July 26, the Idaho Statesman will be 150 years old, the oldest business in the Treasure Valley, maybe the state. It’s an incredible milestone — and one we hope you’ll enjoy celebrating with us for the next year.

Our paper was launched in the midst of the Civil War. It was a tri-weekly timed to the delivery of mail, which came three times a week. It was four dense pages of type. No photos. No color. Most of the content the first day was about the war. The first publisher strongly supported Abraham Lincoln, who also got a lot of coverage.

Today, our news and information is available 24/7 on computers, smart phones and tablets. Our daily print newspaper is full of photos and color with separate sections focusing on high-interest topics — and also comes in an easy-to-use digital version. We break news throughout the day on our website, on Twitter and Facebook. Our readers share their photos, stories, knowledge and insights every day through social media.

I have been a journalist for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, at my job as a state reporter for the Miami Herald, I had to make sure I had some film on the Miami-bound bus that left Stuart, Fla., at 4 p.m. each day. That was an extremely frustrating deadline — and required a lot of advance planning to have something interesting to shoot.

Today, our photographers use technology that lets them shoot photos at an event and publish them almost instantly on social media.

I went from typewriters to computers, satellite phones to smart phones, cameras with a half-dozen adjustments to point-and-shoot cameras that automatically adjust everything.

While how we share our news and information has been transformed, our mission has not. We remain the source of news and information for Idaho. We tell our state’s stories from the Nez Perce tribe’s move to an Idaho reservation to Gov. Frank Steunenberg’s assassination to the Teton Dam collapse to the filling of the Boise Hole.

And we hope you’ll help us look back on 150 years of news and storytelling and help us identify the most important stories in our state’s history.

We’ve started a list we’ll share with you on our website. We’d love for you to add to the list. We’d like to keep the focus on local stories, here in the Treasure Valley and in the state. Once we firm up a final list, we’ll run reprints of those stories in the newspaper. In July, after the stories have run, we’ll get everyone to vote on the top stories and we’ll republish those in a special commemorative section on our birthday. You can find the list at www.IdahoStatesman/150years. If you want to make suggestions, just email 150years@IdahoStatesman.com.

But that’s just one of the many things we are going to do this year:

- On Page 4A in the first section of the paper today, you’ll see a half page feature that we will run for the next 175 days. We’ll share facts and fun trivia about our newspaper. We’ll help you get to know the folks who work here — and why they do. We’ll hold a series of contests you can participate in and win prizes. And we’ll keep you apprised of any special 150th events we have lined up. Be sure to look for it every day.

- Our photo editor Joe Jaszewski is working with the city’s Arts and History Department to put on a photo exhibit in the Sesqui-Shop in June and July. We plan to build an old-fashioned darkroom so you can see what they did with that film I used to shoot. If you have a memorable photo from our newspaper that you think should be in our exhibit, let Joe know at jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com.

- Our editorial page editor, Bob Ehlert, is compiling a list of editorials that made a difference over the past 150 years. Do you have a favorite? Send him an email at rehlert@idahostatesman.com.

- We’d love for you to share your history with us — old papers that you have saved, any historical objects that you treasure, including photos. We’ll take photos of these and include them in our on-going coverage of our birthday. You could make it into the Page A4 feature — or into a 150th birthday coffee table book that we are having produced by July. Watch for announcements of when you can come in for a photo shoot in the Page A4 feature.

- We’ve created a special Web page to capture all the things we’re doing this year: www.IdahoStatesman/150years. It will include the top stories, the trivia, the people who work here, the readers who share their history with us. It also will have a cool, multilayered interactive timeline. One timeline will focus on our coverage of historic events and a second one will focus on our newspaper’s history. We’re just starting on it, but, as the year goes on, it will get richer and richer as we identify our best photos, stories, editorials – and you share your history with us.

- We’re also eager to look back at 150 years of advertisements. Like news gathering, ads have changed significantly over the years. From small “line ads” to the full-color ads of today, we’ll show you some of our favorites. And we’ll take a look at some of our longest-running advertisers — businesses that also have strong roots in the Treasure Valley.

- We plan to hold a series of “Meet the Statesman” events at our newspaper. It will give all of you a chance to meet some of our staffers in person. As we firm up the schedule, we’ll post it on the Page A4 feature.

- We hope to create a traveling exhibit of historical pages and objects. We’ve invited John Collias to create a poster of some of his favorite sketches of Boise’s people. From 1962 to 1995, he drew the Statesman’s weekly “Portrait of a Distinguished Citizen.” That will be part of our exhibit. If you are interested in having us bring our exhibit and speakers to you, contact Heather Harradine at hharradine@idahostatesman.com.

- And throughout the year, you’ll see a series of reprints of some of the newspaper’s most historic and interesting front pages.

I’m sure as the year goes on we’ll come up with some other fun ideas — or maybe one of you will. Last year, we had a great time creating the Boise 150 icons series and then turning it into a book. We did it with lots of help from you, our readers. A big thank you for that help — and I’m counting on you to help us celebrate our 150th birthday.

Vicki S. Gowler is editor and vice president of the Idaho Statesman. She can be reached at vgowler@idahostatesman.com or (208) 377-6403.

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