150 Years of News

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Suffolk looked a lot different in 1873. Roads were narrow and muddy, buildings were made mostly of wood, and information was obtained via word-of-mouth or local newspapers. 

In 1873, Dr. Thomas E. Cropper started a newsletter-style newspaper to distribute the news of his Methodist church. The paper was called the Suffolk Herald. It was published weekly and ran out of a small office on Washington Square. This small church newspaper would grow with the city of Suffolk to be the main newspaper and later the only newspaper to cover Suffolk news. 

On March 23, 1923, the Suffolk News began publishing for the first time as the first modern-day daily newspaper in Suffolk. The paper was published every afternoon except Sunday.

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A few years later, in 1927, the News bought out the Herald, and the Suffolk News-Herald was the result.

The News-Herald has provided Suffolk accurate, timely community news for 150 years. The city is different, much bigger and busier. The process of getting, publishing, and reading the news has also changed greatly. 

The archives of the Suffolk News-Herald tell the story of Suffolk. 

“For a century and a half, the Suffolk-News Herald and its predecessors have kept Suffolk citizens informed of events of interest and importance to our community,” said Kermit Hobbs, Suffolk historian. “Looking back through the archives of past issues, we can see what life was like for the people who made our city what it is today.”

The News-Herald has been an advocate for the community from the start. 

In late December 1934, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, and food was in short supply nationwide. In Suffolk, things were no better. Upon hearing about the inability of churches and other local charities to meet the demand of hungry children in the city at Christmastime, the News-Herald ran a front-page editorial in the Dec. 18 edition. 

It was an urgent call for the citizens of Suffolk to help. By the next day, a committee was formed, and money had started to flow into what was originally called the Empty Stocking Fund. The name Cheer Fund was coined that second day. By Christmas Eve, 1934, $501 had been raised, and the Cheer Fund was created. These days, this fund created by the News-Herald is its own nonprofit and each year, it collects roughly $40,000 to buy toys for children in need.

In a December 1934 editorial, the News-Herald expressed the dire need to make sure no family in Suffolk went hungry on Christmas.

“It would be nothing short of a disgrace to have it said there were hungry homes in Suffolk on this festal day,” the editorial said. “We will not believe that Suffolk, wealthy, kindly and generous, will permit such a state of affairs to exist once they know the facts as herein set forth. This is an opportunity for real service to the underprivileged citizens of the city. The responsibility rests upon all in proportion to the ability of each donor to subscribe. Donations to the empty stocking fund will be acknowledged daily through these columns. In the name of the Christ child, this appeal is made to a public that will close neither its heart nor its purse in the face of this emergency.”

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As in the past, today, the Suffolk News-Herald continues its mission to provide the community of Suffolk with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. 

Boone Newsmedia president and former News-Herald publisher Steve Stewart explains, “In a time when misinformation on social media is rampant, newspapers and their websites are more important than ever as a source of factual information about the community, especially the actions of elected and appointed leadership. Studies have shown that communities with active newspapers doing their job as the Fourth Estate have better, more efficient, more transparent governance.”

As a hyperlocal community newspaper, the Suffolk News-Herald focuses solely on the happenings of Suffolk. 

At the heart of the newspaper is the community of Suffolk. News is published with the purpose of keeping the community informed and engaged in the happenings in all corners of the city.

“The Suffolk News-Herald provides an invaluable service to our citizens,” Mayor Mike Duman said. “The paper is a great resource for residents who want to become more active in the community and learn more about community events. The Suffolk News-Herald assists our citizens in making informed decisions regarding local government by providing accurate, trustworthy information and dispelling misinformation. The newspaper also benefits our local businesses. Small business owners can connect with Suffolk residents by providing affordable and effective advertising space. The ability to promote their businesses will create jobs and strengthen our local economy.”

One example of fast, accurate news found in the history of the News-Herald occurred in a time when news of world events traveled much slower. 

On June 6, 1944, D-Day had arrived. The Suffolk News-Herald editor was among the first to get news of the invasion. According to an account published in the paper, “The News-Herald editor, Lyman G. Barrett, was the first in Suffolk and Nansemond County to receive the news of the liberation landings in France this morning. The Associated Press in Richmond called him at about 3:45 a.m., and within a few minutes, he had reached the newspaper office, had turned on the teletype machines and was watching the developments. The official communication from General Dwight D. Eisenhower had reached America at 3:32 a.m. So the News-Herald knew of the momentous event within 13 minutes of the original news flash.” That was lightning speed for 1944.

The future of community newspapers is sure to look different from it does today, just as today’s newspapers look much different from what they did 150 years ago. What won’t change is the need for accurate, trustworthy local news. 

“Excellent journalism will always be the cornerstone of our service to the community. We expect the printed newspaper to continue for many years, even as digital delivery of the news grows in importance,” Stewart said. “We cannot change the way people prefer to consume news. Many in our community still want to hold the paper in their hands. Others want to receive it digitally, whether on a smartphone, tablet or computer. We have an obligation to both.” 

That obligation and the quality news that the Suffolk News-Herald has provided for a century and a half will continue for as long as Suffolk has a community invested in knowing what is happening.

“The Suffolk News-Herald serves as a reliable news source, connecting neighbors and keeping them informed about important issues, local events and community updates. Reading the Suffolk News-Herald not only fosters a sense of community but also supports a long-standing small business that has been a pillar of the local community for 150 years,” said Ed Pugh, Suffolk News-Herald editor. “By subscribing to and reading the paper, residents not only stay connected with their town but also contribute to the sustainability of this small business, ensuring that it continues to serve the community for years to come. The News-Herald is the community’s paper. If something is happening in your neighborhood, church or school, let us know. If there are topics you, as a Suffolkian, want to read about, send us an email at news@suffolknewsherald.com.”