Paper Chase

Texas’ dwindling number of daily newspapers is a vivid reminder that all things must eventually pass. Once upon a time, before TV and the digital age overtook them, the printed versions of daily newspapers were the undisputed kings of all media.

There were the nationally famous ones that everyone read—The New York Times and The Wall St. Journal come to mind. But deeper in the heart of this country, there were thousands of lesser known, more locally based newspapers that served the populations of countless smaller cities and towns, keeping them up-to-date and informed on national and local news and everything in between.

Especially with the coming of digital media, a lot of these traditional newspapers have folded their tents. Things are changing so rapidly, in fact, that even now newspaper lovers are becoming wistful about the medium, viewing it as something of a once-mighty but now antiquated means of communication whose best days are behind it.

In Texas, some of the once-powerful dailies that have gone out of print have become important artifacts of the state’s history, vivid reminders of just how formidable daily newspapers once were.

One of the most famous among them, the Dallas Times Herald first rolled off the presses in 1888 and for 103 years thereafter served as one of Texas’ most revered sources of afternoon news. Along the way, it racked up a roomful of accolades, not least among them three Pulitzers and a couple of George Polk Awards for excellence in local and regional reporting. The last edition of the Dallas Times Herald hit the streets Dec. 9, 1991.

In the West Texas town of El Paso, the El Paso Herald-Post was another afternoon daily that served the more conservative interests of that community for well over a century. The paper’s history was mingled with the coming of the railroad: Its original publishers decided to found the paper in 1881, as they foresaw enormous population growth in El Paso once the Southern Pacific Railroad reached the city, and they were right.

Other bygone Texas dailies share as much in the history they helped create. From 1921 and throughout a half-century thereafter, the Fort Worth Press offered its readers, as it advertised, “pep, punch and personality.”

And in Houston, the Houston Post was founded in 1880 and survived for 115 years, at which time its facilities were purchased and merged into those of the still successful Houston Chronicle, which, measured by Sunday circulation, is the third-largest newspaper in the United States.

Did You Know?

Throughout the decades, Texas’ now-defunct newspapers employed a lot of famous writers and journalists. In 1895, for example, the Houston Post hired William Sidney Porter (later to become well-known as a short-story writer using the pseudonym O. Henry), who worked there for a year. In an odd turn of events, Porter was fired from the newspaper when he was indicted for embezzling from his former employer, an Austin bank!

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