‘Continued Tomorrow’: Since 1953, Delaware State News keeps promise

Jack Smyth, who launched the daily Delaware State News, is shown in 1967 after the Webbs Lane, Dover, plant was dedicated.

DOVER — Continued Tomorrow.

In haste, those two words were placed on the front page of the first daily edition of the Delaware State News on Sept. 14, 1953.

Printer Ted Fairess, under deadline pressure to finish up the front page, found that he had run out of space for the end of a story about a Kent General Hospital meeting.

He showed city editor Jim Miller the 14 lines of the lead type that would not fit. At that point, they were already hours late and the other seven pages were on the press.

“Save the type,” directed Mr. Miller. “Just put a ‘continued tomorrow’ slug under the story. Wrap it up.”

A daily news operation was born.

And those two words became a lasting promise.

So here we are, 65 years later, stewards of the public trust that Jack Smyth outlined in the first edition.

Mr. Smyth, a Pennsylvania jeweler turned newspaperman, came to Dover with a dream of converting the weekly Delaware State News into the first daily newspaper in Dover.

Delaware, believe it or not, was the last state without a daily newspaper in its capital.

The owner and editor outlined his vision in a column headlined “Our Purpose.”

“Publishing a newspaper is a great responsibility,” wrote Mr. Smyth. “And we are humbly aware that ours is a public trust — not to be violated under any circumstance or consideration.

“This will be an honest newspaper — in every sense of the word. We intend to merit the good faith of our readers by reporting the news truthfully, thoroughly and accurately. There will always be a clear distinction between the impartial news reports and opinion.

“This will be a local newspaper. … Our primary concern will be the news events in the area where we will circulate.

“To become a proper medium of information for the people in Delaware counties of Kent and Sussex and the nearby Maryland counties — we will need your help. As readers, you will, to a great extent, be able to make this your community newspaper.”

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Indeed, it has been ever since.

We have enjoyed great support from our readers and advertisers.

As long as our readers believe in us and support us, we will continue to be part of the fabric of this community, celebrating its successes, questioning its flaws, and opening up its pages to citizens who want to have spirited discussions about public issues.

Mr. Smyth likely never dreamed how much technology would change how we produce newspapers, let alone how Delawareans would be consuming news on paper, laptops, tablets and smartphones in 2018.

It is an amusing thought to know that the 14 lines of type that Mr. Fairess held are close to what people now read a screen at a time on their iPhones.

Even with the evolution we’re experiencing in the way people seek and receive their local news, we have remained true to our roots.

In 1993 on our 40th anniversary, then-publisher Tamra Brittingham wrote, “The devices and methods we use to provide you a strong community newspaper may change through the years. But the commitment to operating this newspaper as a public trust, dedicated to the people’s right to know, has remained a constant.”

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The formula today is fairly simple: We report the news, not our views.

At the bottom of our Opinion page, you can read our pledge.

The second through fourth lines:

•To help our community become a better place to live and work, through our dedication to conscientious journalism.

•To provide the information citizens need to make their own intelligent decisions about public issues.

•To report the news with honesty, accuracy, purposeful neutrality, fairness, objectivity, fearlessness and compassion.

The fifth point relates to our opinion pages and truly makes a stand out, especially in today’s media landscape.

It reads, “To use our opinion pages to facilitate community debate, not to dominate it with our own opinions.”

Concisely, we report the news, not our views.

In the early years of the Delaware State News, there were editorials and opinion pieces written by staff. Sometimes, the staff would even argue with each other in print. But there was always room for readers’ letters to the editor, too.

Today’s opinion pages offer a diverse selection of viewpoints — commentaries, letters or snippets gleaned from social media comments made at delawarestatenews.net or our Facebook page.

A key to its success, we believe, is that the conversation has to be civil.

***

Today, the Delaware State News is the flagship of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA.

We have sister publications and websites in Delaware, Maryland, Florida and Arizona. All of our publications share a unique blend of issue-oriented stories, reader submissions and “refrigerator” news and photos. And, we serve our Delmarva newspapers and outside customers in the region with quality printing on a state-of-the-art press in Dover.

We truly believe in news “of, by and for” the people.

So much of our evolution as a company has been under the leadership of Jack Smyth’s son.

Joe Smyth, who once owned INI and now serves as chairman of our board, wanted to ensure that the company would remain independent and dedicated to the practice of journalism as a public trust, with a commitment to citizen participation, free speech and independent journalism. After years of pursuing this vision, the IRS issued a private ruling in 1991 that allowed him to transfer 100 percent ownership to a new nonprofit holding company.

INI is a normal for-profit company that pays taxes the same as any other for-profit. It does not pay dividends to any individuals or groups, however, since it is 100 percent owned by INI Holdings, Inc., a nonprofit membership corporation. All after-tax profits are reinvested into operations and the company’s journalistic mission.

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We look back at those two words now as a lasting promise even if it was just a deft deadline decision.

But, it speaks volumes about the heart and hustle that has gone with this daily news operation for 65 years now.

And, it also speaks to the sense of humor that Mr. Miller and so many of us have needed from time to time.

Mr. Miller — in his 1978 book “Stop the Press!” — recounted the challenge of that first edition.

A lot went wrong, including countless web breaks and an illegible congratulatory letter from the Dover mayor on Page 1.

“The words represented a tenet of faith that there would indeed be a tomorrow for the new daily, a conclusion not based on the first day’s performance,” Mr. Miller wrote.

Likely in every edition since Sept. 14, 1953, lines that did not fit just fell to the knife.

Without the “continued tomorrow” line, the Kent General story would have ended this way:

“Major equipment purchased” Resuscitator, oxygen tent, institution size lawnmower.”

Said Mr. Miller, “We squeezed in one final cliff-hanging paragraph before the continued line, secure in the belief everyone would want to read on tomorrow.”

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Andrew West, executive editor of the Delaware State News, enjoys talking to the community about the newspaper’s history, its unique approach to journalism, exercising First Amendment rights and more. On Sept. 14, he will be celebrating the 28th anniversary of his first day on the job at the Delaware State News.

Email awest@newszap.com to schedule a presentation for your group.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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