On January 27, 1923, editor Ralph Tennal, publishes the first issue of The Longview News, the Longview community’s first newspaper. Financed by Robert Alexander Long (1850-1934), President of the Long-Bell Lumber Company and founder of Longview, the newspaper is intended to be the independent, unbiased voice of the new community, not a Long-Bell company production. With Associated Press membership, The Longview News grows quickly from a semiweekly to a daily paper and changes its name to The Longview Daily News and then simply to The Daily News. In 1981, the staff of The Daily News will win a Pulitzer Prize for their comprehensive coverage of the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
Planning a Town with a Newspaper
In 1921, the Long-Bell Lumber Company began construction of Longview, the largest planned city to have ever been built entirely with private funds. Its principal function was to support a giant lumber mill that Long-Bell planned to construct on the 14,000-acre townsite. In addition to the physical infrastructure, Robert A. Long, the founder of Longview, knew that a new community needed a social framework in order to develop and grow. He made sure the citizens had a community center, schools, churches, a public library, a hospital, and, especially, a daily newspaper. Some of the buildings Long personally financed and donated to the city; others were provided by Long-Bell.
Long believed that every city required a good newspaper, and Longview would be no exception. Nearby Kelso had two weekly newspapers, the Kelsonian and the Tribune, and Rainier, Oregon, across the Columbia River, published the weekly Rainier Review. Long wanted to establish an independent daily newspaper with membership in the Associated Press (AP) wire service, giving immediate access to important syndicated news stories. His idea was to hire a managing editor, and give him an option to buy the business once it was profitable.
In October 1922, Long applied for AP membership, but the newspaper didn’t yet exist. The paper needed to be published before the AP board would consider his application. The next AP board meeting was scheduled for January 24 1923, giving Long just three months to print the first edition.
Not off the Press
Long hired Ralph Tennal, editor of a weekly Missouri newspaper, for the job. Tennal and his son William came to Washington state and began hunting for printing equipment. They leased a printing press and bought a Model 14 Linotype and other equipment for $12,500. Tennal located his plant in an unpainted, 30 x 80-foot wood-frame building on Baltimore Street in Saint Helens Addition near Lake Sacajawea Park. The temporary structure, heated by two wood stoves, was home to the newspaper for eight months until a brick, Classical Revival-style printing plant was completed at 12th and Broadway in the main business district.
The first issue of The Longview News was supposed to be published on January 23, 1923, but the arrival of the printing press from Oregon had been had been delayed by high water in the Columbia River. The following day, the AP board met in New York and sanctioned Long’s request for membership. The first edition of the semiweekly paper was finally printed on January 27. “This gave The Longview News the distinction of being probably the only newspaper ever to be granted an AP membership before it began publication” (McClelland).
Unable to endure the seemingly endless months of wet Washington winter weather, Tennal resigned his position in March and returned to Missouri. Long hired John M. McClelland Sr. (1885-1981), age 39, an experienced newspaper editor from Little Rock, Arkansas, to replace him. Like Tennal, McClelland was offered the opportunity to purchase the newspaper once it became profitable.
On April 2, 1923, The Longview News began publishing a daily paper. It was renamed The Longview Daily News and then became simply The Daily News. McClelland arrived in Longview on April 16, 1923, to find the city under construction and nowhere to live. He took up residence in the new Chinook Hotel in Kelso and commuted to work in a company-owned Model-T Ford. Under McClelland’s management, the newspaper was self-supporting within one month, with many of the subscribers and much of the advertising business -- a newspaper’s mainstay -- coming from Kelso.
By 1925, The Daily News had over 2,500 subscribers residing in both Longview and Kelso, and the company was operating in the black. McClelland notified Long-Bell he wanted to exercise his option to purchase the business. Because he was short on capital, McClelland partnered with R. A. Long as a private citizen to create the Longview Publishing Company, a holding company which owned and operated the newspaper. Together, the two men owned all the stock, but Long was the major stockholder and controlled the company. In August 1926, The American Cities Magazine declared that The Daily News had a circulation of over 5,000.
When Robert Long died on March 15, 1934, his stock in the Longview Publishing Company went into the family trust. In 1939, McClelland’s son, John M. McClelland Jr. (1915-2010) joined the staff of The Daily News. He became the newspaper’s editor in 1940 and gained control of the Longview Publishing Company in 1947. McClelland Jr., a dedicated newsman, was elected president of the prestigious Society of Professional Journalists for 1950-1951 and became publisher of The Daily News in 1955. In 1971, the McClellands built a modern printing plant at 11th and Douglas Street and relocated the Longview Publishing Company there. It grew to include other small Washington newspapers, such as the Mercer Island Reporter, the Eastside Journal in Bellevue, the South County Journal in Kent, and the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles. The company also published the Washington magazine and even ventured into cable television.
The Natt Era
In 1977, McClelland Jr.'s nephews, John Natt and Ted M. Natt, took over publishing the newspaper. The staff of The Daily News won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for its extensive coverage of the Mount St. Helens eruption on May 18, 1980. To cover the story, they produced some 400 articles in one month. Photographer Roger A. Werth was specifically cited for his spectacular pictures of the historic event.
In 1986, John McClelland Jr. decided to retire, and the family sold all the holdings of the Longview Publishing Company, except The Daily News. The Natt family formed the Westmedia Corporation and purchased the newspaper. Ted Natt became its publisher and editor. As an incentive, 31 percent of The Daily News was sold to the newspaper staff.
In June 1999, Westmedia Corporation sold The Daily News to Howard Publications Inc., a family-owned chain based in Munster, Indiana, that published 15 small to midsize daily newspapers around the country. Although the purchase price was not disclosed, The Daily News was said to be worth at least $25 million. Natt was replaced as publisher, but continued to write a column for the newspaper.
Ted Natt's Death
On Saturday night, August 7, 1999, Ted Natt, age 58, disappeared while flying alone in his small, Sweitzer-300 helicopter from the Long Beach Peninsula (Pacific County), back to his home in Longview (Cowlitz County). Earlier, he had attended a memorial service and dinner for writer William Espy in Oysterville. The U.S. Coast Guard, Washington State Patrol, Civil Air Patrol, and volunteer Search-and-Rescue teams conducted an exhaustive air and ground search from the Long Beach Peninsula, 66 miles up the Columbia River, to Kelso, but found nothing. The search was finally discontinued on August 16. Although the helicopter was equipped with an emergency locator beacon, no signal was ever detected.
On Saturday morning, September 18, 1999, Natt’s body was found in the wreckage of his aircraft by two elk hunters, in a heavily forested area near Bradley Wayside State Park, approximately five miles east of Knappa, Oregon. A Federal Aviation Administration investigator said Natt was apparently flying VFR (visual flight rules), following U.S. Highway 30 in Oregon, along the Columbia River to the Kelso-Longview Airport (Molt Taylor Field), when he was caught in a deadly rainsquall and crashed.
In April 2002, The Daily News was among 16 daily newspapers, with a total circulation of 479,000, that Howard Publications sold to Lee Enterprises Inc. of Davenport, Iowa, for $694 million. With the acquisition, Lee Enterprises became the nation’s fourth largest independent newspaper chain, with a total of 38 daily newspapers in 18 states and a circulation of well over one million.
Today (2008) The Daily News, with a daily circulation of approximately 23,000, continues to cover news in both Longview and Kelso, as well as surrounding counties. The newspaper’s offices are located at 770 11th Avenue in Longview. Peter York is the publisher of The Daily News and Cal FitzSimmons its managing editor. Although initially viewed as a biased Long-Bell company newspaper, founder Robert A. Long steadfastly insisted The Daily News be the independent, unbiased voice of the community, and it has been for 85 years.