Daily Herald's heritage is one of change
Editor's note: This article is part of a special series celebrating National Newspaper Week Oct. 6-12. The Week was designated in 1940 as a way to recognize the importance of newspapers to their communities
The Daily Herald dates to 1872, emerging to some degree from the embers of the Great Chicago Fire a year earlier.
The rebuilding from that calamity sent large numbers of Chicago residents looking for safer locations outside the city limits, and when they arrived here, they needed a source of information about their own communities, their own friends and neighbors.
An entrepreneur named G.E. Earle sought to fill that need with the Cook County Herald, but in a region where people often lived miles away from each other with limited transportation options, that was by no means an easy venture. The paper changed names and hands twice before Hosea C. Paddock stepped in with $175 in 1889 and bought what was then known as the Palatine Enterprise.
Paddock set out from the beginning to distinguish his weekly newspaper from the impersonal daily giants downtown.
Smudged black-and-white advertisements for carriages, dry goods, saddles, horse blankets and buffalo robes shared space on his front pages with editorials urging residents to stay loyal to local merchants.
As editor, reporter, advertising salesman and production staff, Paddock traveled the countryside in his carriage trolling for news and subscribers, sometimes offering papers and advertising for oats, apples, chickens and other produce.
He handed the paper over to his sons Stuart and Charlie in 1920, who in 1926 created the Arlington Heights Herald and established a model for customized community news coverage that remains a hallmark of the Daily Herald today. Into the 1940s, '50s and beyond, editions of the Herald would be started in town after town northwest of the city.
As the suburbs grew into vibrant bedroom communities, the craving for local news deepened and the Herald expanded in a race to keep pace, first going to triweekly editions in 1967 with a circulation of just more than 31,000 -- three times the circulation of 1947 -- and then to five-day publication two years later.
To a great extent the driving credo of the paper in those days was change or die. The metro papers were an ever-present threat, and the challenge for the Herald, as Paddock described it in 1958, was to provide something the metros could not.
When Paddock's son Stuart Jr. took over in the 1960s with his brother Robert and sister Marge, it wasn't just the public that noticed the paper. The metropolitan papers, too, discovered the burgeoning interest in suburban news and launched a series of assaults on the comparatively tiny Herald.
One of the most threatening was the establishment of the Day papers by the Sun-Times, speeding the Herald's decision to become a daily newspaper and prompting Stuart Paddock Jr. to respond to simmering rumors about the Daily Herald's fate with a full-page advertisement declaring, "We are not for sale."
Over the course of the next two decades, the paper continued to pursue a strategy of expansion. To compete effectively, the paper adopted a unique strategy blending national and international news with heavily customized local editions.
Circulation throughout that time exploded, positioning the Daily Herald as the state's third-largest daily in 1990.
Today, that model continues to evolve, but the mission of the newspaper and its local-news strategy are little altered. If anything, the "Big Picture. Local Focus" approach of the newspaper has shifted to a renewed commitment to coverage of issues and events that are distinctly suburban, news that no other source -- print or electronic -- has the resources, background or interest to match.