In 1885, small newspaper publishers had a problem. Just as trusts were monopolizing steel, copper, ship building and other industries, newsprint trusts were hurting smaller newspapers.
The obvious solution was to form an alliance to bargain more effectively with newsprint manufacturers—a long-ago echo of the exemption from antitrust laws publishers are seeking today to wrest better financial and content arrangements with giant digital platforms such as Google and Facebook.
Three Illinois publishers—Robert Mann Woods of the Joliet Republic-Sun, E.A. Nattinger of the Ottawa Times and John W. Fornof of the Streator Free Press—took the initiative to get the alliance started.
So, on May 7, 1885 19 publishers met at the Tremont House in Chicago. They represented Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. They named their alliance the Inland Daily Press Association to reflect their Midwestern membership.
Fast forward, and Inland, which dropped the word “daily” from its name in the late 1980s, has grown to include 1,431 newspaper and industry and university associate members from all 50 states, Canada, and even including a member in Bermuda.
But while the size of Inland has changed over its 134 years, its fundamental mission has not. The through line of Inland history, whether in busts or booms, shows a commitment to practical instruction, mutual support through networking and frequent live and virtual events, research that provides insights—everything, in short, to help members and the industry at large prosper in business and journalism in whatever environment they find themselves.
Consider Inland’s research service. As long ago as 1911, Inland was asking members to report anonymously on what they were spending on newsgathering, production and other business costs, and what they were earning in circulation and advertising. Those surveys became more sophisticated over the decades, and were recognized as the gold standard in cost and revenue benchmarking.
Inland’s Newspaper Industry Compensation Survey is a useful way for newspapers, including non-members, to benchmark their wages and benefits across the industry, and even internally across departments. The Employee Engagement Study monitors workplace morale at individual newspapers or groups, with the intention of identifying possible festering issues beyond the obvious ones such as wages and benefits.
Inland began offering its more formal education workshops and programs in 1978 with “Editing Small Newspapers.” By its count, Inland has educated more than 16,000 newspaper employees through its seminars, workshops, and webinars.
The Inland Press Foundation, which supports these educational efforts, also strives to help develop future newspaper industry leaders. Its Foundation sponsors the Inland Fellowship Program, which pairs minority staffers at member newspapers with industry veterans in a three-year program that includes mentoring and participation in association conferences.
Inland growth exploded through the 1990s, even as storm clouds brought on by new technology began to dot the economic horizon. In 1987, the association had just over 360 members. On the eve of its 2005 Annual Meeting, an industry trade magazine reported it had hit a then-record 956 newspapers.
Through its history, Inland members have returned the association’s loyalty: Most of the 19 newspapers that came together in 1885—or their successor publications—remain active members today.