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The Pantagraph



Pantagraph Building
The Pantagraph building in Bloomington was a prominent local landmark, proof
that the information business could be a lucrative one.

Arlan Miller
Gridley High School, Gridley

Since the beginning of history, people have always wanted to be informed. They have developed countless methods of communication, and as technology has changed, new methods have been found to replace the old ones. However, some forms, such as newspapers, have simply improved and become more efficient with time. An example is the Pantagraph of Bloomington, Illinois. For more than 150 years, that daily newspaper has been providing the people of central Illinois with important information and offering them a glimpse of the outside world.

The Pantagraph dates to 1837 when Jesse W. Fell began publication of the Bloomington Observer, a paper that existed for only two years. In 1845, after a

48 ILLINOIS HISTORY / MARCH 1993


six-year lapse, R. B. Mitchell started up the McLean Register and that paper eventually became the Pantagraph in 1853. The name Pantagraph was picked by Charles P. Meriman, Mitchell's financial backer. It is derived from the Greek words meaning "write all things."

Mitchell was a descendant of Fell, as would be all of the publishers and owners of the paper until 1980. At that time, the paper came under the guidance of the de Young family from San Francisco. For a long time two daily newspapers were produced in Bloomington, the Bulletin and the Pantagraph. The Bulletin was a Democratic paper, while the Pantagraph took a Republican slant. In 1927 the Pantagraph purchased the Bulletin and adopted an independent stance that it has retained through today. With that merger, the Pantagraph underwent its final changes and became what it is today.

Because it is the only major newspaper in McLean County, the Pantagraph has remained independent in political affairs. As a consequence, the paper is slow to endorse candidates and issues, which has prompted some criticism. For example, when the paper failed to support Adlai E. Stevenson II when he ran for President in 1952, many people thought it opposed him. The paper in fact did not support anyone in that election. Stevenson said that he understood and respected the editors' decision. When the paper did support him in 1956, Stevenson became the first Democrat that the Pantagraph had ever supported for national office. Since then the paper has supported others, such as Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Hubert Humphrey in 1968.

When Adlai E. Stevenson II ran for president in 1952 the Pantagraph chose not to endorse him. Many were surprised since the Stevensons were a local family and Stevenson's great-grandfather, William 0. Davis, had owned the newspaper at one time.
Adlai E. Stevenson II
The Pantagraph has been a pioneering and aggressive newspaper. It was the first paper to employ a full-time farm editor, and it remains a leader today in agricultural journalism. It was also a pioneer in such things as the elimination of continued news stories and the use of news pictures. It is a policy of the paper to try to limit all news stories to only one page. The editors feel that this is more convenient for the reader. To better illustrate their stories, the Pantagraph has been using pictures of some type since 1864, but it did not include them on the front page until April 20, 1927. On that day the front page of the paper was covered with pictures of tornado damage in Cornland, Illinois. The editors broke their policy because the wire service was down and they were having trouble finding something to cover the front page. Since then, the paper has incorporated pictures into all aspects of its design and has a tough time doing without them.

Due to its bold and pioneering attitude, the Pantagraph has received many awards and recognitions. In 1966 United Press International gave the paper an award of excellence for its coverage of the sudden death of Adlai E. Stevenson II. In another case, the Inland Daily Press Association gave the Pantagraph a Community Service Award for the work the newspaper did in cooperation with the University of Illinois Extension Service in a pilot project of community self-analysis and self-help. In addition to these and other awards, the paper can boast of noteworthy newsroom alumni, including Adlai E. Stevenson II; Fred Young, a nationally known sports writer; and David Broder, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist and author.

With ingenuity and a brilliant staff, the Pantagraph has developed into an admirable newspaper of great quality. It has served its community well and has kept its recipients in tune with the world. It has adjusted to numerous changes within the world of communications and has remained a valuable source of information.[From Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State; Don Munson, The Illustrated History of McLean County; Harold Sinclair, The Daily Pantagraph 1846-1946, 1976; and H. Clay Tate, The Way It Was in McLean County, 1972.]

ILLINOIS HISTORY / MARCH 1993 49


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