For nearly eight decades, National Newspaper Week has celebrated the positive impact of newspapers on their communities large and small.
Theme for the 2019 observance set Oct. 6 - 12 is "Think F1rst - Know Your Five Freedoms," based on the national program that launched Aug. 1 to foster better understanding of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Materials for NNW are available for download at www.nationalnewspaperweek.com, according to the chairman this year's NNW Committee, Mark Maassen, executive director Missouri Press Association.
In addition to public service announcement ads featuring both the Think F1rst and National Newspaper Week messages, the free material includes columns, editorial cartoons and a crossword puzzle. Since the principle is timeless, the materials, new and archived, remain on the website and accessible year-round as a continuing resource.
Participants are encouraged publish their own editorials and create their own house ads and other graphics to reinforce the importance of newspapers to communities. Editorials could be about the newspaper’s government watchdog role, coverage of community events, publication of timely public notices and other topics.
As part of National Newspaper Week, Saturday, Oct. 12, is designated Newspaper Carrier Day, a salute to the hundreds of thousands of newspaper carriers who deliver the news to Americans every week. The 2019 Newspaper Carrier Day public service ad developed by the National Media Alliance is also available at www.nationalnewspaperweek.com.
National Newspaper Week was founded in 1939 by Newspaper Association Managers and the group continues to sponsor the annual observance.
National Newspaper Week came about as the result of an earlier "war" between a presidential administration and the national press. In an editorial for the 1959 NNW observance, Edwin A. Bemis, one of the NNW founders, wrote that it "came into being as a concrete answer to the effort of the National Recovery Administration under the Blue Eagle to license newspapers under the old NRA Code. Newspaper association leaders had to spend six hot weeks in Washington in the summer of 1933 to convince the president that such a licensed code could not be signed by the newspapers of the United States without a tangible reference to the First Amendment of the Constitution.
"This seemed to be the culmination of an apparent campaign by persons in high places to vilify the press as 'venal,' 'capitalistic' and 'controlled from the counting houses'," Bemis wrote.
Texas Press Association officers and member publishers were active in working with President Franklin Roosevelt and the National Recovery Administration in developing the Publishers and Printers Code under the Blue Eagle program, according to articles published in the Texas Press Messenger at the time.
In 1933, thousands of codes were negotiated with leaders of the nation's industries. The NRA won "agreements" from almost every major industry in the nation. The most important provisions of those codes were anti-deflationary price levels and agreements on employment and production. The "voluntary" codes set minimum wages for each industry and universal employment practices such as 8-hour work days, 35- to 45-hour work weeks and the prohibition of child labor. Businesses "signing the codes" were issued Blue Eagle posters to place in their windows. Consumers were advised to only do business with establishments that displayed the posters.
For some industries, the codes were to be administered at the state level by trade associations. TPA was in line to become administrator of the Publishers and Printers Code in Texas, along with receiving some of the proceeds of proposed taxes to fund the program.
In September 1933, the Messenger reported that after lengthy negotiations during the long hot summer Mr. Bemis referred to, the delegation headed by the National Editorial Association (later NNA) won some hard-fought substitutions to the code - especially for newspapers in towns of populations under 5,000, including lower minimum wages, longer work weeks for reporters and the ability to hire able-bodied youths between the ages of 14 and 16.
Also included in the substitutions was this important provision:
"Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as an abridgment of the freedom of the press as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."
Across the country, as many as 500 lawsuits and other court actions ensued as the NRA attempted to enforce the codes through the courts and assess fines for violations.
In 1935, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, the Supreme Court held the mandatory codes section of NIRA unconstitutional because it attempted to regulate commerce that was not interstate, and that the codes represented an unacceptable delegation of power from the legislature to the executive branch. The ruling was one of a series between January 1935 and January 1936 overturning some parts of New Deal legislation as "price and wage fixing."
(Wage and hour laws and child labor laws were later established by Congress.)
During his first two terms, Roosevelt had little use for and not much nice to say about the press. He actively promoted the radio industry by choosing that medium for his Fireside chats. There was speculation at the time that radio companies were more willing to broadcast the president's side of issues exclusively because their livelihoods depended on licenses issued by the Federal Communications Commission, which also regulated the telegraph industry.
On reason.com, a history of Roosevelt's "war" with the press compares those days with current times. To read it, click here.