From the Editor

On 70th anniversary, Delaware State News cherishes community service, support


DOVER — The Delaware State News celebrates its 70th anniversary as the first daily newspaper in the capital of the First State on Thursday.

It is the longevity and legacy of community service that we will toast.

The Delaware State News published its first daily edition Sept. 14, 1953.

“To become a proper medium of information for the people in the Delaware counties of Kent and Sussex and the nearby Maryland counties — we will need your help,” founder Jack Smyth wrote in his first column in the paper.

“As readers, you will, to a great extent, be able to make this your own community newspaper.”

The same holds true today.

What started in Dover has evolved into what is now Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA, with news operations in Delaware, Maryland, Arizona and Florida.

In the face of cynics, Jack Smyth, who died in 1996, pressed on with his dream of making the daily successful.

“He had a remarkable spirit,” said his son, Joe Smyth. “He thought he could face anything and make something good out of it. He was just a very optimistic guy.”

After the elder Smyth’s retirement in 1969, Joe Smyth led the company through a transition from a family-owned enterprise to a unique company which positions us well — for today and the future.

Joe Smyth, now retired and in his 80s, served as CEO from 1969 to 2014. He remains a champion of community newspapers and public discussion.

Reflecting on our past, Joe points to three decisions that give us a solid foundation.

He wrote in 2020:

Our little company was one of the pioneers of non-profit ownership of newspapers. Fifty years ago, we made a few decisions that were, in retrospect, pretty unusual.

• To protect their independence, safeguard their mission, and ensure their survival, we gave ownership of our newspapers to a non-profit journalistic trust.

• To extend the First Amendment to the grassroots, we gave our opinion pages to the citizens of our communities.

• To support our communities, we gave a mission of community service to our newspapers and a mission of purposeful neutrality to our newsrooms.

Could newspapers everywhere — non-profit or for profit, print or digital — regain public trust and earn the support of their communities by following the same principles that have guided us: ownership committed to community service, editors who facilitate the community’s civil discussion of public issues instead of dominating it, and newsrooms that report the news with purposeful neutrality?

Indeed, Independent has a story of survival in a stressed newspaper industry.

The first bulleted point above means that the trust ensures profits are put back into our journalistic mission.

In other words, we do not have stockholders, and no one gets dividends.

It allows us to remain independent as journalists.

It allows us to have lively, civil discussions of local issues on our opinion pages.

It allows us to have citizens turn to us to share news about the events, opportunities and successes in their communities.

“What we’re talking about is engaging readers,” said Mr. Smyth. “That’s one of the keys to survival of community newspapers.”


In a time when so many newspapers have closed across the country, we will press on  a mix of print publication days and e-newspapers. The latter will soon be seven days a week.

Many readers have already made a transition from print to reading content at e-newspapers.

We’re excited to announce the Daily State News will be published as an e-newspaper seven days a week, starting in October.

Readers can now get our all-access digital subscription for $5 per month.

As more readers go digital, we will see big changes in our operating costs, particularly savings in paper and delivery.

“We’ll be able to plow that into better content and more engagement with our readers, and I think that will be the salvation of the industry,” Mr. Smyth said Thursday in a call from his home in Arizona.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “We’ve been through a period where we have seen thousands of newspapers disappear around the country, and I think we’re right in the beginning of a revival now.”


The Delaware State News has been practicing purposeful neutrality for decades.
Mr. Smyth, who in retirement has been involved in the “No Labels” initiative, said the value is more important now than ever.

“What’s happened in Delaware is happening everywhere,” he said. “Too many citizens have become polarized by agenda-driven media posing as journalists and by politicians who demonize their opponents instead of working for the good of the nation.

“It just so happens that the values INI stands for are precisely what the nation most needs right now.”

As the elder Smyth wrote on Sept. 14, 1953, our future depends on our readers.
“People need nonpartisan news instead of propaganda,” said his son, Joe. “They need safe places to have civil discussions about public issues without being viciously attacked by those who disagree. And they need a sense of community. That’s what we can give them. And it’s actually easier to do all of these things at the community level, where people know and care about one another.

“Communities can keep our democracy healthy, and they can show the nation how it’s done. And what can people do? They can support those values in their own communities.”

Jack Smyth died in 1996, but his spirit and work live on.

As we reflect on 70 years of community journalism, all of us appreciate his vision and determination.

“The first doubts concerning our survival have disappeared,” Jack Smyth wrote in a 1954 column. “The State News is being welcomed as a friend, bringing news, features, and entertainment into a constantly growing number of homes.
“We would be less than honest if we didn’t admit a feeling of pride and achievement on this — our first anniversary as a daily newspaper. This is an era when high costs are causing many bigger papers to cease operations.

“But with our pride, there is an even deeper feeling of humility. Much credit for our success this first year must go to those people, who with faith in this area and this publication, worked so hard and unselfishly.”

As for the younger Smyth, he looks back on the points in his 2020 commentary -- "Brighter day ahead for local journalism? and thinks about what it means with a new generation leading the news operations.

“I’ll die happy if it remains Independent Newsmedia’s legacy,” he said.

Read the history of the Delaware State News
in this 2013 special section.  Learn why
the phrase "Continued Tomorrow"
means so much to the Delaware State News.

Andrew West is editor-in-chief of the Delaware State News. His first day in the
State News office was Sept. 14, 1990 -- the 37th anniversary of the newspaper.

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.