One hundred years ago this week, two brothers with printing experience, George and Fred Naeter, took a riverboat excursion down the Mississippi River to Cape Girardeau. They toured the burgeoning town and immediately fell in love.
When a passer-by told them a good newspaper was needed, they returned to St. Louis and raised money from friends and family. A week later, they purchased one of the town's defunct papers, and on Oct. 3, 1904, they began producing a newspaper that eventually would become the one you're holding in your hands today.
Those early years for the Naeter brothers were filled with challenges. For one, they began their business in the basement of the Old Opera House -- now the N'Orleans Restaurant -- a location from which they would be evicted for making too much noise during performances. Newspaper competition was fierce. And they suffered through the challenges of war and the Depression.
But they quickly established themselves as progressive members of the community, operating their venture under the guiding philosophy "Do good for others." They wrote about this philosophy in an early newspaper editorial, saying, "The Missourian hunts for the good and shuns the bad. Unpleasant news gets a secondary place in these columns. Constructive news is what counts in The Missourian. A desire to see two blades of grass growing where but one grew before. A desire to see beauty mixed with utility, to see pleasure march hand in hand with toil, to see flowers growing where rubbish held sway, to see people enjoying life as they travel the route."
On Oct. 3, 2004, the Southeast Missourian will be kicking off a year-long celebration of the newspaper and our community.
Many events are planned, including a historical retrospective printed in the newspaper and a special exhibit at the Cape Girardeau River Heritage Museum. There will be open houses for the public -- and focus-group invitations to those who want to help us look at how to become a better newspaper for the future. We will be sponsoring special community events and making members of our staff and management team, including myself, available to speak at club meetings and school and university classes.
We are also in the process of planning a block party for the culmination of the centennial year in October 2005. You will be invited to this special event, and you won't want to miss it.
Marking a centennial is a special occasion. It is also humbling. Many people have worked hard and dedicated themselves to producing a quality newspaper over the years. Whether it was the Naeter brothers, my father or Wally Lage, the guiding principle has been the same. We believe a newspaper is a public trust for which we are accountable first of all to you, our readers.
Over the course of the centennial, I will be writing several columns about the philosophy of the newspaper as well as sharing with you some of our future plans. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me directly about how we can become a better newspaper for you.
Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 573-335-6611.