The long history of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The 1980 book “Adventures in Alaska Journalism since 1903” relates that itinerant newspaper man, George M. Hill, freighted a small press from Dawson to Fairbanks in 1903. Once in Fairbanks he established the Weekly Fairbanks News, the first newspaper in town.
In 1904 he sold the paper to R.J. McChesney. Over the next two years McChesney expanded publication to semi-weekly and then daily (except Sunday).
Fairbanks was a boom town, and by 1906 there were five competing newspapers. E.T. Barnette bought the paper, then called the Fairbanks Daily News, that year, just in time for the Great 1906 fire to destroy his printing press (as well as most of downtown Fairbanks).
Serenditpitously, another newspaper man, William Fentress Thompson (also lately of Dawson), arrived in town with a new press, planning to set up his own paper. Thompson’s friends called him Bill, his co-workers WF. Those on the receiving end of his editorials sometimes called him “Wrong Font,” a play on the editor’s mark “WF,” which means that a word is in the wrong size or font.
Barnette, rather than having a new press freighted in, merged his business with Thompson’s. As part of the merger, Thompson was allowed to publish his morning Tanana Daily Miner— while the Fairbanks Daily News was published in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Barnette and Thompson were soon at odds and Thompson left the operation, printing his Tanana Miner at Chena. Barnette, meanwhile, became embroiled in legal disputes and sold the newspaper in 1908.
Thompson purchased the Daily News in 1909, renaming it the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner — a portmanteau of the names of the Daily News and Thompson’s previous newspaper, the Tanana Miner. Thompson edited the paper for the next 17 years. Along the way he absorbed competing papers and ended up publishing the only newspaper in town.
Thompson died in 1926, and three years later his widow sold the paper to Alaska industrialist Austin E. Lathrop. He built the Lathrop Building in downtown Fairbanks in 1937 and moved News-Miner operations into the basement.
The Daily News played second fiddle to Lathrop’s KFAR radio station, which occupied the Lathrop Building top floor. By the 1940s the newspaper was losing money, and Lathrop brought in Charles Willis Snedden, a newspaper efficiency expert, to diagnose the paper’s problems.
In July 1950 Snedden gave Lathrop his recommendations. Lathrop balked at the estimated cost, but agreed to sell the paper to Snedden. A week later Lathrop was killed in an accident. According to Terrence Cole’s book, “Fighting for the Forty-Ninth Star,”, Snedden feared Lathrop’s death ended the deal, but Lathrop’s company, strapped for cash, went through with the sale.
Over the next few decades, Snedden gradually upgraded the News-Miner’s publishing operation. In 1953, he built a two-story building adjacent to the Lathrop Building to house a rotary printing press, allowing the paper to print in full-color.
In 1965 a large one-story building was erected across the Chena River (at the paper’s present location) to house all the newspaper’s operations. In the early 1970s a second story was added. The building as it is now configured (shown in the drawing) is finished with cast concrete panels, with elements of the “brutalist” style, which eschews decorative design and rather, highlights raw, unfinished surfaces.
In 1992, three years after Snedden’s death, the newspaper was sold to Dean Singleton and Richard Scudder, co-founders of the MediaNews Group newspaper chain.
In 2015 it was announced that the News-Miner was for sale. It was purchased in 2016 by the Helen E. Snedden Foundation, a Fairbanks-based nonprofit formed by the wife of the newspaper’s former publisher, Charles W. Snedden. This returned the paper to local ownership, and the foundation continues to publish the oldest continuously operating daily in Alaska.
- “100 Years.” In Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 9-19-2003
- “Adventures in Alaska Journalism since 1903.” Paul Solka, Jr. & Art Bremer. Commercial Printing. 1980
- “Fairbanks Daily News-Miner sold to Snedden Foundation.” Rod Boyce. In “Fairbansk Daily News-Miner.” 12-21-2015
- “Fighting for the Forty-Ninth Star: C.W. Snedden and the Crusade for Alaska Statehood. Terrence Cole. University of Alaska Foundation. 2010