From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors will be welcomed to visit the Banner’s offices at 1505 25th St., tour the facility that opened in January 1970, and share in refreshments, conversation and fellowship with the newspaper’s staff.
Stephen Crass, longtime Banner publisher, scheduled Friday’s event at “prime time” because he wants visitors to personally view the production work involved in publishing a daily newspaper. This includes seeing what happens in the newsroom, watching as the composing department puts the finishing touches on the day’s news pages and viewing the press as it rolls out Friday’s edition.
“Newspaper events like this don’t always occur during ‘deadline’; that is, the hours of the morning when our newsroom and composing teams are actually putting together that day’s edition,” Crass said. “Also, these public events don’t always allow for an up-close and personal look at the press in operation.”
He added, “We have scheduled Friday’s Open House during these hours because we want to give our community visitors an inside look at how their community newspaper is put together.”
Although most of the newsroom writing for Friday’s edition will have been completed by the start of the Open House, the department will still be filled with activity and staff will be on hand to meet and greet visitors. Production in the composing department will still be in full swing. And, provided the teams make their deadlines, the press should be rolling by about 11:30 a.m.
From 1854 to 2014, the Banner has served as the longest-running newspaper in Cleveland and Bradley County. It all started on May 1, 1854, when a colorful and aspiring journalist named Robert McNelley founded the original Cleveland Banner and served as its first publisher. McNelley once described himself as “... the Banner Man, white hat, yaller britches and all,” during a visit to Polk County in 1867.
According to historical documents, McNelley stood out in any crowd, not just due to his bright clothing but because he stood 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Born in Blount County on May 10, 1829, he moved to Athens at age 6. An orphan, he had little chance to attend school, according to an article published in the Banner in 1899.
McNelley learned the printing business under John W. Brazeale, publisher of the Athens Courier, the newspaper for which McNelley served as editor by 1848. He learned the business and acquired an education while working in Athens.
McNelley moved to Cleveland in 1854 to establish the original Banner newspaper.
Since that time — like any newspaper — the Banner has evolved in look, style and operation. But it remains the same community newspaper that McNelley envisioned 160 years ago.
Crass welcomed area residents, community leaders, government officials, politicians, nonprofit organizations, church representatives and all others — including readers and advertisers, past and present — to Friday’s Open House festivities.
“The residents of Cleveland and Bradley County, whether they were born here or relocated here in search of jobs or quality of life, and the business community, have all played a significant hand in shaping the history of the Cleveland Daily Banner,” Crass said. “Without their support, and their loyalty, the Banner could not have enjoyed the longevity that has allowed us to serve this community, and to be an integral part of it.”
He added, “We look forward to Friday. We extend this open invitation to all.”