A story intertwined: The Northeast and its News

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Founded in 1932 in a small office at 102 South Brighton by Matthew Orr, The Northeast News has been a staple in Northeast Kansas City life for nearly 90 years.

Since its inaugural issue, the paper, according to its front page flag, has been dedicated to the upbuilding of the North and East Communities, “with a circulation greater than the circulation of any other individually owned Newspaper in Kansas City.”

From day one, the paper has been dedicated to building community partnerships as a tool for success, as noted by another feature box in the flag from an October 29, 1936 edition that notes: “The Northeast News is your paper. Co-operation means mutual success.”

Publication of the paper continued through the WWII years with news of area soldiers fighting in both the European and Pacific theaters of the war, but on a smaller scale due to the rationing of raw materials for the war effort. What was a 16-page “broadsheet” style newspaper in 1936 became an eight-page “tab” size newspaper, comparable to the size of a large magazine. After the war the paper returned to its original “broadsheet” roots.

In the mid 1950’s ownership of the paper transferred to Tom Patton and Leron Hill. In the early 1960’s, they moved the offices to a newly constructed commercial building at 3615 St. John. A slow metamorphosis was taking place as advertisements began to overtake the front page of the paper. However, news content was still the main feature of the weekly paper, delivered weekly to over 15,000 homes in Northeast.

In 1975 Patton sold the paper to Terry and Mary Brock. The Brocks moved the publication from its space on St. John Ave. to offices at 6612 Independence Ave. for a short period of time, then to a storefront at 4603 St. John Ave. There, The Northeast News would transition from community news source to a “shopper” style paper that contained paid church notices and classified ads for the next 23 years. The newspaper that billed itself as the “Voice of Northeast” had dimmed considerably.

That changed on July 1, 1998, when community-minded News Dog Michael Bushnell and wife Chris Adams turned the faded knob of the storefront newsroom at 4603 St. John Ave. and a new era in community news was born. Back then, The Northeast News was devoid of relevant news and was dedicated to advertorial copy that had more to do with its bank of advertisers than it did community journalism. The change was almost immediate with Bushnell’s first editor Norman Mason and his faithful sidekick and photo editor, Brad Finch. The new Northeast News was off and running.

Bushnell got his start providing news to the Northeast through the Northeast Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Citizen newsletter, which filled the gap in coverage for the historic neighborhood.

Ads slowly began disappearing from the front page and relevant news content began replacing the “puff pieces.” A Community Calendar that listed free community events was added, as was the weekly Historic Postcard column that featured an antique postcard from the collection of Publisher Bushnell. That column has been the catalyst for two historic postcard books published by “The Northeast News” and numerous invitations to collaborate on various local history initiatives in Kansas City and Jackson County.

In 1999 The Northeast News joined the Missouri Press Association, an association of over 150 daily and weekly newspapers across the state of Missouri. Each year the Association hosts two competitions that allow member newspapers to show off their best editorial and advertising work. Since that time, The Northeast News has been honored with a plethora of awards for excellence in journalism and advertising.

As many small papers struggled to transition to digital, The Northeast News created a website in 2009, and by 2010 had grown a social media following in the thousands. Today, the Northeast News has a strong Facebook community, reaching 56,000 last week alone, far beyond Northeast.

The Northeast News is a regular contributor to the Missouri Valley Room and the Kansas City Museum, both of whom recognize the paper’s essential work in preserving the history of Northeast and Kansas City as a whole.

Through the years, the Northeast News has gone above and beyond the expectations of a media company, co-sponsoring cleanups and providing dumpsters to neighborhoods, hosting forums for local elections, and organizing and contributing to a memorial for beloved fallen firefighters who dedicated their lives to this community.

In 2020 as part of the Press Association’s Advertising and Marketing Executives awards, The Northeast News secured first place awards for Best Ad Series, Best Ad Campaign and Best Newspaper Produced Insert, along with a Best in Show award for community weeklies, over a 150 newspaper field.

Topping those 2020 numbers would be a challenge given the global pandemic that has gripped the country and city for over a year, but once again, The Northeast News team earned five first place awards for marketing and advertising. While those numbers are impressive, the ongoing pandemic and recently losing the support of key accounts have put the award winning community voice of Historic Northeast in danger of closing. While permanent closure is not imminent, additional revenue is needed in order for this community journalism source to continue the vital work of publishing micro-focused news stories that directly impact our ever changing community.

Community journalism is a vital key to the quality of life in any given community, in this case Historic Northeast Kansas City. We continue to publish news and information that by and large go unnoticed by what would be termed “mainstream media” outlets who chase police and fire scanners and operate under the mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Something we ask ourselves daily here in the offices of the House of News is, “If not us, then who?”

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