Washington’s local newspaper has not always been known as the Daily News.
The Washington Daily News had its beginning in 1872 as the Washington Gazette. The name was changed in 1886 to the Evening Messenger when it was bought by J.A. Arthur and his son.
In 1907, the paper was sold for a second time and renamed the Daily Messenger. It wasn’t until a fourth sale in 1913 that it was renamed the Washington Daily News.
Ashley Brown Futrell began working at the Daily News on Nov. 15, 1949, just 10 days before his marriage to Rachel Fox. Futrell came to work with an understanding that he would be allowed to manage the company after its owner retired at age 65. However, Futrell said, the owner passed away from a heart attack a year and half before the man’s 65th birthday.
“We had an option on the building that helped, and we had just put in a new plate room for making plates and a new press,” Futrell said in an interview. “Nothing was paid for, and we didn’t have any money.”
“Mr. Ross was the president of the Bank of Washington, right here down the street, and I called him up. He didn’t like talking on the phone — he was 80 years old — but he walked around here and said, ‘You have done well here. We will finance anything you want on your signature.’
“He gave us 14 years to pay it off, and I paid it off in seven.”
Before Futrell took over, the paper had been printed on an eight-page flat press which could produce about 1,500 pages per hour.
The total number of printed copies topped 13,000 in the mid 1990s before dropping off to around 10,000 a couple of years later.
But it was local coverage that brought the Daily News its highest honor.
Big prize on the Pamlico
The Friday, April 13, 1990 edition of the Daily News stated “Pulitzer on the Pamlico!” It is one of only a few instances in the newspaper’s history that an exclamation point has been used in a headline.
“The Voice of the Pamlico” as the newspaper has been deemed, won the nation’s top journalism award for Meritorious Public Service. It was the fourth such award in the state but the first by the Daily News, which remains the smallest daily newspaper to win the accolade in the Pulitzer competition.
The award came in recognition of a series of articles written by Mike Voss and Betty Gray on the percentage of cancer-causing chemicals in the city’s water supply. The series ultimately sparked changes in the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory requirements for smaller communities.
On Aug. 21, 1990, the Daily News launched its first full-color edition. Three graphics dotted the top of the page, and one large photo dominated the rest of the front. Color was used sparingly until 1995.
Sept. 30, 1991 saw the Daily News make a switch to a daily paper with morning delivery. The Saturday edition had been delivered in the morning for some time before the switch.
The company went through a period during which it did not print on Mondays, then it switched to not printing on Saturdays. The Daily News did not publish a Sunday edition during World War II.
As plans developed to make the transition from an afternoon paper to a morning paper, the Futrells decided to expand the Daily News to a seven-day-a-week publication. The newspaper now publishes daily [Tuesday through Sunday except Christmas] and it has persevered through several hurricanes, floods and snowstorms.