The Wichita Eagle is a daily newspaper published in Wichita, Kansas. It is owned by The McClatchy Company, which publishes 31 other newspapers, including The Kansas City Star. It is the largest newspaper in Wichita and the surrounding area.
The Eagle was founded and first edited by Marshall Murdock, and had its inception in the spring of 1872. Its chief competitor, the Beacon, launched in October of that year. Prominent newspaperman and politician Henry J. Allen was publisher of the Beacon for many years, and the two papers competed for 88 years.
In 1960 the Eagle purchased the Beacon. Both newspapers continued to be published, the Eagle in the morning and the Beacon in the evening. In 1973, Ridder Publications bought both newspapers. Ridder and Knight Newspapers merged in 1974 to form Knight Ridder, which combined the two newspapers into The Wichita Eagle-Beacon in 1980. In 1989, the Beacon name was dropped, and the newspaper became The Wichita Eagle.
Introduction of civic journalism
The paper built its national reputation largely under the editorship of W. Davis "Buzz" Merritt Jr., one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of civic journalism (also known as public journalism) which believes that journalists and their audiences are not merely spectators in political and social processes, and that journalists should not simply report dry facts as a pretense that their reporting represents unadulterated neutrality, which is impossible. (see Objectivity in Journalism) Instead, the civic journalism movement seeks to treat readers and community members as participants. With a small, but growing following, civic journalism has become as much of an ideology as it is a practice.
The Wichita Eagle was at the forefront of this movement. For example, for elections held in 1990, the paper polled 500 residents to identify their top concerns for the state. Then, over the course of the elections, reporters for the paper attempted to pin down the candidates on how they felt about these issues, and printed a pull-out section each week with a list of the issues and where the candidates stated they stood. If the candidate refused to take a stand, that was also reported. This is in stark contrast to the former practice of simply reporting the facts about a candidate's speech. As a result, voter turnout in the Eagle's primary circulation area was 43.3 percent, compared with 31 percent for the rest of the state.
The Eagle became part of The McClatchy Company when McClatchy bought Knight Ridder in 2006.