JFK50: Dallas paper finds success by reprinting its past

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The Dallas Morning News wanted its current customers to experience what readers experienced in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. And through the successful process,  it extended that opportunity to newsstands across the rest of the country as well.

The DMN has been covering the 50th anniversary of the assassination for well over a year and one of the ideas early was to reprint the historic coverage (the Nov. 23, 1963 complete copy of the DMN) and give readers a chance to buy it.

But there was a problem: The News didn’t have a preserved copy of the Nov. 23, 1963 edition and the archived pages weren’t of a quality capable for reprinting.

Photo editor Michael Hamtil took it upon himself to rectify that problem. He purchased a copy of the paper on eBay from a collector.

There had been multiple ideas of how to reprint the paper, including actually replicating it from scratch. But Hamtil had a better plan: have a photographer shoot the pages in the studio and compare that to a high quality flatbed scan of the page. The quality between the two was similar so the DMN chose the in-house option.

Second JFK page for SNDStaff photographer Evans Caglage then shot all of the pages in the studio by placing them under non-reflective glass. He shot them two different ways (the yellowed pages as they actually look 50 years later and a more whitened version.) The result were high resolution photos that could be turned into a legible edition of that paper.

Chip Danneker, vice president of circulation and distribution for The News, said they originally printed 25,000 of the papers and sold most of them. They printed another 100,000 in October and are on track to sell all of them.

Danneker started thinking of the universal appeal for such a paper outside of Dallas and worked out a printing and distribution deal with USA Today. He said they are on track to sell over 100,000 copies around the country.

Between the two sellers, over 250,000 of the historical edition will be sold. Danneker said The News will make close to $500,000 in revenue from the project.

About Rob Schneider

is creative director at the Dallas Business News and immediate past-president of SND.

7 comments

Interesting, but the question I have is, why didn’t the DMN have a preserved copy of the paper in its own archives for perhaps the most significant news event in its history?

I would have thought they would have preserved MANY copies.

Was it just that it was standard practice to simply archive pages and not preserve any actual newspapers? Were there originally preserved copies, and they just trickled away over the years? Was there a fire? Did mice eat them?

Just curious.

And how was it printed? I imagine you can’t just fire up the press and crank out a paper on a web width from 50 years ago.

I don’t know the answer to that, John. I’ll try and find out.

It was printed a little wider than 48 inch web paper, Mike. I’ll find that out too. Thanks for asking.

John Telford, The Dallas Morning News does have an archive of historic newspapers, documents, etc. which is kept at SMU (Southern Methodist University) in the DeGolyer Library. I cannot say for sure whether this exact paper is in the archive, but we do also have copies of lots of important front pages and other pages framed on the walls around the office, and kept in a cabinet in the Deputy Managing Editor’s office, including past special sections on JFK. The reason we didn’t pursue that route is because we thought we would have to slice the spine off the side of the pages to allow for shooting each one cleanly, which would have ruined the paper. So we bought one that we wouldn’t mind doing that to, although in the end it was such a good copy that photographer Evans Caglage decided he could simply fold each page back on the spine and get a good border without having to cut it up. And yes, that paper is now in safekeeping in the DME’s office!

Mike Rice, a team from advertising, marketing, printing and distribution worked together to find an outside printing company who we paid to print the paper for us. This was after test runs were done on our own press, and it was decided that the better route was to farm it out. Others from that team then found a company to produce special boxes and packaging to offer the paper as part of a special box set, in addition to the single-copy sales we have been doing.

Mike Rice, the 1963 reprint paper is 15″ wide. I don’t know this for sure, but I doubt any of our current presses are configured to print anything that wide anymore so there would be some level of morphing or scaling going on.

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