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Kentucky Reporter (Owensboro, Kentucky)
The Kentucky Reporter, published in Owensboro and later in Louisville, was a small African-American newspaper with Republican leanings claiming devotion “to the Political, Religious, Educational and Industrial Interest of the Negro.” Co-founded by two brothers, Robert T. and George W. Berry, in 1900, as a weekly, the newspaper continued at least into the early 1940s. Only one issue of the Kentucky Reporter from its Owensboro incarnation, dated March 3, 1902, and fewer than three years from the 1940s are extant.
While in Owensboro, the Kentucky Reporter was edited by Robert T. Berry and managed by George W. Berry. The Berry brothers were tailors before becoming newspapermen and even advertised their business in their publication. One source suggests that Robert edited another newspaper in Daviess County before co-founding the Kentucky Reporter. In 1912, the Berrys moved to Louisville and took the publication with them, possibly due to its declining circulation. George worked as a United States Storekeeper and Gauger, with duties involving issuing revenue stamps, and measuring and storing beverage alcohol. Robert opened a print shop on Seventh Street where he published the Kentucky Reporter. He also worked as an investigative reporter for the Courier-Journal and a city sanitary inspector. When Robert died on July 28, 1967, his Courier-Journal obituary simply noted that “for many years [he] was the editor of a small Negro-community newspaper.”
By 1921, the Kentucky Reporter offices had moved to a building in the heart of the African-American business district of Louisville, which was also home to other African-American newspapers such as the American Baptist, the Louisville Leader, and the Louisville News. Strong leaders in the African-American community--William H. Steward, I. Willis Cole, and William Warley--founded and edited these publications. Though some sources suggest that the Kentucky Reporter did not compete with these papers, certain incidents and anecdotes suggest otherwise, specifically when certain African-American leaders formed the Lincoln Independent Party (LIP), contributing to a rift with the Republicans in 1921. Soon after the formation of the LIP, the Kentucky Reporter printed 10,000 copies of an article, which was distributed free of charge to the African-American community, denouncing the leaders of the new party. Willis Cole, the editor of the Louisville Leader, stated that Republicans must have funded the publication of this issue, since Robert Berry typically printed 500 copies of the Kentucky Reporter and had difficulty selling them.
With so few surviving issues of the Kentucky Reporter, it is impossible to comment meaningfully on its content throughout its long publication history. Nonetheless, Berry seemed to have remained true to the publication’s mission to promote the interests of the African-American community. Though some describe its politics as neutral, even the earliest extant issues of the Kentucky Reporter hint at its Republican leanings, and one could even infer a more conservative political outlook than that of the other Louisville African-American newspapers of the time.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY