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William F. Schanen Jr.

Inducted into the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2005

William F. Schanen Jr.
William F. Schanen Jr.

Twenty years before the offset revolution, William F. Schanen Jr. started a newspaper called Ozaukee Press and printed it by offset. It was the first offset newspaper in Wisconsin and almost certainly the first in the United States. Ozaukee Press was born out of advanced technology, but its impact on its community derived from old-fashioned newspapering principles of aggressive reporting and a strong editorial voice.

Schanen’s dream was to publish a community weekly that practiced photo journalism in the manner of LIFE magazine. He knew the letterpress equipment that every newspaper of the time used could not adequately produce the sharply defined halftones needed to realize his vision. So he bought an old sheet-fed Harris press, and set up shop in his hometown of Port Washington in 1940.

He printed Ozaukee Press two tabloid pages at a time on sheets of newsprint that were then hand folded and collated. When the first carbon ribbon typewriters became available in the late 1940s, he used them to set type in one of the first “cold type” applications in the newspaper business.

The superior reproduction of Ozaukee Press and Schanen’s insistence on high standards of journalism were rewarded early on with a large readership. The publisher did not hesitate to use the newspaper’s influence to lead the community on issues that proved crucial to Lake Michigan port city’s future. He campaigned successfully for the safe harbor that opened the door to the development of the city’s waterfront. To promote the city’s maritime assets, he founded the Port Washington Yacht Club and the Port Fish Day festival, institutions that remain successful to this day.

Schanen died in 1971 shortly after receiving the Elijah Parrish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism in recognition of his refusal to stop printing a then-controversial alternative newspaper, Kaleidoscope, as a contract printing job in spite of an advertising boycott of his beloved Ozaukee Press.

Schanen’s vision has survived in a newspaper that continues to excel in journalism of the written word and the finely reproduced photo in an age when every newspaper is printed by offset. More than a visionary, Schanen was an exemplar of the integrity and excellence of community journalism in Wisconsin.

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