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Reno’s peripetatic newspapers

By Richard Moreno
View of the Reno Newspaper Building on North Center Street in the 1950s.
View of the Reno Newspaper Building on North Center Street in the 1950s.

Recent news that the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper would be departing the copper-capped building at 955 Kuenzli Lane in which it had resided since the early 1980s stirred many memories.

In 1982, I went to work for what was then known as Reno Newspapers, which included the Reno Evening Gazette and the Nevada State Journal.

When I interviewed for the position, it was in the old Reno Newspapers office at 401 W. Second St. But when I arrived a few weeks later to begin work, I was ushered into the then-new quarters on Kuenzli Lane.

The Kuenzli facility was state-of-the-art. In addition to a giant brand-new printing press in the back of the building, the newsroom was situated in a large open area filled with rows of new computer terminals.

To save money, there were two computers for every three reporters, with the computers on swivels so they could be used by a person on either side. The thinking was that since all the reporters would rarely work in the office at the same time, no one needed his or her own dedicated machine.

Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way and on many days, one had to search for an open computer to use.

Another quirk of the system was that at 5:45 p.m. every night, the computers were shutdown to purge the classified ads from the previous day (this was at a time when computers didn’t have the memory capacity they have today and classified ads were a large part of the newspaper’s content).

If you were trying to finish up a story so you could go home, you had to scramble to get it done before 5:45 p.m. or risk waiting around for an additional 15 minutes or so until the computer was back online.

Ah, the good old days.

According to recent news accounts, the Reno Gazette-Journal’s staff will now be working in space on the second floor of the Palladio Building in downtown Reno. I’m sure it will be nice and modern—and the computers will no doubt remain operational all the time—but it won’t be quite the same.

Of course, the Kuenzli location wasn’t the first or only home of Reno’s two main newspapers. The Nevada State Journal was founded in 1870 as a weekly and became a daily in 1874.

During its first six decades, it had a succession of owners that included two governors (Emmet D. Boyle and, later, James G. Scrugham) before it was acquired by Merritt C. Speidel in 1939.

Speidel also acquired Reno’s other main paper, the Reno Evening Gazette, around the same time and consolidated the operations. The Gazette had been established in 1876 and from 1915 to its sale in 1939, it was owned by the Sanford family.

The Gazette’s original offices were in a small office on Commercial Street near the Depot Hotel while the Journal was originally housed in a building located on Virginia Street between First and Second.

According to Reno historian Alicia Barber, in 1876 the Journal moved into a new two-story brick building at 26 W. Second Street. In 1903, the paper again moved, to a location on E. Second Street.

Following the acquisition of the two papers by Speidel, the two papers were relocated to an office building on North Center Street, adjacent to the old Reno City Hall (now the site of a parking garage). While printing, advertising and circulation were combined, the papers retained separate editorial staffs and often competed against each other for news.

Sometime in the 1950s, the two papers were again relocated, to new quarters at 401 W. Second St. In 1977, the Speidel company merged with the Gannett Company, and in 1983, the two papers were combined into the present Reno Gazette-Journal.

With apologies to the Grateful Dead—what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.