As the 175th anniversary of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn. approached this year, editor Louis Graham knew he wanted to celebrate the occasion by highlighting the journalism produced over the years. He dug deep into the archives and thought about publishing a list of 175 stories. The idea turned into something bigger, which resulted into a package that includes a 126 page printed magazine, a video and a website (175moments.com).
Historical events like Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the moon landing were highlighted in “175 Moments,” but Graham didn’t shy away from the Commercial Appeal’s notorious past, such as racism during the Civil War.
“I wanted to make sure we had major history. I wanted it to be across the board good and bad. If you look at it very carefully, you’ll see there’s a lot of pretty shameful stuff in there as well,” he said. “It was not an attempt to list the 175 most important historical events or anything like that. It was just to try and provide a good representation of what we’ve done. There’s so much history in this city that the Commercial Appeal has covered and it’s really incredible to look back at that stuff.”
While he couldn’t share revenue numbers, Graham said the advertising support and readership was “amazing.” The anniversary project drew in advertisers that hadn’t worked with the newspaper in years, according to Graham. They sold the magazine at newsstands, but also inserted it into all Sunday editions as a quarterly premium product.
“I’m continuing to hear from people who loved it and want extra copies. We’ve had schools request hundreds of copies. We’ve had all kinds of organizations and advertisers purchase hundreds of copies. It’s been well received,” Graham said.
For the editor, “175 Moments” was also about teamwork. In order to create the magazine, Graham said many different newsroom departments pitched in: from editorial and advertising to marketing and circulation.
“I wanted to burnish in people’s minds the value of the (newspaper) institution, how long it’s been here, what it’s done, what its history is and what a significant role it played and continues to play,” he said. “It really is a stark reminder when you flip though those pages or click through the tiles online just how much this institution has been through and what it has meant historically.”