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T. Thomas Fortune House and Territorial Enterprise Building named Historic Sites in Journalism
Matthew Kent, Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoë Berg, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has named the T. Thomas Fortune House in Red Bank, New Jersey, and the Territorial Enterprise Building in Virginia City, Nevada, as Historic Sites in Journalism. The Historic Sites program honors the people and places that have played important roles in American journalistic history.
The T. Thomas Fortune House was home to one of the most prominent African-American journalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fortune was co-owner and editor of The New York Age, one of the leading black newspapers of the time.
“Under his editorial direction, the paper became the nation’s most influential black paper, and was used to protest discrimination, lynching, mob violence and disenfranchisement,” Lynn Humphrey, a member of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation, wrote.
Fortune lived in his Red Bank home, which he called Maple Hall, from 1901 to 1910. After falling into disrepair, the house was saved from demolition by a group of local residents who recognized the historic significance of the site and wanted to see Fortune’s legacy preserved. This spring, the home reopened as the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.
The effort to make the T. Thomas Fortune House a Historic Site in Journalism was led by SPJ’s New Jersey Pro Chapter.
Home to the first newspaper in Nevada, the Territorial Enterprise building is the only remaining 19th century newspaper building still standing today in Virginia City. The newspaper was founded in 1858. It covered the Comstock mining district and helped shape the world’s view of the American West.
The Territorial Enterprise was known for its colorful reporting, common during that time, that blurred the line between seriousness and satire. This included “Quaints” or short fictitious stories that contained a grain of truth to make readers believe what they were reading was true. Some of the writers that worked at the paper included Mark Twain, Dan DeQuille, Joe Goodman, Denis McCarthy, Alf Doten and Wells Drury.
The Territorial Enterprise’s early reporting gives a historical perspective for today's concerns about false reports. While readers of the time took pleasure in being fooled, today’s fake news is more aimed at discrediting the profession and making journalists’ jobs more difficult.
A nomination letter for the Territorial Enterprise building notes that it “deserves SPJ recognition
because it gave America a glimpse into the west and gives us a glimpse into the past.”
A bronze plaque will be placed at both locations to distinguish them as a National Historic Site in Journalism. See a complete list of past winners here.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.