Before Kentucky achieved statehood in 1792, the Kentucky press was established in 1787. Kentucky's founding fathers recruited in 1785 a young surveyor from northern Virginia, John Bradford. Bradford possessed no credentials as a printer, but he readily embraced the goal to establish the first newspaper to serve the citizens of the then western Virginia counties. In the thrumming metropolis of Lexington, on Aug. 11, 1787, the first issue of the Kentucke Gazette pronounced its mission to publish in support of Kentucky's statehood, to feature news of the national and state governments, to keep citizens apprised of foreign affairs, and to promote editorial discourse on scholarly subjects of socio-political value. Local news reporting was unnecessary as Lexington was a small, vibrant town whose residents saw little need to read the news they themselves generated and disseminated.
As the only newspaper within a 500-mile radius, the Kentucke Gazette flourished. When Kentucky was granted statehood, Bradford served as the new state's first public printer. Between 1793 and 1795, James Stewart established the Kentucke Gazette's first rival, the Kentucky Herald. Bradford died in 1830. After many changes in ownership, the final issue of Kentucke Gazette was published in 1848 culminating a 60-year history.
The story of the Kentucke Gazette introduces Herndon J. Evans book entitled, The Newspaper Press in Kentucky (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1976). Evans chronicles the emergence of newspapers across the state, the establishment of the Kentucky Press Association in 1869, and the emergence of the University of Kentucky's School (then called Department) of Journalism in 1914. Evans' work provides the outline of the vibrant history of newspaper publishing in Kentucky. His work alongside the research of William H. Perrin in The Pioneer Press of Kentucky (Louisville: 1888) and Dr. Thomas D. Clark in The Rural Press and the New South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1948) and The Southern Country Editor (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1948) provide a formidable analysis of Kentucky's press.
Until the Civil War, many newspapers emerged for short-lived publication tenures. However, after the wretched War that rendered this border state divided and impoverished, a good number of new publications emerged and have been in continuous publication, albeit with mergers and name changes, into the 21st Century. Among those titles are representatives from each of Kentucky's six regions: the Eastern Mountains and Coal Fields, the Bluegrass, the Knobs Arc, the Mississippi Plateaus known as the Pennyroyal (or, Pennyrile), the Mississippi Embayment called the Jackson Purchase and the Western Coal Fields.