With the Yorkshire Evening Post set to celebrate its 125th birthday next month. Paul Robinson takes a looks back at the history of a Leeds institution.
To the modern eye, it’s a newspaper front page that leaves much to be desired.
Row upon row of tightly-packed text, a good deal of which was taken up with advertisements for firms such as watchmaker and jeweller Dysons, based on Briggate in Leeds city centre.
Yet here was an example of how great oaks can grow from small acorns, for the newspaper in question was the first ever edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post, printed on September 1, 1890.
Published from a now redeveloped building on Albion Street, the paper was brought into the world under the watchful eye of editor Alexander Paterson, a Scot who had moved to Leeds from Edinburgh.
A leading article promised readers: “The prompt and accurate publication of news – news of all kinds – is the main business of the Yorkshire Evening Post.”
Mr Paterson and his team would prove as good as their word as they covered stories during the YEP’s first year that included a ballooning tragedy at Kirkstall and a school fire in Wortley that claimed 11 lives.
The paper’s importance to the burgeoning city of Leeds was underlined in 1896 as it increased in size to eight pages.
From there it was onwards and upwards – literally so in 1913, when a special Aeroplane Post was printed and flown from Leeds to the Great Yorkshire Show by aircraft pioneer Harold Blackburn.
The YEP could boast as many as 24 pages by the 1930s and, shortly after the start of the Second World War, the paper’s circulation soared past the 180,000 mark.
It kept the city informed throughout the fight against the Nazis, reporting on events such as the nine air raids that targeted Leeds between August 1940 and September 1942.
At this time, the YEP had a rival in the shape of the Yorkshire Evening News, formerly the Leeds Daily News. Competition between the titles was brought to an end in 1963 when they merged.
Seven years later came another milestone in Leeds’s history, as the YEP and its sister paper, The Yorkshire Post, left Albion Street for purpose-built offices on Wellington Street.
Regarded by some as a brutalist eyesore, the concrete site was hailed as “one of the most advanced newspaper production centres in the world”.
The big move took place three months after the YEP marked its 80th birthday with an opinion column that included the lines: “The techniques which we shall use soon in our new building to produce a colour newspaper would have amazed the old printers and their readers.
“But they add up to the same thing: there is no substitute for the printed word.”
Following the switch to Wellington Street, the YEP launched an investigations unit that would expose everything from car breakdown scams on the M62 to the activities of “cruel and rapacious” landlords.
Reporters also turned the spotlight on the deadly asbestos legacy of Leeds’s JW Roberts factory and, in the late 1980s, suicides by young inmates at Armley Jail.
By now Leeds United – who had endured years in the doledrums following the trophy-laden reign of legendary manager Don Revie – were on the up-and-up again.
And, in the early 1990s, a sponsorship deal meant it was the YEP’s name on the front of United’s shirts as they won the final Division One title before the advent of the Premier League.
The paper continued to move with the times, introducing a cleaner, easier-to-read Helvetica typeface in 1991 in place of its traditional Franklin Gothic font.
More noticeable was the change from broadsheet to compact – or tabloid – format in 1999, a shift the YEP described as both the “end of an era” and “a new dawn”.
The title was also embracing the internet revolution, with an increased digital focus leading to 2012’s transfer to its current home on Whitehall Road.
* August 5: Your YEP will include an in-depth look at the paper’s campaigns, investigations and fundraising appeals.