Place of publication: Norfolk, VA
First published in March 1898, the Virginian-Pilot was formed by the consolidation of two rival newspapers--the Norfolk Virginian, the first local, independent newspaper to be established in Norfolk after the Civil War, and the newer, and ambitious, Daily Pilot. By 1898 the two vigorously competitive newspapers were deeply in debt. The consolidation brought about a new company and daily paper, based in Norfolk and serving the Hampton Roads area as well as communities on the Eastern Shore.
The Virginian-Pilot fostered the careers of several prominent journalists. Louis Jaffe served as editor from 1919 until his death in 1950. A key force behind Virginia's anti-lynching legislation, Jaffe, brought national attention to the issue in his editorials, particularly in one titled "An Unspeakable Act of Savagery" which followed a lynching in Texas prior to the 1928 Democratic National Convention. Jaffe's work earned the paper Virginia's first Pulitzer Prize. Jaffe also formed an informal partnership with Plummer Bernard Young who headed the African-American newspaper, the Norfolk Journal and Guide. Through personal and journalistic support, the two men worked together to improve the lives of African-Americans in Hampton Roads and to advance racial understanding.
Following Jaffe's death, the Virginian-Pilot appointed Lenoir Chambers as editor. When Virginia's political leaders closed the state's public schools in 1958 to avoid federally mandated school integration, Chambers in a series of articles strongly opposed the closings and the Massive Resistance movement. Long mentored by Jaffe, Chambers in 1960 received the paper's second Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on desegregation.
In 1933, spurred by the Depression's economic hardships, the Virginia-Pilot merged with the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, Norfolk's afternoon daily. Both newspapers became part of a new corporation, Norfolk Newspapers Inc., a holding company for the newspaper properties of Samuel L. Slover, a self-made newspaper man who over his career owned and controlled six of the commonwealth's largest papers.
In 1954, Slover's 27-year-old nephew, Frank Batten Sr., became publisher of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. During his tenure, Batten managed the company that evolved into Landmark Communications, the corporation which in 1982 developed the Weather Channel.
"Newspapers," Batten believed, "live entirely on the bounty of the public. ... Our duty is clear. It is to serve the public with skill and character, and to exercise First Amendment freedoms with vigor and responsibility." He held that Landmark papers had a duty to "be aggressive in publishing the news," to publish editorials of "vigor and courage," and to "present a faithful and accurate picture of the life of their communities." Their independence "is not for sale." The Virginian-Pilot is currently published by Landmark Media Enterprises.