Wisconsin State Journal: History and Online Archive

  • The Wisconsin State Journal is a daily newspaper founded in 1839.
  • The paper has been a staple of Madison and the surrounding area for over 180 years.
  • People can explore the Wisconsin State Journal online archive, searching over 2M pages ranging from 1852 to date.

The Wisconsin State Journal, a daily newspaper published in and around Madison by Lee Enterprises, is the second-largest paper in Wisconsin and its coverage spans local, statewide, national and international news.

Founded in 1839, the paper has been a staple of Madison and the surrounding area for over 180 years. With a rich history and an innovative approach to local news, the Wisconsin State Journal has become one of the most trusted sources for news in Dane County.

A Historical Perspective

The Wisconsin State Journal is Madison's oldest newspaper, dating back to 1839 when it was founded by William Wileman, Madison Hotel proprietor, who had previously served as an editor for the Milwaukee Sentinel. In 1841, Wileman sold the paper to a group of local investors who renamed it the Madison Express and changed its focus from regional news to state-wide coverage.

Over the next century, ownership of the paper changed hands several times before being purchased by Lee Enterprises in 1947. In 2000, Lee Enterprises sold off its interest in the newspaper but retained ownership of The Capital Times—a sister publication that merged with The Wisconsin State Journal in 1962. Today, both newspapers are still owned by Lee Enterprises and printed at their joint facility on East Washington Avenue.

The paper had some unique records. For example the idea to have pre-printed pages with news on one side and a blank other for local papers to then print their own content, was first invented by State Journal in 1861. This made it possible for many rural papers to begin popping up.

Innovative approach to reporting and awards

The Wisconsin State Journal has always been known for its distinct editorial style and innovative approach to reporting. For instance, throughout its history it has maintained a strong emphasis on providing accurate coverage from trusted sources while also offering insightful commentary from expert writers on current events each day.

In 2008, the State Journal's editorial board became newsroom's first Pulitzer finalist honor for its innovative campaign against abuses in the governor's veto power. Thanks to their hard-hitting reporting, the state constitution was amended and the governor's veto power was limited.

In 2012, the staff of the Wisconsin State Journal was a finalist for their Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting. This award was based on their extensive coverage of the "27 days of around-the-clock protests" that occurred at the state Capitol during 2011.