Donald W. Reynolds was one of Nevada's leading media moguls. Born in 1906 in Texas, he was raised in Oklahoma, where he started out by selling newspapers at the Oklahoma City railroad depot. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1927 and worked for several newspapers.
Reynolds borrowed most of the $1,000 to invest in a photo engraving company and used his profits from that venture to buy his first newspaper in Massachusetts. Selling that paper enabled him to buy Oklahoma's Okmulgee Daily Press and the Southwest Times Record in Arkansas. They became the basis of his newly formed company, Donrey Media, which specialized in buying small metropolitan dailies or small-town weeklies. He interrupted his newspaper career to serve in World War II, working in military intelligence and running Yank, an army newspaper, then came home to expand his newspaper empire.
Reynolds entered the Nevada market in 1949 as co-owner of the Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal and began adding newspapers and broadcasting stations. He bought the Ely Daily Times, which the company still owns, and the Nevada Appeal and Humboldt Star. He owned radio and television stations in Las Vegas and Reno. His Donrey Media Group also entered the outdoor advertising market with a highly successful billboard company. Eventually, he owned more than forty newspapers and sixty other media outlets, including radio and television stations as well as outdoor advertising companies. Reynolds expanded his empire throughout the southwestern U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii, with help from his longtime second-in-command, Fred Smith.
Along the way, Reynolds earned a reputation for emphasizing technology, constantly improving and expanding his printing plant, and for being a shrewd and an able businessman. Critics also contended that he was inattentive to the quality of his newspaper product and a difficult boss. No one disputed that he was successful and influential, although he rarely involved himself in politics as directly as most other Nevada editors and publishers. The Review-Journal was conservative and Democratic under Al and John Cahlan when they were at the paper in the 1950s and generally remained so. It became more conservative in the 1980s, much like the rest of the U.S.
By 1990, his Review-Journal's success had forced the Las Vegas Sun to agree to a Joint Operating Agreement that allowed the competitor to survive, but in the weaker, less lucrative afternoon market. Reynolds died in 1993, having established a legacy as a leading figure in Nevada's media history, and as a philanthropist whose Donald W. Reynolds Foundation went on to give away millions, including to the journalism school at the University of Nevada, Reno. The school now bears his name.
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