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When Scripps died in March, 1926, aboard his yacht in Monrovia Bay, leaving directions that his body should be consigned to the sea, he owned only about two fifths of the great concern he had built from that first ten thousand dollars—the rest being owned by his associatesand the actual valuation of his holdings has not been determined. This much is certain: he left the largest fortune ever amassed solely in the newspaper business by any one man in this country; and yet he was the least known of any man who has achieved great success in American journalism. In addition to his papers, he had created a news service, a feature service and an agency to give the public authentic news of scientific progress, as well as other related enterprises. A man of great capacity and industry, he had avoided publicity or any self-advertisement. Colonel Milton McRae, who was associated with him for years, and who was one of the founders of the American Newspaper Publishers' Association, was a more familiar figure. Both fought for organized labor. Both believed that high wages would not cripple industry, but would heighten prosperity through increased purchasing power.
That theory, derided at first, led many persons to denounce the Scripps's papers as labor agitators. Now it is a watchword of industrial captains, and has the public approval of Mr. Coolidge. The Scripps-McRae papers, however, and the Scripps-Howard papers afterward, were economically partizan, and they were regarded by their conservative neighbors as rather rowdy. If the word Bolshevism had been
invented then, they would have been called Bolshevist. They had a Stephen Decatur attitude toward the union: they were for it, right or wrong. wrong. As organized labor grew stronger, and the practices of the capitalist group altered for the better, the Scripps-Howard papers modified their policy. The Cleveland paper uncovered corruption in the building trades union, for example, and helped send two men to the penitentiary. The kind of partizanship that had brought a charge of radicalism in an earlier day, lacked motivation, once the worker was strong enough to stand on his own feet.
I share the prejudice of most newspaper men against consolidations, mergers and chains. That independence and competition are prerequisite to a courageous and alert press seems almost axiomatic. How can a paper under absentee ownership, pledged to contribute its share to the profits of an organization, and subservient to an editorial voice in another city, serve its own community competently? In the latter part of 1926 the ScrippsHoward "string" was strengthened, or lengthened, by a remarkable series of purchases and mergers. In Denver the "Times" was bought and merged with the "Express," the existing afternoon Scripps-Howard paper; and the "Rocky Mountain News" was added as the first morning paper of the group. In Knoxville the "Sentinel" was purchased and merged with the "News" as the "News-Sentinel." In Memphis the "News-Scimitar" was bought and merged with the "Press" as the "Press-Scimitar." These operations
were made possible, if not ́imperative, by a provision in the will of E. W. Scripps that one third of the profits from his properties should be utilized periodically to expand them. He intended that his influence should thus be extended and perpetuated. About two and a half million dollars were spent in the purchase of these four papers.
It may be as well to enumerate here the other papers in the chain. Perhaps one of them is near enough for you to see for yourself what manner of publications they are. The "New York Telegram" is the latest acquisition. The other links in the chain are: the "Cleveland Press," "Baltimore Post," "Pittsburgh Press," "San Francisco News,' "Washington News," "Cincinnati Post," "Indianapolis Times," "Toledo News-Bee," "Columbus Citizen, "Kentucky Post" of Covington, “Akron TimesPress," "Birmingham Post," "Houston Press," "Youngstown Telegram,' "Fort Worth Press," "Oklahoma City News," "Evansville Press," "El Paso Post," "San Diego Sun," "Terre Haute Post," and "New Mexico State Tribune" of Albuquerque.
In my efforts to learn what manner of papers these are my attention was attracted first to Denver, because I marveled at the temerity of the Scripps-Howard group in challenging the entrenched domination of the "Post."
staff. "If it is horrible, tell why it is horrible and leave nothing to the reader's imagination. Nothing is too trivial to interest some reader. More people are interested in a man who falls and breaks his leg in Curtis Street than they are in a disaster in China." Subsequently he and Bonfils owned the "Kansas City Post" for twelve years, and the SellsFloto Circus until 1920. They were expert showmen and successful money-makers. When Tammen died in 1924, his estate was estimated at more than five millions. His partner carried on, and at the beginning of 1927, his Denver paper had twice the combined circulation of the three other dailies in the city. One of these was the of these was the "Express," a Scripps-Howard property, with less than fifteen thousand circulation. By the purchase of the other two from John C. Shaffer, the field was limited to two competitors.
The Denver Chamber of Commerce gave a lunch to Roy Howard when the deal was made. "We are coming to Denver," he assured the business men, "neither with a tin cup nor a lead pipe. We will live with and in this community and not on nor off it. We are nobody's big brother, wayward sister or poor relation. We come here simply as news merchants. We are here to sell advertising and sell it at a rate profitable to those who buy it. But first we must produce a newspaper with news appeal that will result in a circulation to make that advertising effective. We shall run no lottery.'
Fred G. Bonfils and H. H. Tammen bought the "Denver Post" in 1895, when it was published in a basement and its editorial staff consisted of three men. "Write what you see," Tammen told his
Bonfils started a morning paper to compete with the "Rocky Mountain News" (the oldest paper in
Colorado) and took for it the Associated Press franchise discarded by the "News," in addition to the Hearst news service and certain features he had previously utilized. He subscribed also to the services of the "Chicago Tribune" and the "New York Times." He did not intend to lose a virtual monopoly without a fight; and it was a fight to gladden the heart of the whole Rocky Mountain region.
Competition for "want "want ads" marked the beginning of the fray. The "Post" had made a practice of giving away premiums, and announced that it would dispense two gallons of gasoline with each advertisement of two or more lines. (The advertisement, if of two lines, cost twenty-six cents; gasoline was selling at twenty-one cents a gallon.) The "News" countered by saying it would give three gallons. After a pause, the "Post" rose to four. "See you!" cried the "News," in effect, "and raise you one: five gallons with every ad." Its competitor quit, and on a single Sunday the "News" printed 15,000 "want ads," covering twenty-eight pages. It gave away gasoline to a retail value of $15,750 in one day, and took over lunch-stands to feed free sandwiches and coffee to waiting motorists.
ing to the street; dance halls were thrown open to the crowds, there were fireworks and brass bands. Used automobiles were taken to a nearby bluff and hurtled over for the amusement of the populace. There were popularity contests and limerick contests and trophies galore. There was, finally, a competition in giving away groceries. Denver enjoyed all the hullabaloo hugely. When the shouting and the tumult died, the "Post" no longer had a monopoly of its field. The contenders were neck and neck; and in a little while the newspapers, as they called themselves, were printing large advertisements, each claiming the lead in advertising.
The Scripps-Howard papers do not customarily resort to circulation methods of this sort. But they happened at the time to be in Rome. They fought fire with fire. Elsewhere they have relied, as a rule, on the United Press, the Newspaper Enterprise Association features, and the Washington news supplied by the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance, supported by a lively local staff and a forthright editorial policy. Nor are they merely "news merchants"; let us see what some of them have done elsewhere.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, by a vigorous campaign against a wasteful and inefficient municipal government, the "News" succeeded in setting up a city-manager plan and enlisting in it not only the support but the service of substantial business men. In Evansville, Indiana, the "Press" has divorced the city government from the Ku Klux Klan, has cleaned up the gambling "joints,' and there, too, has undertaken to
substitute a businesslike city-man- in the indictment with Governor ager administration for bossism. In Indianapolis the fight for a citymanager, in which the "Times" triumphed by a vote of five to one, was but a minor engagement in a greater battle against the Klan.
The outcome of this fight attracted national attention. It was a conspicuous example, I take it, of the constructive uses to which "crusading" newspapers can be put. At a time when the daily press is coming more and more to declare that the exposure of corrupt officials is none of its business, instances of this sort stand out as beacons. It is true that Stephenson might never have smuggled out his message if there had not been another fighting newspaper in Vincennes; it is true that the struggle might have failed but for the assistance, as time went on, of the Indiana press generally. But the fact remains that the tenacity and bravery of the Scripps-Howard paper were mainly responsible.
The "Times" not only supported the Vincennes editor in his fight against the Klan, but it championed George R. Dale, of the "Muncie Post-Democrat," when Circuit Judge Clarence Dearth threatened thirtyeight newsboys with jail because they were delivering copies of the paper containing an attack upon him, and seized their wares. The "Times" demanded that the judge be impeached. He threatened the editors, and detailed deputy sheriffs to drive a photographer off the public square. But the photographer returned and snapped a picture of the judge. The House of Representatives voted impeachment by ninety-three to one, but in the Senate, the ouster failed of the necessary two-thirds by three ballots.
Through an exposure engineered by the "Indianapolis Times," D. C. Stephenson, former Grand Dragon of the Klan and political boss of the State, was convicted of second-degree murder. Convinced, after he was sent to jail, that his former pals had deserted him, he smuggled out letters to the editor of the "Vincennes Commercial," which is not a ScrippsHoward paper, saying he could produce documentary evidence of enough corruption in Indiana to "rock the nation." There the matter would have rested, had not the "Indianapolis Times" kept doggedly at it day after day. This newspaper obtained canceled checks and found scores of witnesses; it persisted in spite of threats, temporary circulation and advertising losses, and a million-dollar libel suit; it persisted after two grand juries had failed to return indictments; and at the conclusion of ten months' fighting, in which other newspapers have joined, it had the satisfaction of reporting indictments against the Governor of the State, the Mayor of its capital, and two subordinates. Governor Ed Jackson was charged with attempted bribery and conspiracy to commit a felony; Mayor John L. Duvall of Indianapolis was charged with violation of the Corrupt Practices Act; George V. Coffin, chairman of the Republican County Committee, and Robert L. Marsh, formerly counsel for the Ku Klux, were named multiplied.
of this sort might be Those I have sketched
are not the most remarkable; they were chosen because taken together they present a fair picture. The Scripps-Howard papers seldom quarrel with individuals; they are not condescending nor flippant editorially; they are not solemn nor sanctimonious; they do not spatter competitors with mud, and they are never too busy for a hearty scrap. They are happy warriors. In a long newspaper experience, I have never heard of one of them who got into a fight which wasn't a good fight, in a good cause. The instances I have cited show, I think, that these papers have skill, courage and power. They show that not all the American press is indolent and flabby, as is often charged. They show that there are still "fighting editors" in this land of the free. These papers not only fight on their own account; they put their strength joyfully behind other fighters. Carl C. McGee, for example, who was broken in purse but not in spirit in his campaign against the Fall-Bursum political machine in New Mexico, turned to the ScrippsHoward group when he lost his paper, and was financed by them in a renewal of the fight. The "New Mexico State Tribune" of Albuquerque became a member of the chain, and carried on its exposure of conditions despite threats and contempt proceedings.
In national policy the papers of this chain are a unit. In wet New York and dry Knoxville they advocate modification of the Volstead Act. They did this long before they acquired a New York City newspaper. Editorials on national and international affairs are sent over leased wires from Washington and
from New York, but there is no requirement that any paper shall use every or any editorial willy-nilly. And in local affairs the editor has free play. He decides for himself what his policy shall be as it affects his own community. He alone is responsible for the consequences. The chain thus represents a kind of confederacy, with local autonomy.
When new properties are purchased, it is the rule to retain the staff as it stands, but to put in editorial charge a man who has been under fire elsewhere in the ScrippsHoward ranks, and had proved himself. In Denver the choice fell upon a man then in charge of the Birmingham paper; he had been born in Denver, and had served his apprenticeship there as a carrier, reporter, political writer, city and managing editor. He knew the field, and he knew Scripps-Howard methods from long experience.
In such cases, and on all these newspapers, the editor censors the advertising as well as the news. The perplexing division of authority between the business office and the editorial room, often found in other papers, does not exist here. The editor is the Pooh-Bah. No advertising contract is allowed to influence his judgment as to policy. Nor is he permitted to borrow money in a pinch from the local banker or merchant: whenever Scripps-Howard papers need funds, they apply to the parent organization. The "Pittsburgh Press," recently housed in a four-million-dollar building, executed a mortgage on the property, on the theory that newspapers should stay out of the real estate business and that the parent corporation could