Sunday, February 10, 2008

The `Chicago Tribune's Hidden History--Part 2

(The following article appeared in the April 13, 1994 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newsweekly, Downtown).

After Medill’s death, day-to-day management of the Chicago Tribune was handled by a journalist named James Keeley, until two of Medill’s grandsons—Robert “Colonel” McCormick and Robert “Captain” Patterson—began to make all the main day-to-day operational policy decisions in 1914. But as An American Dynasty noted:

“The gradual transfer of power only modified and did not change the Tribune’s basic principles. It was still vituperative in behalf of big business. It still opposed union labor, government regulation of business, and any politician who appeared to be on the people’s side.”

By adding comic strips like “Andy Gump,” “Moon Mullins” and “Little Orphan Annie” to the Chicago Tribune’s newspaper and printing a daily directory of what was playing at local movie theaters, McCormick and Patterson were able to increase the Chicago Tribune’s daily circulation from 261,000 to 450,000 and its Sunday circulation from 408,000 to 827,000 between 1914 and 1921. During this same period, McCormick “leased the Canadian forest lands and built the Quebec and Ontario paper mills which enabled the Tribune to save a paper manufacturer’s profit and compete more successfully with Hearst, who got papers for five dollars a ton less than the standard price,” according to An American Dynasty. As a result, Tribune/Times-Mirror owned over 2.7 million acres of Canadian timberland for most of the 20th Century.

In imitation of British press baron Lord Northcliffe’s London Daily Mirror tabloid newspaper, the Chicago Tribune launched the New York Daily News in 1919 and Patterson soon moved from Chicago into a Manhattan office building to handle day-to-day management of the New York Daily News. This newspaper remained linked to the Chicago Tribune until it was sold by the Tribune Company for $295 million to the now-deceased British global media baron Robert Maxwell in 1991, prior to it being purchased by U.S. News & World Report Owner Mort Zuckerman in 1993. In Chicago, McCormick remained to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Chicago Tribune in an autocratic way until his death in 1955.

(Downtown 4/13/94)

Next: The Chicago Tribune’s Hidden History—Part 3

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