Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Guggenheim-Patterson Alliance and `Newsday''s Hidden History

(The following article about Newsday’s hidden history was written before the 2000 merger between the Tribune Company and Times-Mirror-Newsday. In May 2008, the Sam Zell's Tribune Company announced its sale of its Newsday subsidiary to the Cablevision media conglomerate. It first appeared in the March 6, 1991 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly Downtown.)

The son of the organizer of the “Alaska Syndicate” that destroyed some of Alaska’s earth, used a small portion of the Guggenheim fortune to start publishing Newsday in 1940. Harry Guggenheim, son of Dan Guggenheim, had inherited a multi-million dollar trust fund at the age of 21, while his father lived; and he inherited another $2 million at the age of 39, when his father died. When he was 49-years-old, Harry Guggenheim—who was also U.S. ambassador to Cuba during the late 1920s and early 1930s—married for the third time in 1939. His new wife was then-32-year-old Alicia Patterson.

Alicia Patterson-Guggenheim’s great-grandfather, Joseph Medill, had founded Chicago’s Tribune newspaper and her grandfather, Robert Patterson, had been its editor-in-chief. Her father, Joseph Patterson, was a socialist in his youth who, after becoming more politically conservative, founded the Tribune Company’s Daily News tabloid subsidiary in New York City after World War I and became its editor-in-chief. Her aunt, Cissy Patterson, owned and managed the Washington Times-Herald in Washington, D.C. until 1948.

Shortly after the Guggenheim-Patterson marriage, Harry Guggenheim used $750,000 of the Guggenheim fortune to buy Alicia Patterson-Guggenheim a suburban newspaper, the Nassau Daily-Journal for her to operate under the name of Newsday. Newsday was intended to be little more than a suburban version of the Patterson family’s Daily News. Guggenheim gave 49 percent of Newsday’s stock to his wife, but made sure that he, not Patterson, retained 51 percent of Newsday’s stock—so that he could always make the final decision in any major business disagreement with his new wife.

Between 1940 and 1963, Newsday was essentially a Nassau County and Suffolk County-oriented Long Island tabloid, run according to the editorial whims of its editor-in-chief and publisher, Alicia Patterson-Guggenheim. Harry Guggenheim, its owner, was more concerned with the business departments of Newsday.

Although Harry Guggenheim was a Republican, when the Guggenheim-Patterson alliance began to sour on a personal level in the late 1940s, Newsday editor-in-chief and publisher Alicia Patterson-Guggenheim became involved romantically with the man who became the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, Adlai Stevenson. The Alicia Patterson-Guggenheim love relationship with Stevenson was not mentioned in Newsday or by the other U.S. mass media institutions until 1976—11 years after Adlai Stevenson’s death and 13 years after Alicia Patterson-Guggenheim’s death at the age of 55 in 1963 (following an unsuccessful operation on her stomach).

Although Newsday lost money during its early years in the 1940s, Harry Guggenheim’s share of the Guggenheim fortune was large enough for him to bankroll a money-losing media operation for his wife for awhile. In 1945, Harry Guggenheim’s income from his investments in stocks and bonds was around $500,000 per year.

But as more and more people moved out to Suburbia from New York City to places like Levittown in Nassau and Suffolk counties in the late 1940s and the 1950s, Newsday became a profitable venture, as well as a public relations tool of the local Long island power structure.

(Downtown 3/6/91)

Next: Post-Patterson Newsday’s Hidden History

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