Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Gannett Media Conglomerate's Hidden History--Part 4

(The following (slightly updated) article originally appeared in the May 8, 1991 issue of the Lower East Side alternative newsweekly, Downtown).

The Gannett Company has long been interested in the promotion of conservative politics around the United States. It was started in 1906 by a politically conservative, anti-liquor prohibitionist named Frank Gannett after Gannett purchased a daily newspaper in Elmira, New York for $3,000 in cash and $17,000 in borrowed money. Secretly financed by the International Paper and Power Company, a private power utility company in the first third of the 20th Century, Frank Gannett then purchased additional U.S. newspapers until he controlled a chain of newspapers that “were inflexibly conservative,” according to The Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian. Given the special influence that the International Paper & Power Company obtained by financing the growth of Frank Gannett’s media operation, it is not difficult to understand why “the Gannett papers were enthusiastic supporters of the power trust and scathing attackers of public ownership of generating plants,” according to The Media Monopoly book.

In the 1930s, the Gannett Company founder decided to form the anti-New Deal “Committee To Uphold Constitutional Government,” which successfully lobbied for the defeat of several proposed New Deal liberal reforms and attacked such New Deal liberal reforms as social security and increased taxation of the Ultra-Rich. According to the 1945 edition of Current Biography, Frank Gannett’s anti-New Deal lobbying in the 1930s “earned for him from New Deal Supporters the label of economic royalist.” Prior to his death in 1957, Frank Gannett was also a Cornell University trustee, as well as a lord of the press. Frank Gannett also used much of his Gannett newspaper chain wealth to finance an unsuccessful 1940 campaign for the U.S. presidency on an anti-liquor, Prohibitionist platform.

Consistent with the Gannett Company’s history of promoting political conservatism, it chose to feature then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the Sept. 15, 1982 Washington, D.C. launching of its USA Today national newspaper. And in 1985, Gannett chose to let USA Today be an official sponsor of President Reagan’s second-term inauguration festivities. According to The Making of McPaper, Reagan’s “inaugural planners were given $336,000 worth” of free advertising space in USA Today by the Gannett Company. The Jan. 22, 1985 issue of the Wall Street Journal also noted that one of the free USA Today ads printed to celebrate Reagan’s second term inauguration was a testimonial to Reagan from the former U.S. Senator and Republican Party Majority Leader Howard Baker—who had become a Gannett Company director in October, 1984.

In 1986, the Reagan Administration was able to grant a special favor to Gannett for Gannett Director Baker’s testimonial and for the media conglomerate’s providing of free ad space to inauguration planners. After Gannett purchased the Detroit News, Fortune magazine noted in its September 11, 1986 issue that:

“In Detroit a lot hinges on whether the News gets approval from Attorney General Edwin Meese III to enter a joint-operating agreement with its competitor and fellow money loser, the Free Press owned by Knight-Ridder. If it does, Detroit should turn out to be a big winner for Gannett.”

Needless to say, the Reagan Administration approved the joint-operating agreement between Gannett’s Detroit News and Knight-Ridder’s Detroit Free Press, despite local community opposition in Detroit to the joint-operating agreement.

(Downtown 5/8/91)

Next: Gannett’s UK Subsidiary & Post-1999 Media Monopolization Activity

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