(The following article appeared in the April 13, 1994 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newsweekly, Downtown).
During the 1920s and 1930s McCormick’s Chicago Tribune first entered the U.S. broadcasting world. As early as 1947, for instance, John Tebbell noted in his An American Dynasty:
“One of the astute moves that Colonel McCormick made in building his empire was to get in on the ground floor of radio, at a time when most publishers scoffed at the idea that it could ever be a serious rival of the newspaper.
“…As early as 1921…he began the negotiations which ended in June 1924 with the purchase of WDAP, then Chicago’s most powerful station. Less than a month later the station had its call letters changed to WGN, meaning of course, `World’s Greatest Newspaper’…
“…In 1934…WGN joined WOR, Newark, WLLW, Cincinnati, and WXYX, Detroit, in a network which expanded in time to the powerful 268 stations (at last count) Mutual Broadcasting System, with WGN and WOR the key outlets. The Colonel owns 24 percent of Mutual stock, and W.E. MacFarlane, Tribune business manager, was president of the chain for several years…”
Around the time New York Daily News founder Patterson died in 1946, the value of the Chicago Tribune media empire which he and McCormick had inherited and expanded was worth about $100 million. But, despite the financial success achieved by the Chicago Tribune between 1920 and the end of World War II, it was not regarded as too great a newspaper, from a journalistic point of view, by many U.S. media analysts.
In the July 3, 1937 issue of Progressive magazine, for instance, the magazine’s editor, William Evjue, asserted that “The Chicago Tribune is the most vicious and unscrupulous newspaper in the United States today.” And, in his 1938 book, Lords Of The Press, George Seldes also wrote the following:
“I have studied the Tribune in America…I know of no newspaper which is so vicious and stupid in its attack on labor, no paper so consistent in its Red-baiting, and no paper in my opinion is such a great enemy of the American people…No newspaper has such an unbroken record of labor-baiting as the Chicago Tribune.”
An American Dynasty by John Tebbel also noted that “The Tribune is guilty of producing distorted news, and it also suppresses news in the sense that it denies evidence of truth if this evidence is contrary to its editorial policies.” The same book also recalled that on Aug. 27, 1921 the Chicago Tribune had “defended the Klan editorially.”
The Chicago Tribune opposed FDR’s New Deal and “held that Roosevelt should keep his hands off business” despite the 1930s Great Depression, according to `Chicago Tribune’: The Rise Of A Great American Newspaper by Lloyd Wendt. The same book also recalled that during the 1936 presidential campaign “Roosevelt supporters attacked the Tribune for the viciousness of its anti-Roosevelt campaign.” An American Dynasty also recalled that “In its crusade against organized labor and against the New Deal the Tribune has not hesitated to print what seems to be outright lies.”
Next: Tribune-Times-Mirror’s McCarthyism Connection