Monday, December 8, 2008

Knight Foundation & Newspaper Dynasty's Hidden History--Part 1

“A $200,000 grant proposal, submitted by a group of Indymedia volunteers to the Knight News Challenge contest, has been blocked by other IMCs and subsequently dropped due to the abiding ethos that Indymedia is a counter to corporate, money-fixated media entities. The grant application to the Knight Foundation was to fund technical development work for Independent Media Centres (IMCs)…

“The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation describes itself as "an American private, non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting journalism and supporting the vitality of 26 communities" where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers….In 1974, Knight Newspapers merged with Ridder Publications to create Knight-Ridder Inc., at the time the largest newspaper company in the US. Lee Hills, former president of Knight Newspapers, became Knight-Ridder chairman and CEO. Its trustees include Paul E. Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a vice president at Dow Jones & Company. Until it was bought by The McClatchy Company in June 2006, Knight-Ridder was the second-largest newspaper publisher in the US, with 32 daily newspapers...”
(Corporate Watch UK and sites)

Between 1970 and 2006—when the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain was sold to the McClatchy newspaper chain for $6.5 billion—much of the Knight-Ridder media conglomerate was owned by members of the ultra-rich Knight family and the Knight Foundation [whose assets currently exceed $2.5 billion]. In 1979, for example, John Knight and James Knight owned 30 percent of Knight-Ridder stock. Much of the $200 million worth of Knight-Ridder stock which John “Jack” Knight owned at the time of his death in 1981 was then left to the Knight Foundation to avoid payment of heavy estate taxes. In 1986, about 14 percent of Knight-Ridder stock—then worth about $439 million—was still owned by James Knight. And in 1990, 10 percent of Knight-Ridder stock—then worth about $270 million—was still owned by James Knight.

The Knight family first entered the world of U.S. newspaper ownership in 1907, when Charles “C.I.” Knight “attracted financial backing to take over the Beacon Journal newspaper in Akron, Ohio, as a result of a business arrangement with a banker named Edward Held, according to the 1989 book Knight: A Publisher In The Tumultuous Century by Charles Whited. Prior to naming himself editor and publisher of the Akron Beacon-Journal in 1909, C.I. Knight had worked in Bluefield, West Virginia as a corporate lawyer for U.S. coal companies and as the Akron Beacon-Journal advertising manager.

In addition to owning the Akron Beacon-Journal, C.I. Knight also wrote a biography, titled The Real Jefferson Davis, which depicted the slavocracy’s Confederate president “as a maligned idealist,” according to Knight. C.I. Knight was also personally involved in U.S. political office-seeking. In 1920, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s 14th district on the Republican Party slate and, when the “Ohio Gang” ruled Washington politics during the early 1920s corrupt administration of President Warren Harding, “C.I. Knight enjoyed insider privileges at the White House,” according to Knight. The same book also noted that “to strengthen his political base,” Congressional Rep. Knight purchased the Springfield Sun daily newspaper in Ohio, around the same time he unsuccessfully ran for governor of Ohio.

In addition to using his newspapers to further his political office-seeking ambitions, C.I. Knight also apparently endorsed local political candidates editorially who helped shift public funds to his newspaper business. As Knight recalled: “Jack [Knight] had once asked C.I. [Knight] which candidate for sheriff they intended to back in a forthcoming race. `The one,’ his father replied, `who gives us the county publishing business.’”

Using the surplus profits he obtained from publishing the Akron Beacon-Journal, C.I. Knight was able to buy a 238-acre farm near Hudson, Ohio after World War I. But when it came to entertaining women companions, the Republican Party publisher-politician apparently preferred to meet them in his office, rather than on his farm. According to Knight, “there were…rumors of amorous trysts with women of easy virtue, sometimes behind the locked doors of his newspaper office.’ Not surprisingly, the same book noted that the Knight Newspaper Dynasty founder “deplored…feminism.” (end of part 1)

(Downtown 9/15/93)