Book Reviews -- Scripps, the Divided Dynasty: A History of the First Family of American Journalism by Jack Casserly

Article excerpt

Casserly, Jack. Scripps, The Divided Dynasty: A History of the First Family of American Journalism. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1993. 236 pp. $23.95.

Jack Casserly's Scripps, he Divided Dynasty makes a good attempt at sorting out the complicated family story of E.W. Scripps. This book moves beyond the traditional stories surrounding E.W. and carries the newspaper publishing operations into three generations through son Jim and grandson Ed, focusing exclusively on the Scripps League of Newspapers. To that end the book reads like a corporate history as it lauds the accomplishments of the individual papers in the chain.

The story is well written and Casserly's years as a former ABC Rome Bureau Chief and a White House correspondent shine through in his storytelling technique. However, in his attempt to tell a story with continuity, much of the historical significance is lost. As a book for fun, casual reading it is enjoyable, but a historical reference it is not.

A split between E.W. and Jim, his eldest son who managed the corporate affairs for twelve years, is quickly attributed to the elder Scripps's stroke in 1917. There is no mention of E.W.'s perception that Jim was attempting to usurp total control from his father, who had perceived Milton McRae doing the same thing in 1906. This hypothesis is advanced convincingly by Vance Trimble in The Astonishing Mr. Scripps.

Jim Scripps retained several West Coast papers in the split with his father in 1920. He died in the following January and bequeathed the papers to his wife, Josephine. Casserly builds on the classic conflict scenario in the battle between E.W. and Josephine Scripps, and a strong bias exists in praising Jim and Josephine Scripps while damning Robert Scripps and Roy Howard. …