Academic journal article Journalism History

The Bullitts of Seattle and Their Communications Empire

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Bullitts of Seattle and Their Communications Empire

Article excerpt

Corr, Casey 0. KING: The Bullitts of Seattle and Their Communications Empire. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. 306 pp. $14.95.

Casey Con has placed an important brick in a new foundation that ensures the future of broadcast historiography. His book on KING-TV is home cooking and cheers an organization that for years promoted itself as Seattle's "home team." But more than this, he recognizes the importance of localism in acclimating broadcast history to the enormous upheaval currently facing that field.

Here, he traces differences between grassroots and network TV and demonstrates that needed insights will not come from more works on the latter, where 99 percent of the existing literature resides. For today's historians, local TV has wide-open possibilities. Corr's book from Seattle shows why.

Largely this is because KING-TV was no ordinary TV station. Its particular trick was developing a honor roll of award-winning local programs while maintaining huge audiences and satisfying its bottom line. Corr attributes this to the passion of KING founder Dorothy Bullitt, who entered broadcasting after the death of her husband because she was persuaded it would be "fun." She entrusted the day-to-day management of KING to several high-minded executives, including her son Stimson and, notably, a later figure named Ancil Payne.

What started off as "fun" in 1948 continued as that through the 1980s, as KING copped one Peabody Award after another. In the meantime, several company crises were effectively resolved by Payne and the other managers. But in the end, the walls closed in. Fearful of increased competition and an uncertain future in TV, Bullitt's daughters, the heirs to the KING empire, sold out to a company from the East.

Without archive materials and apparently without the cooperation of the Bullitt family, Corr does a fabulous job of weaving the KING tapestry. …

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