Academic journal article Journalism History

Scripps and the Business of Newspapers

Academic journal article Journalism History

Scripps and the Business of Newspapers

Article excerpt

Baldasty, Gerald. E. W. Scripps and the Business of Newspapers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. 217 pp. $16.95.

E. W. Scripps, father of the Scripps newspaper chain that spanned the decades at the turn of the twentieth century, was a cross between a modern industrialist of his day and a maximum security prison warden. So concludes Gerald Baldasty, who outlines Scripps's business principles and practices in E. W. Scripps and the Business of Newspapers.

Scripps chased profits through continual expansion of his chain of cheap newspapers for the working classes by scrimping on every expenditure, creating vertical integration and dropping papers into unserved market niches in mediumsized cities. He is described as an "autocrat" who demanded obedience to his rules that treated his front-line workers like day laborers deserving of no consideration or comfort, no autonomy or respect. They toiled for low wages on used typewriters set up in crummy buildings, often in undesirable parts of town. Their output was printed with used type set from edge to nearly edge of the page on the cheapest, thinnest paper available, using presses retired from a former life.

Perhaps the best illustration of his crabbed views of how to succeed at workers' expense was his refusal to buy pencils or toilet paper for his newsrooms until it was found that more expensive newsprint that clogged toilets was being used as a substitute.

E.W. Scripps and the Business of Newspapers is the first professional biography of Scripps's chain to benefit from access to the 200,000 letters in the recently opened Scripps Correspondence collection at the Alden Library at Ohio University. Scripps generated many of these letters in his daily correspondence with his newspaper managers about the principles by which the chain should be run. …

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