Hearst: Lord of San Simeon

By Oliver Carlson; Ernest Sutherland Bates | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Owner of the San Francisco Examiner

A LEGEND calculated to enhance the glory of William Randolph Hearst has long been generally accepted to the effect that the paper which he inherited from his father was, when he took it over, a poor and worthless sheet. Thus even John K. Winkler in his W. R. Hearst: An American Phenomenon ( 1928) says that George Hearst first accepted the paper merely in payment "of a bad debt" and adds: "When young Hearst took over the Examiner on March 4, 1887, the paper was easily the worst daily in San Francisco." On the contrary, as we have seen, George Hearst secured the Examiner as a part of his political campaign for governor and built it up until it was the most powerful Democratic paper in the state. In six years its circulation was almost quadrupled, rising from 8000 to 30,000, a very creditable figure in the California of that period. The Examiner was already a well-established enterprise when young Will Hearst, with little experience but with his father's millions behind him, assumed control at the age of twenty-four.

It soon appeared that money was now going to be put into the paper in a large way. The new owner had not been in charge more than six weeks when one morning word came to San Francisco that the renowned Hotel del Monte at Monterey was on fire. Hearst at once chartered a special train, filled it with staff artists and reporters, and rushed down the coast to be in at the death. The next day the Examiner published a fourteenpage extra giving the complete details of the disaster, with zinc etchings and banner headlines mostly written by Hearst himself.

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