Amanda Smith in The Wall Street Journal
Posted on: Sunday April 22, 2012
Five Books: Amanda Smith
By Richard Norton Smith (1997)
It remains a matter of debate whether Robert R. McCormick succeeded in making his Chicago Tribune the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” that it proclaimed itself to be. What’s certain is that by World War II, under nearly three decades of his reactionary, anti-New Deal, isolationist direction, the Tribune was the most widely circulated full-size daily in the nation. McCormick had taken over the family business in the 1910s, before returning from World War I with the rank of colonel (he was widely known thereafter simply as Colonel McCormick). Building on gripping crime stories and war coverage, on the comics and society columns, the giveaways and beauty contests that characterized the paper produced in the late 19th century by his grandfather, Joseph Medill, McCormick launched a technical and mechanical metamorphosis that enabled the paper to dominate the Midwest in the 20th. Richard Norton Smith’s masterly, judicious and often howlingly funny biography captures this most eccentric and reclusive of newspaper titans. “The Colonel” is one of the great histories of American journalism.