Chapter Five

Newspaper Ink Blood

“The damndest newspaper ever to hit the streets”

Cissy Patterson at work at the Times-HeraldAlthough Cissy Patterson’s Times-Herald shared the vitriolic isolationism of the other family papers (prompting charges of the existence of a “McCormick-Patterson Axis” from both rival press outlets and the Administration), it did not share their ownership structures. Whereas the Tribune Company effectively owned both the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News Cissy alone owned the Times-Herald. In many regards the paper’s success was a direct result of its unique corporate structure—or lack of it. As sole proprietor, the tempestuous redhead (who, as one veteran reporter remembered her, “sported an equally red pedicure and temper to match,”) had had no board of directors, no trustees, no stockholders, either to scrabble with or to hold her accountable. As editor Frank Waldrop put it, she owned the Times-Herald in “exactly the same way in a legal sense as she owned her clothes and her houses. She wore it and ran it that way, too, and every day we risked her entire property and her very stubborn neck.”

As publisher, Cissy enjoyed none of the protections that the incorporation of the paper would have afforded. The salty Times-Herald led the capitol newspaper market not only in circulation and revenues, but also in the number and size of the libel judgments rendered against it. These, Cissy paid out of her own deep pocket as she did the torts liabilities the paper’s staff incurred in the course of doing business. The Civil Dockets of the District of Columbia from the 1940s are as much a testament to Cissy’s devil-may-care attitude toward defamation as to the zeal of Happy Robinson’s burly truck drivers and circulation hustlers in completing their appointed rounds, whatever or whoever might stand in their way: other vehicles, pets, elderly pedestrians or children.

Cissy had placed herself in a position to produce exactly the paper she had long envisioned, editorially and aesthetically. The Times-Herald was a pungent hybrid of the most irresistible characteristics of the ordinarily-rival Hearst and Medill family publications—combined with other syndicates’ material, and her own unique touches. Hearst editorials and regular columns ran alongside Tribune-News Service items, the latter’s syndicate provided the bulk of the Times-Herald’s comic strips and much of its commentary. In make-up and typography the Times-Herald was unique. Cissy scrapped most of the old, Hearst typefaces in favor of the lighter “Ryerson” (later almost renamed “Patterson” in her honor), increased white space in the paper and printed it in dark grey (rather than black) ink for the sake of elegance and readability. Before Jackie Martin’s time, Cissy recalled, “I was forever quarreling with the managing editor’s choice of pictures, poor man. I try to have a clean paper.” To clarify that she did not refer to the Times-Herald’s content, she added, “Clean in typography only.”