Amanda Smith in The Wall Street Journal
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.
Library of Congress Event
News from the Library of Congress
Amanda Smith will discuss her Patterson biography, “Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and Monumental Times of Cissy Patterson” (Knopf Doubleday, 2011), on Thursday, March 15, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, part of the Books & Beyond author series, is sponsored by the Center for the Book. The Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division, where Smith did much of her research, is co-sponsor of the program, which is free and open to the public.
The Browser > FiveBooks Interviews
Newspaper dynasties are the subject of the five books we’re about to discuss, and of your recent book,
Newspaper Titan: The Infamous Life and MonumentalTimes of Cissy Patterson. What attracted you to the subject of newspaper families?
I got interested in Cissy because of isolationism. Looking at her life, I found her larger family to be fascinating and it occurred to me that there were a lot of parallels between her families and other newspaper families throughout the English-speaking world and beyond.
The Hearsts, the Scripps, the Binghams, the Sulzbergers, the Chandlers and now the Murdochs, we seem almost as interested in reading about newspaper families as we are in reading the papers they publish. Why?
Many became oligarchs within their cities, particularly in the United States with, for instance, the Chandlers in LA and the Medills in Chicago. The prominence of the newspaper and the prominence of the city and the success and growth of both were intertwined.
Newspaper dynasties were very influential and powerful in their domains. They had the ability to become kingmakers and to influence public opinion. In a number of cases, that sense of entitlement was passed down to the children along with the expectation that their offspring would occupy a prominent role in society and in making public opinion, which they often characterised as for the good of the country. I imagine they believed that they used their influence for the good of the country and whether it was or not is always open to debate. And of course, a lot of newspaper families, the successful ones, became incredibly rich. Newspaper dynasties are not as common as they used to be. The Murdochs are one of the few who are left.
About 80 years before Rupert Murdoch entered the UK tabloid market, Alfred Harmsworth was pioneering the populist tactics of tabloid journalism at London’s Daily Mail. Your first choice is a book about the Harmsworths by Sally Taylor. Tell us about The Great Outsiders.
Amanda Smith at The Players at Harvardwood
Amanda Smith on ABC News
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Amanda Smith on the Joan Hamburg Show
Newspaper Titan in The Georgetown Dish
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Amanda Smith in WWD
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