Sunday, May 27, 2018
Robert P. Scripps:
When he died at 42, Robert Paine Scripps was one of the most powerful men in American journalism.
His Scripps-Howard Company owned more than 30 daily newspapers in all the leading cities: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver. Most were started from scratch by his father, Edward Willis Scripps, whose career began in 1878 when, at 24, he founded the Cleveland Penny Press.
Born in 1895, Robert Scripps joined the company when he was 16 and by 1917, was editorial director of the chain and in the 1920s became president and chief stockholder.
In 1924, he bought an estate on Route 35, South Salem Road, and lived there fairly regularly until around 1933 when he moved back to his native California. His family continued to use the Ridgefield place, opposite Cedar Lane, as a vacation home until the late 1930s.
Scripps raised some eyebrows in March 1931 at a conference on unemployment headed by U.S. Senator Robert M. La Follette Jr. of Wisconsin — a Republican who championed organized labor. Scripps testified that a solution to unemployment and industrial stability could be “shorter hours of labor than have ever been dreamed of; and wider distribution of wealth — through wages and otherwise — to permit increased luxury consumption and increased luxury employment.”
Scripps was best known in the newspaper industry for beginning the use of joint-operating agreements — in which two competing newspapers use the same offices and printing facilities. “In a period when fierce competition forced many poorly managed newspapers to fold, these agreements helped ensure the survival of the Scripps-Howard chain and numerous other newspapers,” a biographer wrote. The technique has been used into the 21st Century, though few cities remain that can support two newspapers.
In March 1938, Scripps died unexpectedly aboard his yacht off Baja California; the cause of death was listed as a “throat hemorrhage.” Ironically, 12 years earlier, E.W. Scripps, his father, had died aboard his own yacht off the coast of Africa. Daddy would have been the candidate for the hemorrhage — he smoked 30 cigars and drank four quarts of whiskey a day; instead, he died of apoplexy.
Among Robert’s children who lived in Ridgefield was Elizabeth A. “Nackey” Scripps, who married William Loeb, publisher of New Hampshire’s largest daily newspaper, The Manchester Union Leader. For many years, the Loebs also owned the Connecticut Sunday Herald, a conservative weekly published in Bridgeport and later Norwalk.
After William Loeb died in 1981, Nackey Loeb continued to publish the Union Leader until she retired in 1999. She died in 2000, leaving the paper to the new Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester.—J.S.
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