Travels in Medialand

An Atlantic atlas of America's communications companies



As the Gannett Company puts it in their 1968 annual report, "A major advantage enjoyed by the Company over all but the very largest single newspapers lies in corporate size sufficient to maintain production staffs able to evaluate new production methods…” He who is big need never be small. Gannett now owns thirty dailies and nine broadcasting stations (soon to be eight) in six states, growing out of Frank Gannett's chain of upstate New York newspapers founded in 1906 (shown here, with a few surrounding properties). Recent expansion has been consummated with gusto: Gannett bought the nine Macy chain papers in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties in 1964; Cape Kennedy, Florida, area newspapers and radio stations in 1965 and 1966; a group of Illinois newspapers in 1967; and early this year the San Bernardino, California, Sun papers (the seller was the Los Angeles Times; price: $17,700,000). The Wall Street Journal reports that Gannett has agreed to pay an estimated $15 million in cash and securities for two Pensacola, Florida, papers in the old Perry chain. Total daily circulation for Gannett's papers: 1,315,663. 1968 revenues were $123,738,688; net income was $8,624,451. Competently edited, generally with a Rotary-Kiwanis conservative bent, the Gannett chain is today run by Paul Miller, once Washington Bureau Chief of Associated Press.


The Minneapolis Star and Tribune (red), the Des Moines Register (red outline), Ridder (black)

To state the links and the distinctions between the several enterprises controlled by members of the Cowles family is not to say what they mean. For the record, Cowles Communications (See page 91) is to be distinguished from the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, and both are to be distinguished from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company. In fact, Gardner Cowles, chairman of the board of Cowles Communications (which owns the CBS radio-TV outlets in Des Moines), is president of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company; his brother, John Cowles, Sr., is chairman of the boards of both the Des Moines Register and Minneapolis Star and Tribune Companies, and the latter's son, John Cowles, Jr., president of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company, is a member of the board of directors of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company. As John Cowles, Jr., puts it,

Because the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company and the Gardner Cowles Foundation, Inc. (of Des Moines, my Grandparents' charitable foundation) each owns more than one percent of the stock of Cowles Communications, Inc., and of Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company, the FCC apparently considers the New York, Des Moines and Minneapolis companies to comprise a single "group" of interests. This FCC definition is perhaps responsible for the erroneous public impression that the three companies are managed by some single, over-all, holding company or trust. Except for the overlap, however, of my Uncle Mike [Gardner Cowles], my Father and me with respect to Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, the editorial and business managements of the three companies are separate and unrelated.

The Des Moines company publishes the morning Des Moines Register and evening Tribune and a Sunday paper. Though financial statements are not made public, the annual revenues can be estimated at over $25 million.

But up in Minneapolis, things are more complicated. The Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company (annual revenues: over $50 million) owns Harper's magazine in New York (through a wholly owned subsidiary, Harper's Magazine Inc.), newspapers in Montana and South Dakota, a CATV system in Nebraska, a television station in Kansas (which the company is trying to sell to Gaylord of Oklahoma; see page 94), as well as the Minneapolis morning and evening newspapers. What is currently concerning the FCC is the question of "concentration" arising from the fact that the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company owns 47 percent of the operator of Minneapolis-St. Paul's CBS radio and television outlets; the controlling 53 percent is in turn owned by the publisher of two St. Paul newspapers, namely the Ridder family's Northwest Publications, Inc. through a company called Mid-Continent Radio-Television, Inc. (which in turn is partly owned by another company called MTC Properties, Inc., which in turn is a non-Cowles stockholder [14.7 percent] in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company. Phew.)

The Ridder family has other broadcast and newspaper interests from the Midwest to the Rockies, publishes sixteen papers in California and the Journal of Commerce in New York. The Ridder people did not respond to our request for a ball-park figure on company's dollar volume; an informed guess at the Ridder interests' worth is $100 to $150 million.



Samuel I. Newhouse is nothing if not acquisitive. His empire of twenty-plus dailies has undergone electrification (television and radio properties, some of them in cities where Newhouse also owns major newspapers [Portland, Oregon; St. Louis, Missouri; Syracuse, New York; and Birmingham, Alabama] and a collection of nine CATV systems) and beautification: Vogue, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and House & Garden lead Newhouse's magazine chain. Syracuse is the traditional seat of the Newhouse barony, but his influence is national, if not too frequently exercised. (As is the case with many of the larger groups, the chain's endorsement of LBJ in the 1964 election was a rare show of unified editorial policy.) Long green, and not newsprint, is understood to be the preoccupation of the Newhouse barony. An estimate of the outfit's worth: $200 to $250 million.


Bonneville International, affiliated with the Mormon Church (red); Kearns-Tribune (red outline); and Glassman-Hatch (black)

Three Salt Lake City baronies which are engaged in a variety of joint enterprises dominate the state of Utah with their newspaper, broadcast, and cable television interests, and dominate as well the microwave systems which connect cable TV and broadcasting outlets all over the Rocky Mountain states. The group owns important broadcast properties in neighboring states, and Bonneville, the Mormon Church affiliate, also has an estimated $20 million (just under 5 percent) interest in the Los Angeles Times. God is very much alive, and on the air (but not in Salt Lake City, tax-exempt). Here are some guesses about the three outfits' value: Bonneville: $60 to $75 million. Glassman-Hatch: $15 to $18 million. Kearns-Tribune: $12 to $15 million.

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