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E. W. Scripps and The Day Book

John Simkin

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Edward Wyllis Scripps was a journalist who worked on the Detroit Times as a young man. He was a socialist and became frustrated when his stories were not published. In 1878 he joined with his half-brother, James Edmund Scripps (1854-1926) to establish Cleveland Penny Press. This newspaper was highly successful and by 1887 he also owned newspapers in St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Scripps' newspapers were aimed at a mass audience, what he called the "95 per cent". They were low-priced and tended to support progressive causes and the trade union movement. He once wrote: "I have only one principle, and that is represented by an effort to make it harder for the rich to grow richer and easier for the poor to keep from growing poorer."

In one interview Scripps claimed that he viewed his newspapers as "the only schoolroom the working people had". He added "I am the advocate of that large majority of people who are not so rich in worldly goods and native intelligence as to make them equal, man for man, in the struggle with individuals of the wealthier and more intellectual class".

In 1894 Scripps joined with his half-brother, George Scripps and Milton Alexander McRae, to form the Scripps-McRae League of Newspapers. Scripps now had a controlling interest in 34 newspapers in 15 different states.

Scripps founded the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1902. This was the first syndicate to supply feature stories, illustrations and cartoons to newspapers. Five years later Scripps joined with others to form the news service, United Press.

Throughout his career Scripps found that advertisers continually put him under pressure to drop his radical causes. In 1911 he decided to publish a newspaper that was completely free of advertising. The tabloid-sized newspaper was called the Day Book, and at a penny a copy, it aimed for a working-class market, crusading for higher wages, more unions, safer factories, lower streetcar fares, and women’s right to vote. It also tackled the important stories ignored by most other dailies. According to Duane C. S. Stoltzfus, the author of Freedom from Advertising: "The Day Book served as an important ally of workers, a keen watchdog on advertisers, and it redefined news by providing an example of a paper that treated its readers first as citizens with rights rather than simply as consumers."



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