Heady newspaper days

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Editor & Publisher formed in time of great turmoil

The magazine that became Editor & Publisher was launched at a time of tremendous upheaval among newspapers ? and it quickly set a 115-year pattern of wrestling with the forces that would silence or sensationalize the press.
“We hope to make The Journalist bright, without being nasty, aggressive and yet not scurrilous; dignified but not ‘tame,'” declared C.J. Byrne and Leander Cummings on March 22, 1884, in the first editorial of the weekly. “If we find wrongs to be righted in our profession, shams to be exposed, petty tyrants to be subdued, we shall cheerfully undertake the work.”
There would be much work. Newspaper giants such as Joseph Pulitzer, E.W. Scripps, Harrison Gray Otis, and William Randolph Hearst were making papers that were cheap, popular and crusading. At the same time, many newspapers were notoriously unreliable, both in news ? as the Yellow Press moniker attests ? and in their advertising and circulation practices.
Credibility in news and business was a message James Wright Brown would preach from the moment he bought E&P in April, 1912 until his death in 1959 at the age of 85.
To the fury of many publishers, James Wright Brown immediately began editorializing for passage of the so-called Bourne Law that requires periodicals to state ownership and circulation to qualify for second-class postage rates. In 1922, Brown helped create the first credible newspaper auditing organization, the Audit Bureau
of Circulations. E&P is a charter member of ABC.
James Wright Brown’s vision for E&P was a weekly that would cover all aspects of the newspaper industry. With the launching of the “Editor & Publisher International Year Book” in 1921, he created the first systematic directory of U.S. newspapers including mechanical requirements and linage tabulations. In quick succession, E&P bought Newspaperdom, a monthly that specialized in technical articles, and The Fourth Estate, a news-oriented industry publication.
James Wright Brown also had an intense interest in Latin American press freedom that was taken up enthusiastically by his son Robert U. Brown. In 1945, about a year after he became editor, Robert U. Brown and five other journalists, meeting at Barbetta’s restaurant in New York City, created the Inter-American Press Association. IAPA has grown into one of the most respected and influential defenders of press freedom in this hemisphere. Grandson D. Colin Phillips also is an enthusiastic supporter of the IAPA and will continue to serve on the group’s board.
Robert U. Brown led E&P into an era in which public scrutiny by the media was increasingly matched with public scrutiny of the media. From the Cold War to Watergate to O.J. Simpson, his crisp editorials week after week brought the industry’s focus back from the fads and passions to the enduring values of a free press practiced openly and responsibly.
Robert U. Brown ceded day-to-day control of E&P in 1996 to a new generation of the family, the current co-publishers D. Colin Phillips and Chris Phillips. They took the magazine aggressively into the Internet age, both in print and cyberspace with the Web site at www.mediainfo.com as well as the bi-monthly publication Mediainfo.com. Like their great-grandfather James Wright Brown, the Phillips brothers expanded by acquisition, buying the niche publication Free Paper Publisher. After many years as a co-sponsor, Editor & Publisher Co. also bought the Interactive Newspaper conferences.
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site:http:www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher July 17, 1999) [Caption]

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