Fifty years of journalism in St. Louis – a timeline
In the year in which the Journalism Review was founded, here’s a snapshot of the area’s media scene: St. Louis has two daily newspapers: the morning Globe-Democrat, owned by S.I. Newhouse, and the evening Post-Dispatch, owned by Pulitzer Co. They battle each other for scoops, advertisers and public influence. Each has hundreds of thousands of readers. (Under a 1961 joint operating agreement, the papers share printing and other costs, but the newsrooms remain separate.) In sports, news and talk-show programs, CBS Radio’s KMOX-AM reigns supreme as “The Voice of St. Louis.” TV news operations include NBC affiliate KSD (Channel 5, later KDSK); CBS affiliate KMOX (Channel 4, later KMOV); and ABC affiliate KTVI (Channel 2). Independent station KPLR (Channel 11) also produces a newscast. Smaller daily papers such as the Alton Evening Telegraph (later known simply as The Telegraph) and the Belleville News-Democrat serve key submarkets. Two weeklies, the St. Louis Argus and the St. Louis American, serve audiences that are primarily African-American. Two other newspapers in the city, the South Side Journal and the Neighborhood News, merge in 1970 to form St. Louis Suburban Newspapers. (Together with other weekly suburban newspapers started by the Donnelly family in north St. Louis County, St. Charles and the Metro East, this operation will later become the Suburban Journals.) The Sporting News, a weekly published in St. Louis since 1886, reaches a national audience. It is best known as the “Bible of Baseball.”
Public radio station KWMU-FM, which will later be known as St. Louis Public Radio, begins broadcasting from the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In the Central West End, the West End Word debuts.
A strike by the Teamsters union halts publication of the Globe-Democrat and the Post-Dispatch for six weeks
St. Louis Magazine emerges, having evolved from an earlier lifestyle magazine called Replay that was founded in 1969 with offices in the basement of the Cheshire Inn. (Replay itself evolved from an earlier incarnation of the magazine in the 1960s.)
The Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists is founded by more than a dozen journalists working across print, radio and television.
Ray Hartmann founds the Riverfront Times, with backing from St. Louis businessman Mark Vittert. It eventually becomes one of the biggest alternative weeklies in the country.
A 53-day strike by unions representing pressmen and others shuts down production of both the Post and the Globe. The papers begin publishing again in January 1979. The Webster-Kirkwood Times debuts as a monthly publication. It becomes a weekly in 1984. A young Missouri radio host named Rush Limbaugh sends his resume to KMOX General Manager Robert Hyland. Hyland scribbles his thoughts down on paper – “Not too bad” he writes – but doesn’t give Limbaugh a job. (By the 1990s, Limbaugh’s syndicated show will be a fixture on KMOX and hundreds of other stations around the country.)
Post publisher Joseph Pulitzer Jr. and Globe publisher G. Duncan Bauman expand their papers’ joint operating agreement. The Post takes over the Globe’s advertising, circulation and business operations; profits are split 50-50. The papers maintain separate editorial staffs.
Mark Vittert, along with Andrew E. Newman of Edison Brothers Stores, founds the St. Louis Business Journal. They go on to start similar weeklies in other cities before selling the business to American City Business Journals in 1986. Fifty years of journalism in St. Louis – a timeline by Jack Grone 13 Early 1980s St. Louis dentist Donald M. Suggs takes over as publisher of the St. Louis American, when the paid weekly has a circulation of about 4,000. He converts it to a free weekly with wider circulation, to reach more people in the St. Louis area’s growing African-American population.
The Gay News-Telegraph is founded by journalist Jim Thomas. It later becomes the Lesbian and Gay News-Telegraph, then simply the News-Telegraph, a free paper distributed twice a month in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Duncan Bauman announces in November the Globe-Democrat will shut down at the end of the year, due to its deteriorating finances. (Both the Globe and the Post have daily circulations of around 250,000, but the Post benefits from lucrative ads in its Sunday edition.) Reports at the time say that because of their joint operating agreement, Pulitzer and Newhouse would be able to split earnings of about $15 million each year by making St. Louis a one-newspaper town. Separately, Pulitzer wins approval to trade KSDK (Channel 5) to Multimedia, Inc. in exchange for other television stations.
The Post converts from an evening to a morning paper in February. Investor Jeffrey Gluck buys the Globe, but a lack of viable financing means he struggles to keep it afloat. (Under intense pressure from current and former employees who haven’t been paid, Gluck puts the Globe into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 1985 and suspends publication that December.) Ingersoll Publications, a group of dailies and weeklies primarily in the eastern U.S., buys the former Suburban Newspapers and Donnelly chains and combines them into the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. Ingersoll buys the Alton Telegraph the following year. The Belleville News-Democrat becomes a seven-day-a-week morning newspaper under its owner, Capital Cities, which had purchased the paper in 1972.
The Globe closes for good in October after another group of owners fails to assemble the financing necessary to sustain it. St. Louis becomes one of a growing number of cities around the country, with a single daily newspaper. Pulitzer has challenges of its own. Joseph and his half-brother Michael Pulitzer successfully fight off an attempt by other family members – who have no say in the operations of the business but control 43% of its stock – to force the sale of the company. Pulitzer Publishing ends up buying out the disgruntled family members; to help pay for this, the company makes its first public stock offering. American City Business Journals buys St. Louis Magazine and the St. Louis Business Journal.
“Donnybrook” premieres on public television station KETC, with former GlobeDemocrat opinion editor Martin Duggan as the show’s “provocateur.” Sylvester Brown founds Take Five magazine, a publication modeled on the Riverfront Times aimed at a primarily AfricanAmerican audience. It will be published until 2002. In 2003 Brown becomes a columnist for the Post-Dispatch.
Ralph Ingersoll launches the St. Louis Sun, the first new metropolitan daily in the U.S. in decades. He hires several former GlobeDemocrat staffers and poaches Post-Dispatch sportswriter Kevin Horrigan, hoping Horrigan’s new column will help attract readers. Circulation peaks at 200,000 on launch day in September, then gradually falls to 100,000. By the time the paper folds the following April, Ingersoll has burned through $25 million.
Investment company Warburg Pincus forms the Journal Register Co. to oversee the Suburban Journals. This comes after the Sun’s failure and other financial troubles force Ralph Ingersoll to forfeit his interest in the weeklies to Warburg.
The Post-Dispatch launches PostLink, an electronic information service that delivers news briefs, stock quotes, classified ads, sports scores and other content via personal computers for a flat fee of $9.95 per month. Over the next decade the Post-Dispatch’s online offering will go by various names until the debut of STLtoday.com in 2001. Robert Hyland of KMOX dies of cancer at age 71. His obituary in The New York Times notes that William Paley, the founder of CBS, referred to KMOX as “the jewel in CBS’s crown.” (Within a few years Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated midday program is on the air, breaking the station’s longstanding practice of airing shows that it produces itself.)
Joseph Pulitzer Jr. dies; his widow Emily Rauh Pulitzer becomes a major stockholder in Pulitzer Publishing. Michael Pulitzer, his halfbrother, takes over as chairman. Loss-plagued St. Louis Magazine folds, after a brief stint as an insert in the Business Journal. Ray Hartmann and Mark Vittert later acquire the magazine for one dollar. (Hartmann relaunches it as a quarterly in 1995; it regains monthly status in 1997.) Newsrooms across the region stretch their resources to cover one of the biggest stories in decades: the Great Flood of 1993. Mid to late 1990s St. Louis becomes the center of the Bosnian community in the U.S., with up to 70,000 refugees from the war in the former Yugoslavia settling in the metro area, most of them initially in the city. Bosnian-language newspapers spring up to serve this community. One outlet still publishing news stories is SabaH, which means “sunrise” in Bosnian.
The Post-Dispatch fires Editor William Woo while he is on vacation in Europe, saying the paper needs a new direction. Later that year the paper hires Cole Campbell from a Virginia newspaper as Woo’s replacement. Campbell pursues a concept called “public journalism.” He reorganizes reporters and editors into teams, creates a new “Imagine St. Louis” section, and encourages direct input from readers at public meetings. (These moves meet with significant resistance in the newsroom.) Also this year the Post launches postnet. com, its first website. It starts publishing its Saturday edition in a tabloid-sized format. This lasts until 2009, when the Post switches to a slim broadsheet format seven days a week. Along with many other National Public Radio member stations, KWMU switches to a news/talk format. Around this time, the station’s flagship talk show, “St. Louis on the Air,” premieres.
Koplar Communications sells KPLR to ACME Communications, ending 38 years of local family ownership. 1998 Ray Hartmann sells the Riverfront Times, with a staff of 65 people, to New Times Media, a chain of alt-weeklies. 1999 Pulitzer Publishing sells its nine television stations and five radio stations to HearstArgyle Television Inc. The newspaper business becomes Pulitzer Inc. Sauce Magazine debuts as an online restaurant guide. It adds a print edition in 2001. (The magazine’s success leads the Post-Dispatch to launch a competitor in 2010 called Feast.)
Cole Campbell resigns abruptly as the editor of the Post-Dispatch, bringing the paper’s experiment with “public journalism” to an end. (His ideas about how journalists can engage their communities will live on, however.) Pulitzer buys the Suburban Journals from Journal Register for $165 million. The deal includes 38 weekly papers (with distribution of 1.7 million) and the Ladue News. Pulitzer also buys the Pantagraph, the daily newspaper covering central Illinois, and the Illinois Valley Press, a chain of seven community papers, from The Chronicle Publishing Co. Pulitzer increases its interest in the Post-Dispatch from 50 percent to 95 percent by buying out the former owners of the Globe-Democrat for $306 million. The News-Telegraph ceases publication. Its co-founder Jim Thomas and others Continued on next page 14 launch a new magazine aimed at an LGBTQ audience, The Vital Voice.
Pulitzer Publishing launches STLtoday. com, designed as “the definitive online guide to living in St. Louis.” The site has its own staff of 65 and is housed outside the PostDispatch newsroom. (Disappointing revenue leads Pulitzer to lay off 15 staffers and combine STLtoday’s operations with the main newsroom the following year.) David Drebes and Will Winter begin publishing the Arch City Chronicle, a newsletter covering St. Louis politics. Under Drebes’ leadership it evolves into a biweekly newspaper. Drebes folds the print edition in 2007 when he launches the Missouri Scout, which covers state politics. The Chronicle lasts online until 2011.
Antonio French founds the Public Defender newspaper, which evolves into the PubDef blog that covers issues including politics and education. French becomes a St. Louis city alderman in 2009, serving until 2017. Lifestyle and fashion magazine ALIVE debuts.
In January Michael and Emily Pulitzer sell Pulitzer Publishing Co., including the PostDispatch, to Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, for $1.46 billion. Lee takes over in June; the Post-Dispatch is the first metropolitan daily it has managed. The new owners redesign the paper and launch a round of buyouts (the first of several rounds of buyouts and layoffs) which are accepted by 41 employees. In November Editor Ellen Soeteber resigns. Managing Editor Arnie Robbins replaces her.
Emily Pulitzer and other members of the family establish the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, with the Post’s former Washington bureau chief Jon Sawyer as executive director. The center eventually becomes the largest single source of money for global enterprise reporting. (In St. Louis, media partners of projects that the Pulitzer Center funds have included the Post-Dispatch, the RFT, the American and St. Louis Public Radio.)
The St. Louis Beacon, a nonprofit online publication led by former reporters and editors at the Post, goes live. Its backers include Emily Pulitzer and former Post-Dispatch Managing Editor Richard Weil. Coverage areas include politics, education, health, arts and issues of race and class. The Beacon’s offices are in the building owned by the Nine Network (parent of KETC) in Grand Center. In TV, Fox affiliate KTVI (Channel 2) and CW affiliate KPLR (Channel 11) announce plans to combine their news operations. The Sporting News, under the ownership of American City Business Journals, moves its editorial offices to Charlotte, N.C. (In 2012 it becomes an online-only publication.) NextSTL, a website focused on economic development, transportation, public policy and civic affairs, makes it debut under Editor Alex Ihnen.
Tim Eby joins KWMU as general manager from public radio station WOSU in Ohio. He replaces Patty Wente, who was dismissed by UMSL administrators the previous year amid allegations of financial mismanagement. 2010 KMOX morning show host Charlie Brennan takes over as the provocateur on “Donnybrook” following Martin Duggan’s retirement. St. Louis Alderman Antonio French begins publishing The NorthSider, a newsletter focused on north St. Louis. It becomes a weekly in 2018, after French has left public office. The St. Louis Journalism Review becomes the Gateway Journalism Review and moves to a new home at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Lee Enterprises files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to refinance nearly $1 billion in debt, much of it taken on to buy Pulitzer Publishing. The company emerges from bankruptcy less than two months later. Broadcasts of Cardinals games return to KMOX after five seasons on KTRS-AM. Times Newspapers, the parent company of the Webster-Kirkwood Times and the South County Times, acquires the West End Word.
KWMU, now rebranded as St. Louis Public Radio, moves to UMSL’s new facility in Grand Center, next door to the Nine Network of Public Media.
The Beacon merges with St. Louis Public Radio, roughly doubling the size of STLPR’s newsroom. Beacon editor Margaret Wolf Freivogel becomes editor of the combined operation. Scott Faughn, publisher of the SEMO Times covering southeastern Missouri, teams with former Missouri House speaker Rod Jetton to launch the Missouri Times, focusing on statewide politics. The following year Faughn launches a Sunday morning TV talk show, “This Week in Missouri Politics,” which airs in St. Louis on KDNL (ABC-30). (Faughn will become infamous in 2018 as the source of a mysterious $50,000 payment to a lawyer in a legal case that leads to the downfall of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.)
Ferguson teenager Michael Brown is killed by police officer Darren Wilson in August; demonstrations break out across the region in response. Protests reignite in November following a St. Louis Country grand jury’s decision not to charge Wilson. National and local media outlets make Ferguson the year’s most important story; the Post-Dispatch’s photography staff wins a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 for its work. St. Louis Public Radio won a national Murrow award for it multi-media coverage and the ABA Silver Gavel Award for legal news coverage.
Cleveland-based Euclid Media acquires the Riverfront Times.
Entercom Communications Corp. of Philadelphia acquires CBS Radio, giving KMOX a new owner. The St. Louis Jewish Light celebrates the 70th anniversary of its predecessor publication, the St. Louis Light. (The Jewish Light became an independent publication in 1963.) The Vital Voice moves to online-only publication; it ceases operations altogether at the end of January 2020. Euclid Media launches an LGBTQ-focused quarterly magazine called Out in STL. Nonprofit newsroom ProPublica launches ProPublica Illinois to provide independent investigative journalism. Meanwhile, fastgrowing online publication The Athletic expands its local sports coverage to St. Louis.
The Post’s Tony Messenger wins the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for his columns on rural Missourians being forced into modern-day debtors’ prisons. It is the newspaper’s 19th Pulitzer. Lee Enterprises moves the Post’s design functions and copy desk to a facility in Munster, Ind., where Lee’s other daily newspapers are designed. Several more Post staff are laid off or accept buyouts. The NorthSider expands to start publishing a sister paper, the weekly SouthSider.
As the Gateway Journalism Review marks its 50th anniversary, local and national media outlets devote massive resources to covering COVID-19, even as the pandemic hits their bottom lines. The RFT lays off most of its staff and announces plans to go online-only, but later hires some reporters back and manages to keep publishing a slimmed-down version. Times Newspapers suspends print editions of its three papers, including the Webster-Kirkwood Times. (Later, a group of employees buys the operations and revives the print edition.) The NorthSider and SouthSider also stop publishing and go onlineonly. At St. Louis Public Radio, accusations of systemic racism become public in August. Several weeks later UMSL administrators force Tim Eby from his post; the station hires an interim general manager while it prepares a report on the station’s diversity and inclusion practices and searches for a successor. The Missouri Independent, an online news outlet focused on state government, begins publishing in October.