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The Seattle Star
Newspaper magnate E. W. (Edward Willis) Scripps once wrote that "the best community in which to found a newspaper is one that is comparatively young and whose population has in very recent time increased." With a population of 40,000 and growing, Seattle at the turn of the century fit Scripps' description well. Scripps hired editor E. Hazard Wells to found his latest venture, the Seattle Star, on February 2, 1899.
Scripps’ papers generally supported the principle of public ownership. The Star was a strong advocate of a 1902 ballot initiative to allow the city of Seattle to generate its own power, for instance. When Editor Wells planned to start a newspaper in Tacoma (the Tacoma Times), Scripps proposed borrowing money for the venture from employees. The notes promised to pay 6 percent interest for two years. This idea grew into the Newspaper Saving Society and the First Investment Company, a form of employee ownership.
Scripps thought that advertising had a corrupting effect on journalism. In 1903 the Bon Marché department store stopped advertising in the Star because the editorial staff refused to suppress unfavorable articles about the store. When the Star's business manager Edwin Foster Chase told Scripps that he regretted losing the contract, Scripps congratulated him instead. To reduce his papers’ reliance on advertising, Scripps focused on increasing circulation and limiting advertising space in order to inflate the value of that space.
Though Scripps generally took a hands-off approach to the daily management of his newspapers, he conceived of his business as a service to the working people. Occasionally his editorial staff would drift from the central mission of supporting the interests of labor and the poor, and Scripps felt the need to intervene. For instance, when Star Editor Byron Hilton Canfield opposed the Seattle General Strike of 1919, Scripps wrote a heated "disquisition" in response. It appears under the title of "Ingratitude?" in I Protest: Selected Disquisitions of E. W. Scripps, edited by Oliver Knight (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966). The Seattle Star remained in publication until 1947.
Provided by: Washington State Library; Olympia, WA