History of Oregon Newspapers/Sam Jackson and the Journal

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


While, in cold history, it is not a fact that C. S. Jackson founded the Journal, such is practically the case. What happened is, that he rescued it from the very edge of that limbo which had made room for previous competitors of the Oregonian and Telegram. March 10, 1902, a campaign paper was started in Portland by A. D. Bowen called the Portland Evening Journal. It struggled from the start for lack of nourishment.

Arthur Brock, veteran Portland printer, recalls when the paper was set up on two rented Linotypes, one of which he operated. The publisher had not been able to install a complete plant of his own.

Bowen did not have very great success with the young Journal; yet t would be unfair to judge him entirely on that particular phase of his career. He was, indeed, a man of great versatility still is, for he is keeping his inventive mind working while he lives at Stevenson, Wash., not far from the scene of his early newspaper adventures, and mothproof paper bags with cellophane windows, and "hardwood boards" made from redwood bark are among his recent inventions (51).

For a time, Bowen had managed the Portland Telegram under Oregonian ownership. At the time of Dewey's victory in Manila Bay, May 1, 1898, he worked up a 60-word cablegram into an extra which was the only one issued in the Northwest (it was Sunday). Mr. Bowen recalls being the first to promote the Lewis & Clark exposition of 1905, waging a campaign which the Oregonian took up and helped put across.

After leaving Portland he promoted and built railroads in California, Alberta, and the Middle West, manufactured electric-railway equipment, organized a paper mill at Bellingham.

But the Journal was started in the days before Mr. Bowen had any capital to speak of, and it was hard to get much backing in a field where so many papers running opposition to the Oregonian had come to grief. His first issue came out March 10, 1902. His managing editor was William Wasson, capable newspaper man who later went to Washington as correspondent for the paper.

One of the first employees—who practically forced himself on the none-too-receptive Wasson as a candidate for a job—was young Hyman H. Cohen, who is market editor of the Journal after more than 37 years on the paper. Young Cohen, who had had a bit of newspaper experience, some of it in Alaska, put on an intensive drive to get himself on the Journal payroll and apparently had failed. On the day when the paper was to come out, the insistent young reporter beat the managing editor to the Journal's doorstep. Cohen recalls that Wasson repeated an offer of $9 a week to stay off the staff, but Cohen wanted the job. Wasson shrugged his shoulders and put the young fellow to work. His first detail, selfselected, was the market beat—which he never left—together with east-side and suburban news. When he started reporting markets he didn't know wheat from barley; but the years of study and experience have made him a widely recognized market authority.

Nineteen years afterward, Hyman H. Cohen described in the scene when the first paper came off the press at 3 o'clock that Thursday afternoon, the 10th of March, in a storeroom of the old Goodenough building, Fifth and Yamhill streets.

"The lone Hoe press," wrote Mr. Cohen, "began to grind out the initial copies of the Journal. Grind out is really a good expression, because it was literally the case. For a day or so it was impossible to adjust the press to a point where good printing was available, and most of the first issue was badly torn and frayed.

"There was an anxious crowd in front of the new paper's home. Newsboys were there in force because the establishment of the new paper meant much to them. It not only meant increased business, but it likewise was the opening wedge whereby the newsboy became more independent. . .

"People besieged the new publication office to subscribe for the new paper. The business was far greater than the old press could take care of, but people were patient. . . even though many of them did not receive the Journal until 9 o'clock at night. . .

"When I wrote my first market report on March 10, 1902, the price of eggs at wholesale was but 13½ cents a dozen, while cheese was 14 cents a pound. . . You could purchase the very best hams at 15 to 17½ cents a pound. . . Sugar sold down to $4.35 a sack.

"How well I remember that March 10. . . It was the birth of a new era for Portland—and it was my birthday."

The little Journal was unimpressive in those few months when it was struggling merely to keep alive. It appeared to be dying when the attention of Sam Jackson, successful Pendleton publisher, who was building up the East Oregonian, was called to it.

The paper did not cost Mr. Jackson very much—a few thousand dollars; but the story is, that some time after the purchase he sighed over his bargain; he had bought little except an entrance to a difficult field, occupied by the Morning Oregonian and the Evening Telegram.

Anyhow, July 23, 1902, this "Newspaper for all of the People" became the property of Mr. Jackson; it was an opportunity, and that was about all.

But the young Virginian was a born newspaper man, and the opportunity was all he needed. He changed the name to the Oregon Journal, thereby giving some basis to the statement that he founded the paper, which he brought back from the jaws of death.

The list of the original stockholders in the Journal company indicates that Jackson had convinced some pretty substantial people the new paper under his inspired leadership could succeed where so many others had failed—the Daily Bee, the Bulletin, the Standard, the Dispatch, the Northwest News, and others. Stockholders were J. N. Teal, R. T. Cox, J. C. Ainsworth, Walter F. Burrell, Leo Friede, I. N. Fleischner, Dr. A. J. Giesy, William M. Ladd, L. Allen Lewis, A. L. Mills, George W. Bates Jr., Raymond B. Wilcox. It needs no intimate knowledge of Portland to recognize that here were a good many of Portlands key people, support from whom gave the new paper a flying start after the change of ownership. The paper, however, didn't start right in making money. There was, in fact, a deficit for years (52).

In letters to B. F. Irvine, who many years later was to become editor of the Journal, Mr. Jackson outlined the philosophy behind the Journal's policy:

The strong need no defender; the weak do. The powerful have many newspaper supporters; the poor have few. Wealth is able to take care of itself; poverty is not and needs help.

"If the time ever comes when the Journal cannot be free and fearless and independent, I will throw it into the river," was his frequent remark (53).

Boycotts and threatened boycotts failed to affect his policy.

He made no outside investments that could influence his news paper's attitudes. On one occasion, said Mr. Irvine (54), when asked to invest in a canning factory with the prospect of large profits, he wrote:

I don't care to make investments in a canning factory, even if I had the money, particularly so in one that promises such large returns as 50 per cent without my contributing any work or thought in making such profits. Such proposals lead reasonably good people, particularly women and heirs with money, to expect too much for doing nothing, and that is unmoral.

Regarding politics Mr. Jackson once (May 12, 1916) telegraphed his editor, from Washington, D. C.:

. . . you know I have no inclination to mix in politics, or align myself with politicians. . . I care little who is senator, so long as he labors sincerely in behalf of the whole people and helps to conduct good government economically administered.

Perhaps these few expressions will give a picture of the aims of the man who built up the Oregon Journal.

Lower freight rates, an open river and improved channel conditions, harbor jetties, bridges across the Willamette, pure milk are among the campaigns for which Mr. Jackson and his editors fought through the years, with a high percentage of success.

"I heartily favor any method," he wrote in one of his campaigns, "that will give the people a full dollar's worth of roads for every dollar they put into them. When the public money is honestly and effectively spent on good roads, it remains in the country, as do the roads. Besides which an economic land value, more than equal to the cost of the roads, is created—thus giving a three-fold return to the public. Bad roads kill energies, destroy values, and breed ignorance, discontent, and ill-will."

The work for good roads was less easy in those early days than it has since become. The early users of the phrase "Get Oregon out of the mud," were quite widely viewed as "tax-eaters," always anathema in this part of the West. But, thanks to such fighters as C. S. Jackson, Oregon took an early lead in highway construction among the Pacific Coast states.

When he went into Portland from Pendleton, the odds, despite his East Oregonian success and the backing he seemed to have in Portland, were against him, the small-town man with no metro politan experience, and he was taking over a dying paper with fewer than 5,000 circulation, no prestige, and no plant to speak of. With in a year, however, he had begun assembling a personnel that was to help him achieve success. The change that perhaps did the most to put the Journal on the road to prestige was Mr. Jackson's bringing John F. Carroll from Denver as editor, succeeding Mr. Wasson. Fourteen years later, after Carroll had been taken over by the op position as editor and publisher of the Telegram, David W. Hazen, writing his obituary, referred to him as "the happy warrior," a which years afterward was to make a phrase from Wordsworth place in American political history. Before coming to the Coast Mr. Carroll had learned his reporting in Pottsville, Pa., where he covered nearly all of the Molly McGuire cases for the Evening Chronicle and saw nearly all of the 17 hangings. He later worked on the Missouri Republican at St. Louis and was city editor of the Omaha Bee for Edward Rosewater. In Denver he built up the Denver Post and Denver Times as managing editor. From Denver Mr. Jackson brought him to Portland. Before going to Denver he had been editor and part owner of the Cheyenne Leader. Here he was defeated in his active, outspoken campaign to protect the small cattleman against the big operators, but he went down fighting. It was his only defeat of any consequence in a long career. "Mr. Carroll," said Fred Lockley, "was a man of vision and ability, and it was not long before the state papers were copying Journal editorials."

Other men brought by Mr. Jackson to the Journal in its first year were Felix Mitchell, experienced printer and country newspaper man, who came from the East Oregonian as telegraph editor and proofreader, and who remained with the Journal until his death; and George Trowbridge, employed as political editor. Mr. Trowbridge succeeded to the editorship when John F. Carroll left the paper in 1906 and directed its policies, in line with C. S. Jackson's principles until his death in 1919. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Journal was his building up of office fellowship and esprit de corps among his fellow-workers on the paper.

"In the olden days of newspaper publications," said Sam Raddon Jr. in an obituary article on Mr. Trowbridge, "a most carefully nourished point was what was called 'office courtesy.' This was Mr. Trowbridge's outstanding characteristic. If he ever gave an assignment directly, no one remembers it now. He would say, 'I think you would be interested in this,' or 'If you haven't too much on hand perhaps you would like to take up this subject,' or 'This seems to me to require the best possible attention.' The man to whom he would be speaking had, however, no vagueness as to just what he wanted when he had finished."

Mr. Trowbridge did, however, emphasize thoroughness and accuracy in all departments with an earnestness that left its impress on the paper. He left to his successor, B. F. Irvine, a Journal firmly happy and informal but self-disciplined through his example and courteous precept.

B. F. Irvine, native son of Oregon, graduate of Willamette University, had been printer, telegraph operator, reporter, small town editor, always with a keen interest in educational institutions and in public affairs. Mr. Irvine had been on the Journal since its early years, having been brought to the paper from the Corvallis Times because Mr. Jackson liked his editorials. He had, in fact, been writing editorials for the Journal and sending them in before he cut himself loose from Corvallis and went to Portland as an editorial writer. Mr. Irvine's contribution to the paper has sprung mostly from his breadth of sympathy with his fellow-men and his intensive knowledge of Oregon and deep-seated love for his native state.

One of Oregon's most productive historians, who is one of the few who have given intensive attention to the history of journalism in Oregon, was brought to the Journal from Salem, where he was then on the staff of the Capital Journal. Already Fred Lockley had traveled pretty widely over the state as field editor of the Pacific Homestead, and Mr. Jackson's offer developed still further the opportunity to learn and to write about Oregon.

Others on the Journal in its early years who made names for themselves were Hugh Hume, writing stylist, who later founded the Portland Spectator and conducted it until his death in 1931; W. D. B. Dodson, ex-Oregonian cub, Philippine soldier and correspondent, Sumpter editor in the wild and woolly days of the big mining boom, and now executive secretary of the Portland chamber of commerce; George Putnam, news editor under John F. Carroll, who became one of Oregon's outstanding small-daily editors. There were many others worthy of mention, only a few of whom can be touched on here.

Hugh Hume, writing also in the 25th anniversary number of the Journal, already cited, mentioned some of those who remained in his memory as outstanding members of the staff during his service on the paper. Besides Cohen and Dodson, he mentions "Dad" Kerns, who covered marine; Bob Withrow, "fine writer, indefatigable news-seeker;" Bill Petrain, assistant to Jack Horan, first of the Journal's sports editors; Jesse Currey, general assignments; Will Warren, clever on police news; Dave Hazen, in charge of the morgue; Spencer Best, whose best remembered story dealt with some little children who, he said, having seen their first rainbow, toddled off hand-in-hand to find the pot of gold. Under a pile of wood they were found, so the story went, wet, cold, and weeping. Gaeta Wold, Mrs. Kittie White, and Nellie Burney were early women writers on the paper.

Petrain moved over to the Oregonian, where he had charge of sports for a time; Withrow died recently in Portland after a long career, during which he wrote and desked on the Telegram for years, did a stretch of country newspaper work in Gold Beach, and helped Harry Haugsten get out the Journal of Commerce in Portland. Will Warren became reporter on the Oregonian and worked up to the city desk, besides a turn at Sunday-editing. He is now on the News-Telegram desk.

Dave Hazen, after a long stretch on the Telegram moved to the Oregonian. He has done thousands of interviews with prizefighters, politicians, scientists, royalty, written a bit of Oregon history, published some books, done book reviewing, and in recognition of his scholarly research lately obtained an honorary doctor's degree from Portland University.

R. D. (Dick) Cannon, city editor under John Carroll, moved over to the Telegram, where he became managing editor; he was one of the best authorities on Portland journalism from the point of view of the working staff. After several years of retirement he died in Santa Rosa, California, in 1939.

Charles Hyskell had the commercial run aside from markets — including banks, finance, real estate, railroads, the commercial club, chamber of commerce. On retiring from active newspaper work he took to fiction and to secretarying for the Portland Press Club.

Macdonald Potts was business manager; W. J. Hofmann, advertising manager; Dave Smith, circulation manager, (recently retired), in the early days of the Journal.

Of the mechanical gang of 1902, only one, Tom James, remains. He is foreman of the Journal composing-room.

Philip L. Jackson, who was associate publisher under his father, became publisher on the death of C. S. Jackson and has remained in that position. On the retirement of B. F. Irvine as active editor in 1937 he succeeded to that position, putting Marshall N. Dana, for many years associate editor, in direct charge of the editorial page.

On the death of Mr. Trowbridge, managing editor, in 1919, Donald J. Sterling, Sunday editor, was moved up to the managing editorship, and B. F. Irvine took the editorship, involving the decision of the paper's editorial policies and the handling of its editorial page. Mr. Sterling, native of Michigan and graduate of the University of Michigan in 1908, after a year of reporting in his home town of Battle Creek, was made Sunday editor of the Oregon Journal in 1909. He has continued as managing editor and, assisted by his news editor, Jennings F. Sutor, has been responsible for the great changes in the makeup of the Journal, including the stream lining and ragtime headline change of three years ago. He has been active in the American Society of Newspaper Editors, of which he was elected president in 1939, and in the Associated Press.

Sunday editors since Mr. Sterling's time have been O. C. Merrick, Charles T. Hoge, and Sam Raddon Jr., the present Sunday editor. The present city editor is Arthur L. Crookham, former city editor of the Telegram, who succeeded Charles T. Hoge in 1927.

Mr. Dana, an authority on reclamation, has been, for long periods, lent to the government to help administer its reclamation work in the Northwest.

When the Portland News, on taking over the Telegram, abandoned its membership in the Associated Press, the Journal obtained the franchise for the afternoon field in Portland. From the old four-page papers when C. S. Jackson took hold, the paper has grown with the field until it issues regularly from 24 to 36 pages daily, with 72 to 96 pages Sunday.