Times change and life moves on. I spent over 20 years as part of the Kokomo Tribune family during the time it was one of the most recognized leaders of medium sized daily newspapers in the world. It was awarded recognition as “First In The Nation” penetration of its market for eight of a ten year period and only second in the remaining two years. It kept its position as one of the top medium papers in all of the 20 year period I was there.
The Tribune was owned by my great grandfather, John Arthur Kautz, from 1897 until his death in 1938; the year I was born. It was sold by his owner descendants in 1982 at a time when there were almost 30 part owners. This was at the height of the value of newspapers across the country. Consolidation into newspaper groups had begun a few years earlier. Newspapers were king when it came to keeping the public informed. There was at one time about 1,800 independently owned newspapers across this country. It was a time when newspapers were truly the “Fourth Estate” that kept government honest by keeping the public aware of what was going on inside and outside of government. It was the watchdog.
During the period from about 1960 to 1980, there was a revolution in newspaper technology. The old way from the 1800s to then was production by Mergenthaler Linotype machines and rotary letterpresses to print. The technological change was to photocomposition, use of computers, and offset printing. The Tribune was a leader in developing this technology even to the development of one of the very first computer typesetting systems, the Delco Justifier of which I did all of the programming. Key personnel like Dick Isham, Alan Harnish, Ron Frye, John Hoffman, Richard Pickering, and Dow Richardson and me led the revolution at the newspaper under the overall guidance and encouragement of our Publisher, my father. The entire Tribune family included about 185 employees and over 300 newspaper carriers. All played an important part in Tribune success.
The Publisher and CEO of the Tribune who followed J.A. Kautz , Richard H Blacklidge, became President of the American Newspaper Publisher Association. This position before had always been held by a Publisher of a large metropolitan newspaper; never from a medium sized paper. He went on to become Vice-President of FIEJ: the International Newspaper Association. While he was engaged in those national and international responsibilities, the Tribune family in Kokomo continued to lead in technology and news/editorial/feature content envied by all. The readers of the Tribune trusted the newspaper to tell all and to tell truth; things gone by the wayside in current major media.
As Business Manager, Associate Publisher, and eventually Publisher when my father developed health issues and then retired, I am proud of our two decades of accomplishment. We led the industry that informed and protected the public.
Ironically, in retrospect I believe my father saw the handwriting on the wall. The consolidation of newspapers into newspaper ownership groups, then to major media groups was coming. Technology was coming fast. And many of the original owners of newspapers were dying off. The nation has suffered from the loss of honest, tough, and wise leaders in media; specifically in newspapers.
Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers, said, “Where the press is free and every man (and woman) able to read, all is safe”. He said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Today, we have a captured press whether it be in print or electronic form. We particularly have a national media that lies, distorts, and covers up corruption. We do not have a free and honest press any longer. Whether we will make it now as a Constitutional Republic with a free people remains to be seen.