About Edward Willis Scripps
Edward Willis Scripps (June 18, 1854 – March 12, 1926), was an American newspaper publisher and founder of The E. W. Scripps Company, a diversified media conglomerate, and United Press news service. It became United Press International (UPI) when International News Service merged with United Press in 1958. The E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University is named for him.
E. W. Scripps was born and raised in Rushville, Illinois, to James Mogg Scripps from London, and Julia Adeline Osborne (third wife) (1855 - 1937) from New York. E. W. was the youngest of five children born to James and Julia. James had seven children from previous marriages.
E. W., as with many businessmen of his day, went by his initials rather than writing out his first and middle name. His middle name is often incorrectly written as Wyllis.
Both E. W. and his half-sister Ellen worked with his older half-brother, James when he founded The Detroit News in 1873. E. W. started as an office boy at the paper. In 1878, with loans from his half-brothers, E. W. went on to found The Penny Press (later the Cleveland Press) in Cleveland. With financial support from sister Ellen, he went on to begin or acquire some 25 newspapers. This was the beginning of a media empire that is now the E. W. Scripps Company.
E. W. would lend money to promising young, local newspaper publishers, and buy the successful one, having 51% share of the paper. Once bought, he did not "sell out," but held on to the paper. A guiding tenet of E. W. was that local editors know best about running local newspapers. Editors were carefully groomed and given considerable autonomy. Among the innovations E. W. made were distributing newspapers to the suburbs and, with his brother James, of getting the bulk of income from advertisers instead of subscribers.
In 1907, Scripps created United Press Associations, later the UPI news service, from smaller regional news services. Scripps later said "I regard my life's greatest service to the people of this country to be the creation of the United Press", to provide competition to the Associated Press.
Scripps held a relatively unconventional view of the press, stating,
A newspaper fairly and honestly conducted in the interests of the great masses of the public must at all times antagonize the selfish interests of that very class [the advertisers] which furnishes the larger part of a newspaper's income. It must occasionally so antagonize this class as to cause it not only to cease patronage, to a greater or lesser extent, but to make actually offensive warfare against the newspaper.
In 1898, he finished building a home in San Diego, where his half-sister lived nearby, thinking that the dry, warm climate would help his allergic rhinitis that he had all his life. He built it as a winter home to escape the cold of Illinois, but eventually lived there year round, and conducted his newspaper business from the ranch. His ranch encompassed what is today the community of Scripps Ranch as well as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
In 1903, he and his half-sister Ellen were the founding donors of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Initially Scripps was reluctant to support the venture, thinking scientists could not be businesslike. However, he developed a deep friendship with the scientific director, William Emerson Ritter, and together they began to plan projects for the Institute. As the Institute started to succeed, he became an enthusiastic supporter, and took a great interest in its work.
In 1921, Scripps founded Science Service, later renamed Society for Science & the Public, with the goal of keeping the public informed of scientific achievements. The organization continues to run as a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of science.
Scripps became somewhat of a hermit, calling himself a "damned old crank." He enjoyed sailing the seven seas on a yacht, smoking 50 cigars a day.
Scripps died at the age of 71 on March 12, 1926. Among his descendants was Samuel H. Scripps (1927 – 2007), grandson, who became a leading philanthropist for theater in dance in America in the late 20th century.