Editors, Publishers and the Business of News
by Bob Stepno
Newspaper and magazine editors and publishers were the center of the action in many radio series, in adaptations of popular Hollywood films, and in individual episodes of radio dramas of various genres. Listeners to series like Cavalcade of America were treated to character studies of real-life publishers — from historical figures like Franklin, Greeley, Pulitzer, Ochs and Munsey to the Houghs of The Vineyard Gazette. Those profiles included both the politics and the business of getting out a newspaper.
In soap operas and serious dramas as well as lighter series, newspaper editors faced mortgage payments, stockholder revolts, takeovers and mergers. While I’ve not heard a radio adaptation of “Citizen Kane,” great films about newspaper editors, from “Cimarron” to “The Front Page,” “His Girl Friday” and “Deadline U.S.A.” were among the many “newspaper movies” presented in radio versions.
The newspaper industry was presented in a generally positive light, but a few charlatans and rascals did show up — usually to be put in their place by competing editors or other symbols of civic virtue, such as the Lone Ranger and the Cisco Kid, who also were ready to lend a helping hand to more responsible journalists.
Several series where editors took the starring role have their own sections here:
- American Family Robinson — anti-Roosevelt political opinion in soap-opera form, with an editor/publisher and his family as central characters
- Betty and Bob — another soap opera about young newspaper owners
- Bright Star — a romantic comedy about a woman editor and her star reporter
- Rogers of the Gazette — a situation comedy about a small-town editor
- Big Town — a crime drama about “racket-busting” editor Steve Wilson
- The Green Hornet — an editor-and-publisher turns vigilante
- The Adventures of Superman — editor Perry White was often the focus of a story arc.
Real-life editors and publishers like Joseph Pulitzer also appeared in more than one radio dramatization, especially in the historical series Cavalcade of America, Captains of Industry, and Biographies in Sound.
See those pages — with more to come — for additional examples.