Abstract: We used Every Effort to be Impartial: The Complicated Response of Newspaper Publishers to Unions, 1933-1955

Philip Glende


As large employers of labor and owners of businesses that conveyed information about organized labor to a wide audience, publishers were intimately connected to the labor movement during the 1930s and 1940s. Publishers, such as Colonel Robert McCormick and William Randolph Hearst, were routinely condemned for controlling a press determined to fight unionism. Newspaper owners, however, found themselves in simultaneous roles as business operators, journalists, and community leaders as organized labor gained strength in the 1930s. These diverse interests led to an array of responses in newspapers. For some publishers, such as John S. Knight in Akron, Ohio, civic and professional motivations encouraged an effort to remain neutral or to offer balance in reporting and commentary on labor-management relations. Other publishers, such as William T. Evjue in Madison, Wisconsin, expressed support for unions. Regardless, many publishers also showed an honest respect for the line between opinion and news. With the rise of the American Newspaper Guild beginning in 1933, labor and management relations took on new dimensions that mixed business operations, professional standards, and political ideology. This paper is based on archival research, oral history interviews, memoirs, trade and general interest publications, and studies in journalism, labor history, and sociology.