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Co-founder of Tribune parent company Richard Scudder dies

Published July 11, 2012 6:20 pm

Obituary • Mentor to many, he made industry-changing contribution to newspapers.
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Richard Scudder, who capped a long career in the newspaper business to co-found MediaNews Group, parent company of The Salt Lake Tribune, died Wednesday at home in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. He was 99.

The cause was infirmities incident to age.

Scudder, who was chairman of MediaNews until he retired in 2009, started the Denver-based news conglomerate in 1985 with his longtime friend William Dean Singleton. Under their leadership, the chain grew to have the second-largest circulation among newspaper companies in the United States.

"He was my best friend, my closest adviser, in addition to being my longtime partner," Singleton said Wednesday. "He was a wonderful human being who shared my views on a newspaper's place in its community."

The two partners based their company on a belief that newspapers should first and foremost report on, and serve, the communities where they are published. Scudder was a passionate advocate for local news, and spread that enthusiasm among editors throughout the chain.

"Scudder was a giant of a man to the editors of MediaNews Group," said Nancy Conway, editor of The Tribune. "And he was a mentor to me personally. He believed that a newspaper should be run in service to the community. He was ever supportive of good journalism and public service. He won the respect of editors and became a hero to many."

Scudder, who was 70 when he and Singleton formed MediaNews, made an industry-changing contribution to newspapers. He co-invented a de-inking process that allowed old papers to be recycled into new newsprint.

In 1950, he was approached by an inventor who claimed to have a process that could strip ink from newsprint. Scudder tested the process but found that although it would removes ink it also ruined the paper. He later refined the process, and in 1961 started the first newsprint recycling plant in the world.

His achievement was recognized by the American Paper Institute and the National Association of Recycling Industry. He was inducted into the Paper Industry Hall of Fame in 1995. At various times, he served as director of the Environmental Action Coalition for New York City, a trustee of Rutgers University and a trustee of New Jersey State University.

Scudder was born into a newspapering family in 1913. His grandfather, Wallace Scudder, founded the Newark [N.J.] Evening News in 1882. After earning an honors degree in economics from Princeton University in 1935, Scudder worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald before joining his father, Edward, at the Evening News, in 1938. Scudder became the paper's publisher in 1952, a position he held for 20 years, when the paper was sold.

Scudder served in the Army from 1941 to 1945. His father's demand that he master German as a boy led Scudder to an intelligence assignment on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff in Europe. He left the Army after World War II with a Bronze Star for his work in Operation Anonymous, an underground German language radio station established by the Allies to mislead the German military command.

Scudder's life outside the newspaper industry was active. At Princeton, he played squash and tennis, and also wrestled. Although he lived mostly in the East, Scudder fell in love with the West while working as a ranch hand during a summer break from Princeton. He owned ranches in Colorado and California, and twice rode a wild bull at a rodeo in Wyoming.

At the age of 68, Scudder hiked to a base camp on Mount Everest with his friend, the renowned physician and mountaineer Charlie Houston. Scudder built a ski lift on his New Jersey property. A guest house and pool on the property also were built by him.

Scudder's collaboration with Singleton began in 1983 when the pair bought a small community newspaper in Woodbury, N.J. The duo purchased several more papers in New Jersey and Ohio, and in 1985 they launched MediaNews. The company owns daily papers in Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Vermont. Combined daily circulation is close to 2.3 million.

While Scudder was chairman, Singleton was the public face of MediaNews. The pair were an unlikely team; Scudder was 38 years older than Singleton, who will be 61 this year .

The age difference never bothered Scudder. In an interview with Editor and Publisher magazine in 2006, Scudder joked that he was a "full-time gardener" who spokerepeatedly on the phone from his home on the New Jersey shore to Singleton at the MediaNews headquarters in Denver.

"I keep up to date with what is going on. We talk several times a day, and everything we do [Singleton] is kind enough to put by me for approval," Scudder said.

Singleton, now MediaNews chairman, took Scudder's place after the holding company for MediaNews emerged from a prepackaged reorganization that released the publisher of 57 major newspapers from most of its debt.

"I grew up on a ranch in Texas, and [Scudder] was a very sophisticated patrician from the Northeast, and the fact that our views on newspapering were identical seemed unlikely. But it was true," Singleton said.


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