Richard B. Scudder's presence in a newsroom was impossible to miss. So was his boyish enthusiasm for all of the many details and decisions, large and small, that go into putting out a daily newspaper. Not just any paper, mind you, but one that reflected his belief that the role of a newspaper, its only role, is to serve the community.
It was a message he relished delivering in person at the papers owned by MediaNews Group, the corporation he co-founded with William Dean Singleton in 1985 and built into the nation's second-largest newspaper company by circulation.
It was an unlikely pairing. Scudder was 72 at the time; Singleton was 38 years younger. Scudder, scion of a newspaper owner, was born into wealth and a place on the social register. Singleton grew up poor on a West Texas ranch. But the two shared an intense love for newspapers, the common denominator for a dynamic partnership that ended Wednesday with Scudder's death at the age of 99. He had served as chairman of MediaNews Group until 2009.
In a 1992 column for The Denver Post, Scudder described the pair's shared vision: "To us, it means that a newspaper must achieve absolute integrity. It must subordinate its narrow interests to those of the community. It must have compassion. It must be objective and fair, and it must have the determination and ability to genuinely serve its area. It must have judgment. It must listen."
Scudder's first whirlwind turn around The Tribune newsroom came in 2002 after Denver-based MediaNews acquired the paper and Singleton, the company's vice chairman, assumed the role of publisher.
The slight and dapper Scudder was largely unknown to reporters and editors as he circled the newsroom shaking hands. But research revealed a complex man of many disparate parts. Princeton grad, ranch hand, inventor, World War II disinformation operative and Bronze Star recipient, mountaineer, painter, rancher, conservationist, philanthropist, gardener, father of four, and twice a bull rider at professional rodeos in Wyoming.
But newspapers were his enduring preoccupation. Newspapers and the paper they were printed on.
In the 1950s, Scudder was co-inventor of a process for removing ink from discarded newspapers that spawned a whole new industry newspaper recycling and placed him in The Paper Industry Hall of Fame.
We at The Tribune invite you to join us in honoring Dick Scudder, newsman.