Articles

The Big Wind from Chicago

To the British-hating publisher of the clamorous Chicago Tribune we are a nation of dupes. London issues the orders, he says, and we jump to obey

HAROLD DINGMAN June 15 1949
Articles

The Big Wind from Chicago

To the British-hating publisher of the clamorous Chicago Tribune we are a nation of dupes. London issues the orders, he says, and we jump to obey

HAROLD DINGMAN June 15 1949

The Big Wind from Chicago

To the British-hating publisher of the clamorous Chicago Tribune we are a nation of dupes. London issues the orders, he says, and we jump to obey

HAROLD DINGMAN

DID you know that, as Canadians you have no freedoms which your Government is sworn to respect? That you are still subservient to the British? That the Canadian Embassy in Washington is a fountainhead of anti-American propaganda? That Canada “hums” with talk of joining the United States?

Did you know that. British officials inspire Canadian newspapers to attack the United States? That Canadian newspapers consistently reflect the news of the British Colonial Office and “ape” the British Press?

Such assertions about. Canada are chanted in an almost endless hymn by the roaring raucous voice of the Chicago Tribune, which defiantly proclaims itself the “world’s greatest newspaper.”

The owner, editor and publisher of the Tribune is Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick, who is variously regarded in Chicago and elsewhere as (1) a madman, (2) a genius, and (3) an incredibly vain egocentric who rules his vast publishing

empire almost as a feudal baron. The “Duke of Chicago” he was dubbed years ago.

His rank of colonel is a genuine military one, dating back to World War I when McCormick saw action with American troops in France.

A notorious Anglophobe, McCormick is the most quarrelsome and controversial publisher in the newspaper world today; but when I met. him in New York (his home is in Chicago where he owns a town house and also a huge farm estate about 40 miles out) there was neither arrogance nor belligerence in his manner, as I had been warned there might be.

“Canada has never done anything I consider objectionable,” he told me with what seemed to be lofty deliberation. His subsequent comments were more revealing of the man and his mind.

The Colonel (his employees, friends and enemies all call him simply “the Colonel”) is a tall, bigframed man with thinning white hair. His lightblue eyes, which other writers describe as “icy,” were mild and unchallenging behind his hornrimmed spectacles. But although his manner was not arrogant—it verged from the friendly to the indifferent—his words, when set down on paper,

were the same challenging quarrelsome words which characterize his newspaper.

The Tribune is 102 years old this year, but instead of becoming stolid, quiet and conservative as most properties do when they reach an advanced age it is still a paper of tremendous vigor reaching out to half the world for heads to pummel. And the Colonel, at, 69, is still its driving force.

The Tribune’s shouts are not confined to Chicago or the five-state area (Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan) it callH “Chicagoland” and which it dominates, or tries to dominate, circulation-wise. It. has its own news services which it sells to 20-odd big dailies throughout the U. S. with a combined circulation of millions.

The Tribune’s voice is heard around the world. In Washington foreign diplomats (including Canadians) read it regularly and send reports home. At the moment the Tribune is in the bad books of the Dutch, the French, the Italians, the Russians (of course) and many other nations.

The Tribune’s million-a-day readers, and possibly millions of others on the Chicago Tribune Press Service circuit, have Continued on page 52

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The Big Wind From Chicago

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been told that the British Socialist Government has a finger in Canadian diplomatic affairs; that the British Government forced a Canadian cabinet minister to retract a speech in which he allegedly said British Socialist promises were false. (The Minister, the Hon. C. D. Howe, denied this, as did the British.)

They were told that when President Truman arrived in Ottawa in 1946, on a state visit, Prime Minister Mackenzie King and the Canadian GovernorGeneral Viscount Alexander were in a conspiracy to “touch” the President for a billion-plus loan, to be split between England and Canada. They were told that Canada (i.e., the Canadian Government) put on a drive with the co-operation of Canadian newspapers to “shame” the U. S. Congress into approving the Marshall Plan. This was because Canada expected to make hundreds of millions from the plan.

They’ve been told that the “socalled” British North America Act is merely a statute written in London by Colonial office experts. (But McCormick himself doesn’t agree with his paper’s interpretation. In a booklet he wrote in 1945 he said: . . in 1864

representatives of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Lower and Upper Canada met at Montreal and prepared the British North America Act.”)

They’ve been told that the British

“sabotaged” the Canadian Supreme Court Act 74 years ago and from that time until this year, when we freed ourselves from Britain’s “chains,” that Great Britain controlled our courts, laws and constitution. A Tribune story noted that Canada intended to abolish appeals to the Privy Council—and free itself of British “chains.” But although the story was available to the Tribune that Parliament had approved the measure, it was not published to my knowledge.

We Get Mockery and Derision

Tribune readers have read that in the Canadian prairie West and in the Maritimes the people object to “Ottawa rule” and talk seriously of secession; that the British “rigged” the Confederation vote in Newfoundland; that Canada is a military ward of the United States; that Canada refused to sell cheap meat to the United States but instead forced it on England.

Particularly in its news columns the Tribune mocks and criticizes and derides any and all Canadian institutions that have any relationship, real or imagined, with Great Britain. For example, the Tribune mocks Lord Alexander as a “ribbon-cutting general”; the King of England (who is also the King of Canada) is a recruiting officer for Empire soldiers; the Royal Family (monarchy) is a circus; the British flag seems to the Tribune to be a drawback to Canada; the “Mother Country” outsmarts Canada in trade deals and Canada loses by helping Britain.

All these attitudes—this “policy” of the Tribune—are contained in its news columns. The general run of editorials, with some exceptions, of course, are friendly toward Canada so long as they deal only with Canada. When Canada is considered as a part of the British Empire then the more biased attitude prevails.

From Ottawa and other Canadian cities, and from its Paris and London bureaus, the Chicago Tribune received and published many strange stories about Canada. There was this one, for example:

“The text of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States, commonly known as the American Bill of Rights, will be submitted with some slight revisions to the Canadian Parliament for adoption as a guarantee of the rights of Canadian citizens . . . the Canadians at present have no freedoms which their Government is sworn to respect

In his big spare office 22 stories above famed 42nd Street, in the Daily News building in New York City, I asked the Colonel about that one. Did he believe we had no such freedoms?

“You haven’t freedom of the Press in the first place,” he replied. “You haven’t ever told the story of Hong Kong, or have you?”

I told him yes.

The Colonel shrugged. “It was an outrageous piece of cowardice,” he said. “The (British) general should have been court-martialed and shot. Hong Kong was defensible, you know.”

Thë Tribune has repeated time and again with many variations: “Canada hums with talk of tie with U. S.” Under this head it carried this:

“Annexation of England and Canada to the United States is proposed or seriously considered in many Canadian circles today, as economic forces pull the Dominion away from Britain and closer to America.”

Did the Tribune want annexation of Canada as his paper seemed constantly to suggest in its news columns? I asked the Colonel.

“Canadians and New Dealers,” he replied, “are much alike now and might get together.” But he didn’t believe in annexation.

To “prove” or support its stories about Canada the Tribune constantly quotes minor papers or little-known men. To “prove” that Canadians want a republic, or want to shake off the chains of empire, or get rid of the King, the Tribune quotes Devoir,” an

extreme nationalist daily published in Montreal, with a circulation of 17,000. By continual quotes from this paper Tribune readers are informed of the progress “subject” Canadian citizens are making, or should make, against the British.

Did We Plot Against McCormick?

I asked the Colonel if he believed, as his paper constantly indicated, that Canadians were still subservient to the British.

“I can’t speak for the present moment,” he answered, and then went on to say that the British Parliament was still able to “repeal” Canadian laws. This was not changed by the Statute of Westminster, he thought, because the Canadian Parliament “did not enact it, it just accepted it.”

Did he believe, I asked the Colonel, that Canadian newspapers played the British line against the U. S.?

“Yes,” replied the publisher, “it was built up by the British Foreign Office. They shut down our paper mill at Thorold during the war. I suppose it was Churchill and Roosevelt assisted by your little man up there.” He meant former Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Editorially and in its news columns the Tribune has dealt exhaustively with this “plot” to destroy McCormick’s Canadian newsprint supplies.

The Colonel claimed that three fifths of his mill had been shut off bj' the wartime power ration in 1942 and he claimed that some of this was restored after protests by both U. S. and Canadian dailies. Most Canadian paper mills were affected by wartime restrictions, but the Tribune thundered mightily against what it claimed was deliberate discrimination by Tribunehating politicians in Ottawa. It has never been established whether there was actual discrimination, but in any event the Tribune company’s paper output was increased to some extent.

I referred the Colonel to a report in the Tribune saying there was a “sixyear-old policy of Canadian politicians always attacking the Chicago Tribune as anti-Canadian and anti-British.” Did he believe that?

“The British Press all over the world acts on a common impulse,” he said, swerving from the point. “I have no doubt it is the same in South Africa (as in Canada). You find that everywhere there are British newspapers, whether it’s Hong Kong or Australia or anywhere else. It’s a universal custom and it must be inspired somewhere, either in the Foreign Office or the Colonial Office. The similarity of their untruthfulness affords no other explanation.”

The Colonel’s phobia about England is not easily traced. It is said that he was snubbed when he was sent to an English public school as a boy, and that this has rankled throughout his life. The fact that Joseph Medill, one of the first great editors of the paper, was anti-English may also have contributed something to Col. McCormick’s attitude.

When President Truman came to Canada the Tribune readers were told: “Report Truman Faces ‘Touch’ on Trip to Canada.”—“A British plan to obtain another U. S. loan by working thru Canada will be helped by President Truman’s state visit, to Ottawa next month . . . The strategy the British have worked out with Towers, it is said, is that Washington will sympathize with Canada’s need and anneal to President Truman to recommend another loan to Britain.”

The correspondent said that Graham Towers, Governor of the Bank of Canada, was going to Washington first to explain “that the British are too proud to ask for (a loan) themselves.”

Did the Colonel believe all that, I asked him.

He “certainly” believed it. He didn’t think that “British” papers would carry such a story because it was a “British idea” only to tell the readers what the Government thought they ought to know. (No loan was sought or made at that time, although Britain was able to buy eventually with EGA funds.)

Atlantic Pact-Just U. S. Protection

Did he believe that the British had “rigged” the Confederation vote in Newfoundland, as his paper had suggested?

Yes, he did. London, the Colonel said, had given “some small honors” to the Confederation leaders in the island province. “They put them at the tail end of the peerage,” he said.

Did Col. McCormick believe that, given the opportunity, Newfoundlanders would have voted to become a state of the Union, as his paper indicated?

Newfoundland, said the Colonel, wanted to enter commercial negotiations with the U. S. but that “our State Department, which is a branch of the British Foreign Office, opposed it.”

He also agreed with his reporter who had written that Britain and Canada

were not strong enough to defend Newfoundland.

“That’s what the Atlantic Pact is about,” said the Colonel. “The Atlantic Pact is a number of words which say ‘American protection.’ That’s all the pact means. We don’t need protection.” (In Chicago I was told that in the seven basements of the Tribune Tower special air-raid shelters have been fitted up and stocked with food, and preparations made to publish the Tribune underground.)

Col. McCormick has complete confidence in his chief Canadian correspondent, Eugene Griffin, a youngish man who graduated from the rewrite desk in Chicago with a sharp sense of news and, presumably, a knowledge of his paper’s policies. He has been damned several times by Canadian politicians although, in his time, he has written many eminently fair stories about Canada.

The Chicago Tribune carries far more Canadian news than any other U. S. newspaper. When I asked him why his paper paid so much attention to Canada, McCormick replied that he had sent a correspondent to Ottawa because he considered the Press service was bad. “The Canadian Press and the Associated Press gave us ridiculous service,” he said. “Story after story was muffed.”

Didn’t Like Our Split Army

Talking about his news reports the Colonel suddenly said to me: “You are just like the English. They send people over here with special preconceived ideas of the story to be written, not to obtain the facts and then write the story.” He recalled that Charles Dickens had visited the midwest U. S. and had written a “terrible” story about the little town of Cairo, 111. That story, said the Colonel, had so injured Cairo that it was not developed properly at the time and St. Louis, Mo., had left it behind.

I interrupted him. “If you want to state your feelings about Canada I’ll assure you that we’ll print whatever you say.”

“Well,” said the Colonel, “perhaps 1 can speak only in a negative way. Canada has never done anything I consider objectionable. It has never pressed anyone for anything.” (He had apparently forgotten his remarks about the Truman loan; about the conspiracy to shut down his paper factory.) “As new territories were added they were given status equal with old Canada. Canada certainly furnished good soldiers, although dividing the Canadian Army and sending it to Italy and France was not to my liking.”

Colonel McCormick inherited his newspaper and some of his wealth but compared with his present-day holdings this was a small beginning. For more than 30 years he has fought hard competition in his home city of Chicago, regarded as one of the toughest newspaper cities of America. He fought and won circulation wars with such mighty foes as W. R. Hearst. He fought countless court actions, including a suit for $10 millions brought against him by the City of Chicago at the instigation of Mayor William (Big Bill) Thompson. McCormick won that one and most of the others.

According to the paper’s own estimate it stands at the “head of all American newspapers in prestige, circulation, advertising lineage, leadership and influence.” The Tribune’s circulation is almost a million a day, compared with the New York ’limes’ 543,000 and the New York Herald Tribune’s 320,000. These three are standard-size newspapers and their circulation does not equal the New

York Daily Newa (tabloid) which is an affiliate of the Chicago Tribune and has a daily sale of 2.4 millions.

Unlike many publishers who try to shave costs in the newsroom, the Colonel early recognized that it was news (in his case often manufactured news) that he was selling. Today his newsroom has a budget of $5 millions a year, nearly $100,000 a week. His reporters and editors are among the best paid in the world. His sports editor, for example, gets $50,000 a year.

The Chicago Tribune domain is considered an empire in itself, or a principality. From his skyscraper Tribune 'Power in Chicago the Colonel controls 3,000 employees in Chicago j and the U. S.; and some 10,000 Canadians depend on the payrolls of his various pulp and paper operations in Ontario and Quebec for their major income.

The Tribune and the New York

Daily News have acquired millions of acres of timber rights in the two provinces. The Tribune company owns a fleet of lake vessels to carry Canadian paper to the back door of the Tribune, while chartered vessels supply the Daily News.

Private airplanes and Rolls Royce cars are at the Colonel’s command. (He’s fond of Rolls Royces even though they’re English. In mechanical things he likes perfection.)

But for all its greatness, all its fabulous empire, its enormous wealth and its great circulation, the Chicago Tribune has never yet won a newspaper award coveted by other newspapers. No Pulitzer Prize winners are on the staff.

But it’s certainly tops in one field — crackpot spelling. The Tribune says thru and thruout, biografical, burocracy, thoroly, frate (for freight), photograf. (If it were consistent it would

spell photograf as fotograph.) The New York Daily News uses foto.

Colonel McCormick was, however, first on the list in a “hall of fame” prepared by Gerald K. Smith, a notorious isolationist preacher. And early this year the Colonel received the Peronista Award for honesty and integrity in journalism from Dictator Juan Perón of the Argentine.

The Colonel believes absolutely and utterly beyond contradiction that he is fighting battles “against the enemies of truth and freedom” and “for America.”

“No force on earth ever has been able to swerve the Tribune from its enduring defense of America and the rights and freedoms of the American people,” it was proclaimed in the century edition of the Tribune published in 1947. That is the colonel’s creed and many of his loyal staff believe with him and in him. it