An absorbing biography of a tough-minded mid-America press baron whose life and career spanned an eventful era in US...


KNIGHT: A Publisher in the Tumultuous Century

An absorbing biography of a tough-minded mid-America press baron whose life and career spanned an eventful era in US history. When John Shively Knight died at 86 in 1981, he had outlived three wives, suffered personal tragedies that would have stopped lesser men dead in their tracks, built a multimedia company whose holdings included 32 newspapers, and amassed a personal fortune exceeding $200 million. Whited, a columnist for the Miami Herald (a prospering Knight-Ridder Inc. property), brings to vivid life the rugged individualist who achieved these feats against the odds and in the face of his own demanding nature. In his warts-and-all portrayal, the author recounts how Knight, who inherited the debt-ridden Akron Beacon-Journal during the Depression's depths, parlayed his legacy into a nationwide chain encompassing the Charlotte Observer, Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Jose Mercury, Tallahassee Democrat, et al. A confirmed capitalist, isolationist, and outspoken opponent of the New Deal, Knight (who had left Cornell to fight with the AEF in France) served FDR in WW II London, where he rubbed elbows with Churchill, Eisenhower, and other notables. A lifelong gambler with high standards of ethical conduct and journalistic integrity, Knight was a less than facile writer who, by dint of hard work, managed to earn a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial commentaries. A man more admired than loved by his associates, subordinates, and family, Knight endured soul-destroying setbacks in his personal life. He lost his first wife to cancer, and their eldest son was killed in Germany weeks before V-E Day; toward yearend 1975, grandson John S. Knight III was murdered under mysterious and scandalous circumstances in Philadelphia. Surviving these and other trials, Knight remained active until the end, chiding editors for dull page makeup or syntactical lapses, rafting at government officials whose appreciation of business realities he deemed deficient, reminding fourth-estate colleagues of their First Amendment responsibilities as well as rights, and preaching the gospel of free enterprise. As Whited makes clear in his anecdotal and fast-paced account of a privileged but productive life, Knight's death left a considerable void in the dwindling ranks of entrepreneurial publishers. The rewarding text has 20 halftones (not seen).

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1988