From Newspapers to New Media
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Texas Press
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This book is full of the names of those who helped me collect the stories and materials that formed the basis for my writing, the most important of whom are Robert Decherd and the late James M. Moroney, Jr. Their support and encouragement over more than twenty years resulted in the archives from which this history was drawn.
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That well-known passage from one of Emerson’s most widely quoted works, from 1841, could have been written about Belo Corp.,which got underway only a year after Emerson wrote his essay. In today’s volatile media world, with announcements almost weekly about one or another of the media giants selling off properties or splitting into several companies, or even selling out completely, the timing is good to examine the history of a company that has endured for more than 160 years.
Chapter 1. LEADERS OF LEGEND: A.H.Belo & G.B.Dealey
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Belo is one of the nation’s most familiar names among professional journalists, journalism professors and students, and those who follow the media industry for investment opportunities. However, the name “Belo” is not so well known to everyone else, including the many millions of viewers and readers spread across the country who regularly turn to Belo’s television stations, daily newspapers, and Web sites. Until recently, that unfamiliarity of the Belo name has been quite deliberate, and the company has been consistent, even obstinate, about not calling attention to itself.
Chapter 2. THE CHILDREN CONFRONT THE LEGACY (1912–1945)
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A straightforward time line of significant events in a company, while essential in evaluating its history and future prospects, leaves out the interesting details of how things happened, who made them happen, and especially why they happened as they did. For 120 years,G.B. Dealey and his descendants who followed after him in the leadership of Belo Corp. have wielded a powerful influence in Texas and, ultimately, in the many other states nationwide where the company’s voice is heard.
Chapter 3. THE GRANDSONS RETURN FROM WAR (1946–1955)
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In his president’s report for the year 1946, which Ted Dealey delivered to the board of directors on February 12, 1947, he announced the return to the News of Ben Decherd, Al Dealey, Joe Dealey, and Jimmy Moroney, following their service in World War II: “Upon this quartette of junior executives great responsibility will be placed within the near future.They are destined to become the future operators of the business after the older generation has retired or passed to its reward.”1
Chapter 4. THE DARK DAYS OF DALLAS (1956–1964)
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After the economic downturns of the mid-1950s, Belo’s financial position began to rise again in the late 1950s, and the directors sought ways to maximize that growth. In 1957, the Dallas Morning News instituted its first major change in the circulation department in thirty years, when it shifted from using employee district managers to a system that many newspapers were turning to at the time, the use of independent contractors.The purpose was to continue the paper’s “all-out campaign” for circulation dominance over the Dallas Times Herald within Dallas County.
Chapter 5. A NEW ERA DAWNS (1965–1972)
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The year 1965 might be considered the year that most everything began to speed up, and the media business was at the forefront of changes worldwide. The world, in general, had begun to seem smaller, as technological advances made communications more immediate, no matter the distance. Newspaper editors and television news directors experienced the phenomenon every day, when there was more available news to report than ever before, and not enough space or time to report it.
Chapter 6. ENTER THE FOURTH GENERATION (1973–1976)
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Most of the business of the final meeting of company directors in 1972 dealt with assigning Ben Decherd’s considerable operational responsibilities to other officers of the company. Joe Lubben was elected a trustee of the G. B. Dealey Trust to replace Ben, but no new directors were elected, and no new chairman was named. In fact, the board did not replace Ben as chairman for another seven years, such was the effect of his loss on his two cousins and fellow directors, Joe Dealey and Jimmy Moroney, and on the other Belo directors. Joe presided at the meetings.
Chapter 7. COMPETITIVE GAINS AND RAPID CHANGE (1977–1981)
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While internal family ownership matters were taking up much of the Belo senior executives’ time and attention in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the media world was rapidly changing all around them, and company managers were forced to keep pace. As broadcast media had matured and FM radio and UHF television had come into their own, the Federal Communication Commission had begun to voice concerns about the cross-ownership of print and broadcast properties in the same market, because of the prospect that one company’s voice would drown out other voices.
Chapter 8. THE MODERN BELO EMERGES (1982–1986)
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Belo’s initial public offering, even with its full subscription in less than twenty-four hours, generated little or no immediate attention on Wall Street or in the media circles of the east and west coasts. The intense focus on Dallas’s newspaper war during 1981, and the apparent strength of the Dallas Times Herald and its high-profile owner, caused most business writers to be looking at the wrong picture on December 9, 1981.
Chapter 9. THE WORLD TAKES NOTE (1987–2000)
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January 1987 was a time of change all around for Robert Decherd, as it was for several others in the Belo hierarchy. When Robert promoted Jim Sheehan, Ward Huey, and Burl Osborne, he set up a reporting system such that Sheehan and Huey both reported directly to him, while Osborne reported to Sheehan.
Chapter 10. NEW CENTURY, NEW MEDIA
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In February 2001, Robert was the keynote speaker at Editor & Publisher magazine’s Annual Interactive Newspapers Conference and Trade Show held that year in Dallas. The so-called Internet bubble had burst by then, and many companies formed to do business online were out of business or pulling back and reevaluating such ventures. It had become clear to everyone that the old patterns of generating revenue were not working for most of those startups.
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Soon after Jack Sander retired, in the early days of 2007, a retired Belo executive and former company director commented that he was concerned that Robert had not built the depth of leadership that would be needed over time. Looking through the lens of his own era had blinded him to the obvious lineup of young women and men who had slowly moved into positions of more and broader responsibility at Belo. When he was reminded that all of the members of the important management committee, including two women, are fairly young and broadly...
Appendix A: G. B. AND OLIVIA ALLEN DEALEY FAMILY TREE
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Appendix B: CHAIRMEN AND DIRECTORS OF BELO CORP., 1926–2007
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Appendix C: TIME LINE OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN COMPANY HISTORY
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Appendix D: TEXT OF THE BLACK-BORDERED ADVERTISEMENT RUN ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
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Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 21 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2008