Richard B. Scudder, co-founder and former chairman of MediaNews Group Inc., the nation’s second-largest newspaper company, who also helped invent a process allowing newsprint to be recycled, died Wednesday in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. He was 99.
William Dean Singleton, the other founder of Denver-based MediaNews and Scudder’s longtime friend, confirmed the death.
Singleton, current chairman of MediaNews Group and a former chairman of the Associated Press, said Scudder was the “conscience of the company” who loved newspapers and emphasized the importance of local coverage that was hard-hitting.
Singleton said Scudder didn’t flinch at spending money to fight for information to be released to the public or to defend a reporter’s right to protect sources.
“He was a newsman through and through. He was certainly a good businessman, but his heart and soul was always on the news side,” said Singleton, who also is publisher of the Denver Post and the Salt Lake Tribune.
Scudder, was a native of Newark, N.J. He was born May 13, 1913, into a newspaper family. His grandfather, Wallace Scudder, founded the Newark Evening News and his father, Edward Scudder, ran it.
Richard Scudder worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald before joining the Evening News as a reporter in 1938. He took over from his father as publisher of the Evening News in 1952 and held the post for 20 years.
In 1983, Scudder and Singleton bought the Gloucester County Times of Woodbury, N.J., and later purchased Today’s Sunbeam of Salem, N.J., and several small papers in Ohio and California.
Their partnership eventually became MediaNews Group, a privately owned company with newspaper holdings that include the Post, the Detroit News and San Jose Mercury News.
Its 57 newspapers in 11 states have combined daily circulations of 2.3 million, making MediaNews the nation’s second-largest newspaper company after Gannett Co. MediaNews also owns a television station in Alaska and radio stations in Texas.
New York-based Digital First Media was formed last year to manage MediaNews Group and the Journal Register Co.
Scudder was chairman of MediaNews from 1985 through 2009.
Scudder served in the Army during WWII, earning a Bronze Star. He had learned German as a child and put the knowledge to use writing scripts for a German-language radio station to mislead the Nazis as part of “Operation Annie.” He remained with the Army in Europe until 1946, working to help civilians take over newspapers that had been run by the Nazis
In 2006, the same year MediaNews purchased four newspapers from McClatchy Co., Scudder said in an interview for a book on New Jersey newspaper history that the future of newspapers was positive.
“We believe it and are proving it,” he told author Jerome Aumente. “We wish Wall Street would stay the hell out of it. They (publicly owned newspapers) are run by accountants and lawyers, for Christ’s sake.”
Scudder’s East Coast family was on the social register and mixed with people such as Woodrow Wilson. The Princeton graduate was a trustee of the school’s Environmental Institute and of Rutgers U.
His wife, Elizabeth Shibley Scudder, died in 2004. He is survived by three daughters, a son and eight grandchildren.
A public memorial is planned for July 28.