TIME politics

Billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife Dies at 82

(PITTSBURGH) — Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune and a newspaper publisher who funded libertarian and conservative causes and various projects to discredit President Bill Clinton, has died. He was 82.

Scaife died early Friday at his home, his newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reported. Scaife’s death comes less than two months after he announced in a first-person, front-page story in his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he had an untreatable form of cancer.

“Some who dislike me may rejoice at the news,” wrote Scaife, who acknowledged making political and other enemies. “Naturally, I can’t share their enthusiasm.”

He was the grand-nephew of Andrew Mellon, a banker and secretary of the Treasury who was involved with some of the biggest industrial companies of the early 20th century. Forbes magazine estimated Scaife’s net worth in 2013 at $1.4 billion.

The intensely private Scaife became widely known in the 1990s when first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said her husband was being attacked by a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” White House staffers and other supporters suggested Scaife was playing a central role in the attack.

Several foundations controlled by Scaife gave millions of dollars to organizations run by critics of Clinton, including $1.7 million for a project at the conservative American Spectator magazine to dig up information about his role in the Whitewater real estate scandal.

Scaife rarely gave interviews, but in a sit-down with George magazine editor John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1998, he called President Clinton “an embarrassment.”

In the interview, Scaife denied that his money helped support an effort to hurt the president, but he suggested Clinton might be linked to the deaths of dozens of administration officials and associates, including White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster and onetime Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Foster’s death was determined to be a suicide; Brown died in a plane crash.

Scaife also accused Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation led to Clinton’s impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, to be a “mole working for the Democrats.”

Scaife’s stance toward the Clintons softened years later. In an interview published in early 2008, he told Vanity Fair magazine he and the former president had a “very pleasant” lunch the previous summer, and “I never met such a charismatic man in my whole life.”

Clinton gave Scaife an autographed copy of his book, and Scaife said he later sent $100,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative. (Scaife also said philandering “is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common.”)

Scaife’s newspaper also endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for president in 2008.

Despite funding many causes dear to conservatives, Scaife was libertarian on many social issues. He supported Planned Parenthood and abortion rights, supported legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana, and opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Scaife bought the Tribune-Review in suburban Pittsburgh in 1969, using its editorial pages to trumpet his views.

“I fell in love with newspapers as a boy, when my father bought me editions from around the country and abroad,” Scaife told readers in the column announcing his cancer diagnosis. “The day I became a newspaper publisher, buying the Tribune-Review, remains one of the proudest, happiest moments of my life.”

Scaife was a longtime supporter of Republicans, backing presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 and heavily funding the 1968 campaign of Richard Nixon.

In 1972, Scaife donated $1 million to Nixon in 334 separate checks to avoid paying gift taxes. After The Associated Press wrote a story about the money, Scaife insisted the Tribune-Review get rid of its AP service.

“He ordered us to come in and take out the wire machines that night,” Pat Minarcin, then AP’s Pittsburgh bureau chief, told The Wall Street Journal for a 1995 story.

Scaife also made headlines in recent years during a bitter divorce battle with Margaret Ritchie Battle Scaife, his second wife. The divorce was finalized in 2012. His first marriage, to Frances Gilmore Scaife, also ended in divorce.

A Pittsburgh native, Richard Mellon Scaife was born in 1932, the son of Sarah Cordelia Mellon and Alan Magee Scaife. His mother was an alcoholic, and his upbringing has been described as cold and unhappy. He and his sister were raised by nannies.

He went to Yale but was expelled during his freshman year after a he rolled a beer keg down a flight of stairs, breaking the legs of a classmate, according to a 1999 story in The Washington Post.

Scaife admitted to becoming an alcoholic, and he had a reputation for having a fiery temper. He reportedly quit drinking in 1990 after going to the Betty Ford Clinic.

The Tribune-Review reported Scaife is survived by a daughter, Jennie K. Scaife, a son, David N. Scaife, a daughter-in-law, Sara Scaife; and two grandchildren.

The newspaper reported that a private memorial service would be held at a later date.

TIME Media

Here’s a Newspaper You Might Actually Want to Read

PaperLater targets an online audience that's nostalgic for newspapers

The days of reading a newspaper with a cup of Joe might be making a comeback. For those nostalgic for the morning paper — but yearning for the customization possibilities of online news — PaperLater might be for you.

It’s a news service that grabs user-selected online content and collates it into a printed newspaper that’s delivered to your doorstep.

Run by The Newspaper Club, a newspaper printing company based in the U.K., the project is currently in its beta phase and only available to Britons for now.

The company is optimistic. The Newspaper Club head of engineering Tom Taylor told PrintWeek that he expected to be producing thousands of papers per week as soon as more users joined.

But don’t expect the personalized newspaper experience to be cheap: each issue costs $8.37 (£4.99).

[PrintWeek]

TIME newspapers

Jeff Bezos Makes His First Major Move at the Washington Post

Jeff Bezos Launches Bezos Center For Innovation In Seattle
Jeff Bezos David Ryder—Getty Images

In an effort to boost The Washington Post's web traffic and increase its national presence, Amazon's CEO struck a deal with local papers to give their paying customers free access to some of the Post's subscriber content

Just a few months after buying The Washington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is making his first significant change to the newspaper’s business model. Starting in May, the Post will lift its online paywall for subscribers of certain local newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The deal could boost the Post‘s web traffic while also increasing its national presence in areas where it is not distributed in print.

Like many news organizations, the Post allows people to view a limited number of articles online per month, then charges $7.99 every four weeks for unlimited access. The new deal will give subscribers of other papers free access to the Post’s website as well as its smartphone and tablet apps. No money is changing hands between the Post and the local papers, according to the Financial Times.

In the future, the Post could be bundled with other newspapers and even media properties in other sectors. Washington Post President Steve Hills told the Financial Times that digital subscription services such as Amazon Prime and Spotify could one day come packaged with the Post’s content. Bezos is focused on developing “a great digital audience 10 years from now, 20 years from now” rather than immediate profits, Hills said. The newspaper division of The Washington Post Company was losing money before Bezos announced he would buy the flagship paper for $250 million in August.

TIME History

Here’s How You Read the Paper on Your Computer in 1981

And by 1984, newspapers and magazines should have gone completely digital.

+ READ ARTICLE

There are so many fascinating and wonderful things going on in this news report from 1981.

For starters, it’s about getting the newspaper on computers, so who do they send to cover the story? The science editor, of course.

Then the piece shows off that whimsical old-timey modem. We had one of those in my house: You’d dial a number by hand and then place the receiver down on top of the modem, and the two would scream at each other for a while. If someone called you when you were using the modem, you were disconnected. If you knocked the receiver off the modem by accident, you were disconnected.

This early program was fed by eight newspapers: The Columbus Dispatch, The New York Times, The Virginian-Pilot & Ledger-Star, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, The Los Angeles Times, and The Minneapolis Star and Tribune – my hometown paper. I was two years old in 1981.

The San Francisco Examiner’s David Cole tells the reporter about the experimental nature of the project, saying, “We’re not in it to make money. We’re probably not going to lose a lot, but we aren’t going to make much either.” Nowadays, we’re all in it to make money.

Then there’s this fascinating stat: The reporter says there’s an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 home computer owners in the Bay Area at the time, and that 500 responded by sending back coupons that were used to sign up for the service.

The man in the “fashionable North Beach apartment” who’s profiled in the piece says he’s excited about being able to print out things he’s interested in. Again: He likes the computer version of the paper so that he can print out things he likes on paper.

And here’s the best quote in the whole piece. The reporter says, “This is only the first step in newspapers by computer. Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer – but that’s a few years off.” The piece then shows a guy selling newspapers, with the reporter saying that “for the moment, at least, this fellow isn’t worried about being out of a job.”

So by 1984, everything should have been completely digital, with delivery people and street vendors in the unemployment lines. Never mind that this system in 1981 took at least two hours to receive the paper, with a $5-per-hour use charge. That was up against a newsstand price of 20 cents for the physical paper.

How to Read the Newspaper on Your Computer in 1981 [Mental Floss]

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