• U.S.

The Press: Free Press & Power

3 minute read

Publisher Roy McDonald of the Chattanooga Free Press does not like TVA nor any other Government power project. He considers them a head start toward State socialism and “the complete destruction of the profit incentive that has made America great.” This message the Free Press has repeated with loud and monotonous regularity ever since it was started as a throwaway weekly to advertise Mr. McDonald’s chain of Home Stores (groceries).

Two years ago the Free Press donned long pants and became a commercial afternoon daily with a Sunday edition. Immediately Tennessee Electric Power Co.* took most of its advertising from the rival afternoon News, vigorous advocate of a TVA-fed municipal power system, and became the No. i advertising customer of Mr. McDonald’s Free Press. It paid the paper’s highest rate, $1.26 an inch, though the News had charged it only $1.01.

(Latest circulation figures: News, 35,741; Free Press, 34,721.) To the Congressional committee investigating TVA last summer the Free Press general manager explained T.E.P. could have had a cheaper rate under contract, added: “We never offered them a contract.” This later caused Committee Counsel Francis Biddle to bark: “Tennessee Electric has been subsidizing the . . .

Free Press.” Last week the Tennessee Utilities Commission cracked down even harder in a citation alleging 917 T.E.P. “discriminatory acts” favoring Mr. McDonald’s newspaper and his 40-odd grocery stores as well.

It ordered the company to show cause why it should not be fined the maximum total of $917,000 ($1.000 for each “act”).

“Discriminations” cited:

< “The . . . company arranged to pay to one Silas Williams, an attorney, under the style and guise of counsel fees, the sum of $10,000 . . . all of which said Williams shortly thereafter turned over to The Chattanooga Free Press in ostensible consideration for the issue to him of certain shares of stock. . . .”

< The purchase of $19,303 worth of advertising in the Free Press in 1937 at a price “far in excess of the … regular advertising rates.”

< The granting of 5% discounts on monthly bills for the Free Press and Mr. McDonald’s stores after they had become “delinquent,” and, according to company advertisements, not subject to discount.

Publisher-Groceryman McDonald blamed the Commission’s action on his old foe—shrewd, ponderous, Publisher-Editor George Fort Milton of the rival News, who is an old and valued friend of Secretary of State Cordell Hull. “Publisher Milton,” he snapped, “has long swaggered over the country as the lord of the Tennessee Valley. . . . The Free Press will continue to compete with his … newspaper with every honest means.”

*A local subsidiary of Wendell Willkie’s huge Commonwealth & Southern Corp.

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