The Journal Star is owned by Peoria Journal Star Inc. which is owned by GateHouse Media, a publicly-traded company based in New York outside Rochester.
The newspaper marked its 150th anniversary in 2005. The bulk of those first 150 years were covered by Bill Adams, Peoria’s “Mr. History,” whose column from 1991 is reprinted below.
Picking up where his column leaves off, the newspaper’s employee-owners voted in July 1996 to dissolve the stock ownership plan and sell all the stock of Peoria Journal Star Inc. to The Copley Press Inc., of LaJolla, Calif.
At the time, the stock ownership plan was so successful that employees were retiring years ahead of actuarial projections. Each time, the company had to borrow money to buy back the stock of the departing employees, putting a greater debt load onto the company. The only way out was to sell the company.
Copley was a family-owned group launched from Aurora, Ill., in the 1920s. The Peoria-Galesburg purchase took it to eight daily newspapers in Illinois. But a few years later, Copley sold the so-called Fox Valley group of dailies in suburban Chicago – Joliet, Aurora, Elgin and Waukegan – leaving just its downstate dailies in Peoria, Galesburg, Springfield, and Lincoln.
In November of 2006, Copley Press CEO David Copley announced he was selling the entire group of Copley newspapers except for the flagship, the San Diego Union-Tribune. He already had consolidated and sold the dailies in suburban Los Angeles. Corporate officials said the principal cause for the sale was a burdensome inheritance tax facing David Copley. His mother, Helen Copley, had died in 2004 and left an estate worth about $1 billion, according to estimates by Fortune magazine.
The following March, GateHouse Media announced that it had submitted the winning bid of $380 million for the six dailies in Illinois and Ohio.
About GateHouse Media, Inc.
GateHouse Media, Inc., headquartered in Fairport, New York, is one of the largest publishers of locally based print and online media in the United States as measured by the number of daily publications.
Its business model is to be the pre-eminent provider of local content and to make our print and electronic products the leading source for local information and advertising in the markets we serve.
As of May 1, 2007, GateHouse Media owned more than 450 community publications located in 18 states across the country, and more than 235 related Web sites reaching more than 9 million people weekly.
GateHouse Media is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “GHS.”
For more information: www.gatehousemedia.com
July 1996 – The Copley Press Inc. buys Peoria Journal Star, Inc., which includes Journal Star and the Galesburg Register-Mail. In turn, the Register-Mail owns the Galva news, a weekly.
October 2001 – Copley sells the Fox Valley group of daily newspapers in suburban Chicago – Joliet, Aurora, Elgin and Waukegan – leaving just its downstate dailies in Peoria, Galesburg, Springfield and Lincoln.
August 2002 – Henry Pindell Slane, last of a line of family owners of the Journal Star, dies at age 81. The modern-day newspaper traces its roots back to Slane’s grandfather, Henry M. Pindell.
August 2004 – Helen Copley, chairman emeritus of The Copley Press Inc., dies at age 81.
October 2004 – The Journal Star’s new $30 million press and production facility is finished.
March 2006 – The Journal Star is selected as one of the top 50 newspapers in the world for the quality of its color reproduction.
November 2006 – The Copley Press Inc. announces its seven dailies outside San Diego are for sale. This includes the four in central Illinois and three in and around Canton, Ohio.
March 2007 – The Copley Press Inc. announces that its seven dailies would be sold to GateHouse Media for $380 million, pending regulatory approval.
April 11, 2007 – With all approvals granted, GateHouse takes ownership of Peoria Journal Star Inc.
Journal Star History
This was written by Bill Adams and appeared in the Journal Star on Sept. 23, 1991.
Of all the many newspapers that have come and gone over the past 150 years, four of them, through mergers, became six major papers, which formed the family tree of today’s Journal Star.
The newspapers were the Peoria Daily Transcript, the Peoria Journal, the Peoria Herald, the Peoria Herald-Transcript, the Peoria Journal- Transcript, and the Peoria Star.
The Peoria Daily Transcript first appeared on Dec. 17, 1855. Its offices were at Main and Water. This Republican daily newspaper was formed by N.C. Nason, a merchant at Wesley and a former printer with the Peoria Republican.
It soon ran into financial difficulty. Caleb Whittemore invested $4,000 in the paper and was later forced to take over ownership. He sold to a Peoria County Farmer, J.G. Merrill. In 1858, Merrill sold to Nathan C. Geer, who hired Enoch Emery, a Boston journalist, as city editor. Emery and Edward A. Andrews purchased the paper from Geer and continued to publish.
Transcript-Journal Offices As Peoria’s young men marched off to the war between the states, the owners built a strong Republican paper, which was profitable during those war times with Lincoln in the White House.
Four years after the war, Emery bought out Andrews and switched from editor to business manager. He put his brother in his editor’s chair. It was a big mistake and both men failed in their new positions.
By 1880, Peoria was a growing city of 29,000 and a new stock company was formed. Emory was reinstated as editor, only to be fired a year later. He then started an afternoon paper called The Peorian. It was short-lived, however, and Emery, broken-hearted, died in 1882.
By the early 1900s, the Transcript was located at 215 SW Jefferson.
Shortly after Emery left, Alexander S. Stone, from Keokuk, Iowa, bought control of the Transcript.
After the Civil War, another dominant figure, Eugene F. Baldwin, came on the Peoria journalistic scene. He was a dynamic individual and his use of the English language sold newspapers.
Baldwin was born in Watertown, Conn., and worked as a teacher in Clinton County, Ill. He had worked as a carpenter in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
After service in 1864, Baldwin came to Chillicothe as the principal of schools. Then, he transferred to Peoria and headed the First Ward school.
He became a local editor at the Transcript a year later, which began a 50-year career in Illinois journalism.
He purchased the El Paso Journal in 1869 and returned to Peoria a year later to form the Peoria Review. Three years later he became editor of the Rock Island Register, only to soon repurchase the El Paso paper.
While Enoch Emery was having problems with the Transcript, Baldwin returned to Peoria and with a partner, J.B. Barnes, started the Peoria Journal as an afternoon paper on Dec. 3, 1877. (This would become the second Journal Star family tree member.)
By 1920, the Journal was located at 125 SW Jefferson.
A stock company was formed in 1894 between Baldwin, Barnes, M.N. Snyder, and Charles H. Powell. Baldwin and Powell soon left (to later form the Peoria Star), leaving Barnes as sole owner. In 1900, Barnes sold the Journal to Henry M. Pindell of the Herald-Transcript.
Henry Means Pindell was born in St. Joseph, Mo., and went to college at DePauw in Greencastle, Ind., graduating in 1844. He became editor of the Wabash Times, then worked on the Chicago Tribune and Springfield Register. He was elected city treasurer in Springfield from 1887 to ’89. He came to Peoria in 1889 and established the Peoria Herald, a Democratic paper, the third member of the PJS family tree.
A short time later, Pindell bought the floundering Transcript and merged it with his Herald. He named the new paper the Herald-Transcript. (The fourth family tree member.) It was located at 204 Main Street.
On Nov. 7, 1897, Baldwin and Charles M. Powell founded the Peoria Star. This set the stage for a clash between Pindell and Baldwin journalism. (The Star ultimately became the final member of the Journal Star family tree.)
The Star began on hope and a bucket of ink, according to Baldwin, but it did well from the start. It grew strong, both economically and editorially, and by 1912 boasted a circulation of 22,000. It was located at 143-145 SW Jefferson at Fulton Street. But by 1921, it had moved into its new building at 111-113 SW Madison, just a block from the Journal Transcript’s new Jefferson Street address.
Pindell shrewdly shuffled his newspapers to meet the Star’s challenge, and in 1900, as mentioned, he moved into the afternoon field by buying Baldwin’s old Journal.
In 1902, he sold the Herald- Transcript to an out-of town syndicate, and in 1916, after the Herald was dropped from the name, Pindell bought back the Transcript, and merged it with his Journal to make up the Peoria Journal-Transcript. (The fifth Journal Star family tree member). He published the Transcript in the morning and his Journal in the afternoon.
Pindell had the ability to get his employees to work to their full potential. He was small in stature, but commanded respect because of his leadership qualities.
Baldwin, on the other hand, was large, 20 years older, and a fine writer. He had a keen sense of what the reader wanted to know. The two were at loggerheads, not just because they were competitors, but also because of their paper’s politics. Pindell’s Journal was a Democratic paper, while Baldwin’s Star was Republican.
Baldwin died on Nov. 19, 1914, but the Star continued to publish with the stamp of his personality for years. His widow, Fannie Gove Baldwin, served as president for the next 25 years, after which former congressman and lawyer, Claude U. Stone, took the helm.
Pindell was a national figure and was once offered the ambassadorship to Russia by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, which he turned down.
After Baldwin’s death, the Journal and Transcript began to dominate the scene. After the death of Powell’s son, a management team was formed under Mrs. Baldwin to run the Star. A series of financial errors and the coming of Prohibition seriously injured the paper’s welfare. Peoria had been a whiskey distilling center but was becoming more diversified, and now the people wanted Pindell’s more cosmopolitan approach. Advertisers also had the availability of Pindell’s morning Transcript and afternoon Journal papers, while the Star offered only an afternoon edition.
When Henry Pindell died in 1924, his widow, Eliza Smith Pindell, became president, and his son-in-law, Carl Slane, became treasurer and directed the paper. Frederick Arthur Stowe, a nationally prominent editor, stayed on after Pindell’s death. Stowe died in 1937, and George W. Barrette, who previously worked for Stowe, returned to edit the paper.
In the early 1940s, the Star was badly in need of financial help. But Claude Stone knew the rival Journal-Transcript was also badly in need of his Star presses. So an agency corporation, Peoria Newspapers Inc., was formed in 1944. The Star became a morning paper, and the Journal Transcript became an afternoon edition. But the newsroom staffs remained separate and competitive.
After Prohibition and through the Depression, as the country moved into World War II, the papers’ rivalry was strong. It remained strong during the war years, but newsprint prices soared as paper became scarce. Costs continued to mount after the war. By 1954, a merger of all departments seemed in order. An agreement was reached, and immediately following, and the masthead became the Journal Star for both morning and afternoon editions.
Construction began at 1 News Plaza, near the McClugage Bridge at the foot of War Memorial Drive, and the newly merged paper moved out of its two downtown locations. The first editions rolled off the presses at the new facility on Nov. 14, 1955.
Just 100 years after the founding of the Peoria Transcript, the family tree newspapers became one, with modern offices in a city that had grown to over 100,000 people.
A bitter strike in 1958 brought the Newspaper Guild to Peoria. The strike lasted more than two months. While the paper was unable to publish, Guild members attempted to fill the void by issuing a tabloid, The Peoria Citizen.
The Journal Star continued to grow in the late 1950s and 60s, and mechanical innovations continued through the 70s. A company helicopter provided comprehensive aerial coverage during that decade. Four Goss letterpress units were added in 1969, bringing the total to twelve. Conversion to computer-generated cold- type composition and plastic plate printing was accomplished in the ’70s.
A 1970 design change in the paper’s makeup and layout of news, pictures, and advertising made the Journal Star more readable. A freeform concept – in which an ad is surrounded by news – was introduced in 1968 and caught on with hundreds of publications.
Many more innovations have continued through the 1980s and into the ’90s.
Henry P. Slane, son of Carl P. Slane and grandson of Henry Means Pindell, became chairman of the board and chief executive officer.
Henry’s son-in-law, John T. McConnell, became president and publisher until his retirement in January 2007. Ken Mauser, the general manager under McConnell, assumed the role of interim publisher,
Carl Slane, former Journal-Transcript treasurer, president and publisher, and finally chairman of the board of PJS, passed away in 1979.
On March 26, 1984, an employee trust, established by the board of directors, purchased the first 22.6 percent of the Journal Star company stock. It was the first step in a 10-year buy-out, after which the employees will become the sole owners of the newspaper.
By 1990, the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) trusts, which hold the company shares, control held about 83 percent of all stock.
The Journal Star purchased the Galesburg Register-Mail in 1989.