One day in 1928 a smart little newspaperman named Julius David Stern, who was almost unknown outside of Camden, N. J., crossed the Delaware River to Philadelphia and with some of the money he had made from his Camden Post and Courier bought the doddering Philadelphia Record from John Wanamaker. At that time the third largest U. S. city had five listless, uncompetitive and politically hogtied papers. No good newspaperman considered Philadelphia worth a stop between Baltimore and Manhattan.
Today, newspapermen look to Philadelphia for excitement and sometimes jobs. J. David Stern is now its senior publisher. It now has only four papers (not counting the pipsqueak tabloid News) and they are engaged in a bitter struggle for survival. Reading from Left to Right, Philadelphia's papers are the morning Record and Inquirer, the evening Ledger and Bulletin. All were making news last week.
Smartest. For a while after Dave Stern went to Philadelphia he had little competition from the Record's, smug old rivals. A working newspaperman himself, he made the Record a newsman's sheet, gave it a metropolitan flair that no other paper had. He picked Roosevelt long before Chicago, shrewdly identified himself with New Deal liberalism, did more than any other man to break the Republican stranglehold on Pennsylvania and to sell civic decency to Philadelphia. He has run the Record'?, circulation from 90,000 to 218,000. His men work in a converted loft building on North Broad Street, but they get the best salaries in town. The Record was the first Philadelphia paper to sign a contract with the Newspaper Guild; the rest have followed. Record men have fun, fight the Inquirer tooth & nail for scoops. The night Huey Long was dying both papers waited for the final flash until long after the usual Sunrise edition deadline. Finally the Record staff turned out all the lights in the building. Soon the Inquirer lights, a few doors up the street, went off and the Inquirer's, staff went home. Ten minutes later came word of Huey's death. Back on went the Record lights and out in the streets went a Sunrise extra with a beat.
Last week Publisher Stern was in Manhattan winding up negotiations to sell a piece of the New York Post to City Councilman George Backer and return to Philadelphia and the Record. Milked by the Post, the Record last year lost $40,000 (which was canceled by the Camden Stern-papers' $42,000 profit) and Dave Stern could no longer afford to use it to support his ailing New York sheet. Currently he is the most harassed publisher in Philadelphia, and the man responsible for his harassment is Moses Louis Annenberg.