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Members of Local 38 International
Union picket outside the Haverhill Gazette on Merrimack Street in
downtown Haverhill in 1957.
No Survivors in Haverhill’s
Titanic Newspaper Battle
News Coverage Flourished During
Journal vs. Gazette War
By Tim Coco
& General Manager (volunteer)
magazine-style articles help expand upon, and illuminate, historical
topics raised during WHAV’s Open Mike Show, heard live Monday nights
from 6:30 to 8:30. Your feedback is welcome.)
News media competition
helps ensure the inner workings of every government department are
exposed to the light of day and held accountable, every service club
talk is covered and every military personnel homecoming is treated with
During a relatively short period of time Haverhill residents were the
beneficiaries of such fierce media competition. From the end of 1957 to
the middle of 1965, the Haverhill Gazette and the Haverhill Journal
fought what would become, literally, a titanic battle to the death.
Radio station WHAV, through the news reports of luminaries such as
Edwin V. Johnson and Ralph Hall, had the advantage of immediacy. The risk that any one news outlet might
“scoop” the others ensured even the most obscure stories were covered. The
Gazette previously sold WHAV in 1954.
“Undoubtedly it is possible to run at a profit in Haverhill two or more
daily newspapers of limited news coverage and of inferior general
quality. But the type of newspaper which The Haverhill Gazette has been
for many years, which The Haverhill Journal has been since it began
publication…could not succeed financially as a wholly independent
enterprise unless either it had no rivals or had in the face of rivalry
a circulation of over 15,000,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Charles
E. Wyzanski in his assessment of the case in 1959.
Wyzanski presided over a federal anti-trust case that is cited in
classrooms and courtrooms to this day. In fact, the case was appealed
all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The lesson of the battle between
is clear. Competition is expensive—and sometimes deadly—but it is a
vital component of achieving complete local news reporting.
Strike of 1957 Cripples
The roots of the great newspaper war date back to Nov. 20, 1957 when 31
composing room workers, members of Local 38 International Typographical
Union, struck at the Gazette. Workers complained they had been without
an agreement since 1947. While the strike was later ruled illegal by
the National Labor Relations Board, it continued for six months.
The Gazette failed to publish for three days, but was able to resume
publication using temporary workers.
Whether they feared business loss, saw opportunity or sympathized with
the strikers, eight representatives of the Gazette’s largest
advertisers approached Manchester Union Leader Publisher William Loeb
about starting another Haverhill newspaper. They said they feared not
having a vehicle to advertise their wares just before the big shopping
Sidney Katz of Elrich Shoes arranged a meeting at Loeb’s Beverly, Mass.
home. He was joined by colleague Eli Shoreman, Martin Bendetson of
Boston Furniture Company, Vinson W. Grad of Grad’s Specialty Shop,
Irving P. Karelis of Karelis Jewelers and Jerome Fishbein of Hudson’s
Apparel. Loeb agreed to publish a “throwaway shopper” and it appeared
Dec. 5 and 12. Norris Bendetson, of Boston Furniture Company and half
owner of Brest Buick Company, and David M. Gordon, president of
Haverhill Hardware and Plumbing Supply Co., joined the six original
merchants at a second meeting at Loeb’s home.
Loeb’s shopper became the daily Haverhill Journal on Dec. 16, 1957.
Striking Gazette workers helped Loeb deliver the paper and recruit
advertisers. An office was located in the former Locust Street School
(also the former Greek School and today is The Clubhouse). The battle
The news war was timely as Haverhill pondered its future. Interstate
495 would soon be under construction, the Greater Haverhill Foundation
would form to develop the Ward Hill Industrial Park and the first
hearings on the city’s downtown demolition plans were taking place.
Six of the eight Haverhill merchants paid as advisors to
the Haverhill Journal.
Haverhill Journal Challenges
During 1958, both the Haverhill Gazette and Haverhill Journal would
suffer, in Wyzanski’s words, “stupendous losses.”
Loeb’s initial response was pay each of the eight merchants $50 a week
to maintain their loyalty. He next promised them $5,000 a year for 10
years followed by $10,000 a year for the succeeding 10 years along with
an overriding bonus of 3 1/8 percent of the profits of the newspaper
“to be effective if and when the Haverhill Journal, under my ownership
or control, becomes the only newspaper published in Haverhill,”
according to court documents. The merchants posed as “ostensibly
disinterested parties, to boost the Journal and disparage the Gazette
and persuade other businessmen to advertise exclusively in the former.”
This arrangement would ultimately be Loeb’s undoing.
Loeb also named an unpaid advisory board that helped fuel animosity
against the Haverhill Gazette for decades. Members included Attorney
John Dondero, Albert Elwell, Gene P. Grillo, Arthur Kochakian, Rev. Nicholas M.
Marinos, Arthur S. Page Jr., Albert J. Pare, Clayton F. Strobel,
Attorney David Swartz and future Mayor Thomas S. Vathally.
Meanwhile, the Haverhill Gazette—suffering as much as a 50 percent loss
in circulation—became insolvent. Loeb offered to buy the Gazette for
about $500,000, but Publisher J. Wesley Russ, nephew of late publisher
and WHAV founder John T. Russ, instead asked fellow New England
newspapers for a $200,000 loan. During a meeting at the Lanam Club in
Andover Oct. 31, 1958, John Russ’ widow and the Gazette’s principal
stockholder, Muriel Russ, killed the idea. She opposed borrowing more
money and asked that the newspaper be sold. Haverhill attorney John J.
Ryan Jr. would represent Mrs. Russ.
At a second Lanam Club meeting two weeks later, the group of New
England publishers agreed to pool their resources and buy the Gazette.
The group delegated the making of the contract to a committee of John
H. Costello, Lowell Sun; Sidney R. Cook, Springfield Union and
Springfield Daily News; Charles A. Fuller, Brockton Enterprise; Philip
S. Weld, Daily News of Newburyport and Gloucester Times; and Irving E.
Rogers, Lawrence Eagle Tribune.
The group, now known as Newspapers of New England, Inc., bought the
outstanding capital stock of the Haverhill Gazette Co. Dec. 10, 1958
for $835,200. The three largest shareholders were the Eagle-Tribune,
Lowell Sun and J. Warren McClure of the Burlington Free Press.
Altogether, there were 32 publishing interests. Muriel Russ also
maintained a small stake in the new company.
Antitrust Claims Turn Local
Battle Into a Federal Matter
At the start of 1959, Loeb’s Union Leader Corporation filed an
antitrust suit against Newspapers of New England. Loeb claimed
violations of the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts and sought $4.5
million in damages. Newspapers of New England filed a counterclaim
against Loeb, seeking $3 million. Judge Wyzanski summed up the
“Currently there is being waged in Haverhill, Massachusetts a
life-and-death struggle between two rival daily newspapers. One is The
Haverhill Gazette which, without apparent violation of law, had become
in 1957, after more than a century of publication, the only daily local
newspaper in Haverhill. The other is The Haverhill Journal, which
entered the market in December 1957. This suit is an outgrowth of that
The issues were Loeb’s payments to the merchants, Newspapers of New
England’s purchase of the Gazette to keep Loeb out of Haverhill and
both newspapers’ discriminatory advertising rates.
Loeb unsuccessfully tried to disqualify Wyzanski, saying the Union
Leader’s earlier commentaries about the judge’s role as president of
Harvard’s Board of Overseers could compromise his impartiality.
Harvard’s board had permitted Julius Robert Oppenheimer to serve as a
lecturer at Harvard despite his repudiating his role in the invention
of the nuclear bomb and becoming a peace activist. The First Circuit
Court of Appeals ultimately ruled against Loeb upon hearing Wyzanski’s
“I know nothing whatsoever about any of these parties. In my naiveté I
didn’t know until now that the Haverhill Journal had some relationship
to a Manchester newspaper. I do not read the Manchester Press. And
although no one will believe it, I am not the slightest bit affected by
editorials for or against me, but I know there has been some Manchester
newspaper which has been in the business of attacking me from time to
time, and I don’t know whether it is the plaintiff or not. I am quite
immune from any bias with respect to it because I don’t even read this
At the end of the year, Wyzanski handed down his ruling against both
businesses. The Haverhill Gazette and Haverhill Journal were ordered to
charge advertising rates only in accordance with “publicly announced
rate schedule(s).” The Haverhill Journal was prohibited from making
payments to merchants and inducing advertisers to boycott The Haverhill
Gazette and both papers were order to “refrain from attempting in any
way to monopolize the market in Haverhill for daily local newspapers of
high quality.” Both newspapers were also offered the opportunity to
file damage claims against one another.
Neither side was happy. The Gazette believed its discriminatory
advertising rates were forced upon it by the Journal yet Wyzanski ruled
price discrimination is “not to be excused because comparable practices
were indulged in by plaintiff.” Loeb complained that his payments to
the merchants were “prudent…to engage outside help” and “so normal and
much practiced in so many businesses that it has become a standard
business technique.” Loeb also said “a battle in which there are over
thirty newspaper owners on one side against the appellant standing
alone…hardly suggests a fair fight.”
Court of Appeals Turns in
Both newspapers appealed the ruling—particularly the damages—to the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The case was heard Sept.
On Dec. 2, 1960, judges William W. Goodrich, John Patrick Hartigan and
Bailey Aldrich dismissed all of Loeb’s claims and ruled entirely in the
Gazette’s favor. The justices said The Gazette’s discriminatory
advertising rates were not evidence of illegal antitrust activity, but
rather justified “if it was intended only to resist deterioration of
its own position brought about by Union Leader’s unlawful activities.”
As to Loeb’s complaint that the various newspapers illegally ganged up
on him when they bought the Gazette, the judges ruled, “However
euphonious this melody, Union Leader’s attempted treble does not
harmonize with its base accompaniment. A party who pursues an unlawful
course of conduct from the moment it appears on the scene is in a poor
position to complain of an unfair fight.”
The Gazette had one last fight—collecting damages from Loeb and the
Union Leader. A master was appointed by the district court to determine
how much the Gazette should receive. The Gazette sought $3,973,575 in
trebled damages, but the master awarded only $88,326. Both the
Gazette and Journal appealed again to the circuit court during the
summer of 1964. The court ruled the master had applied his own rulings,
inconsistent with the court’s finding, and ordered a new accounting of
In July, the appeals court denied another motion by Union Leader to
change courts and to delay any payments to the Gazette until a Supreme
Court appeal could be heard. Once the Supreme Court refused to hear the
case, a new damage hearing was set to take place April 30, 1965.
The Haverhill Journal Ends
Publication; New Competition Emerges
As it was before 1957, the Gazette emerged as Haverhill’s only
newspaper June 2, 1965 when Journal General Manager Richard Becker
announced the abrupt closing of the daily Journal as well as its weekly
Haverhill Liberator. It was part of a behind-the-scenes settlement
between the opposing parties. The following month, the Gazette accepted
$1.1 million cash from Loeb and the Journal.
In the aftermath, Newspapers of New England set out to bolster the
Gazette’s saleability, moving the Gazette from Merrimack Street to a
new plant at 447 West Lowell Avenue. The paper continued to
suffer as the legal award did little to heal the emotional scars among
the Haverhill population.
Hagadone Newspapers, a division of Scripps-League Newspapers Inc.,
purchased the Gazette April 18, 1975. Wallace G. Donaldson was named
publisher, succeeding Kimball Davis. The Pulitzer Publishing Company
bought Scripps-League along with the Gazette in 1996.
Another daily newspaper war would be waged during the 1980s and 1990s
when the Eagle-Tribune opened a satellite office on Washington Street
in downtown Haverhill and began publishing a Haverhill edition. As
Judge Wyzanski had earlier noted, two daily newspapers could
theoretically survive if combined with others outside the city.
“There is every reason to believe that no matter what policies they had
adopted the market could not have brought them both financial success
unless one or both had reduced its quality or one or both had been
operationally combined with a newspaper outside of Haverhill. In short,
for what may be called the New England type of local newspaper familiar
in middle-sized cities Haverhill is economically a one newspaper city,”
Wyzanski had said.
Wyzanski could not have predicted other pressures facing newspapers
decades later. The Haverhill Gazette this time succumbed to the
pressure of competition. It was purchased by the Eagle-Tribune’s ETP
Ventures Inc. in 1998 and converted to a weekly. The West Lowell Avenue
plant was sold and The Gazette’s and Eagle-Tribune’s Haverhill offices
were consolidated in a surviving stub of a once-larger building at 181
Merrimack Street. Even that office closed in March, 2012. After 191
years, the Haverhill Gazette no longer had a physical presence in
The Eagle-Tribune and its associated ventures were sold in December,
2005, to Birmingham, Alabama-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.
Of the original key executives in the Gazette-Journal war, Loeb died
Sept. 14, 1981 and J. Wesley Russ of Plaistow, N.H. died March 31,
2002. Only two of the original eight merchants are alive today—Karelis
WHAV’s Democracy, Independence
and Sustainability Project
WHAV, now a non-profit corporation, has launched its “Democracy,
Independence and Sustainability Project” to highlight the benefits of
improved local news reporting. A recent WHAV white paper notes:
“Residents of Haverhill (pop. 60,879) and the lower Merrimack Valley
are not receiving adequate information to make life choices,
participate effectively in the democratic process or make decisions in
their own best interests. The small amount of news they do receive is
inappropriately filtered and may be misleading owing to the lack of
reporting of all sides of an issue.
“This situation is caused by lack of competition among media that
naturally improves reporting and coverage and undue government
influence over alternative media such as public access television.