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A Media Mogul’s Noble Challenge to Moguldom

The newspaper publishing giant E.W. Scripps would be deeply distressed to se what has become of his namesake company—and beloved country.

President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2, 1917.

President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2, 1917.

In today’s monopolistic media environment, the E.W. Scripps Company doesn’t rate as anything close to a top-tier power. The Cincinnati-based TV and digital media provider’s main claim to fame these days may well be its sponsorship of America’s National Spelling Bee.

How inconsequential has Scripps become? Scripps CEO Adam Symson, the company reported earlier this month, only took home $1.9 million in cash and stock last year. The nation’s top seven media chief execs, by contrast, averaged $49.1 million in 2016, the latest year with stats available.

My, how the mighty have fallen. The Scripps company, back in the days of founder E.W. Scripps, rated as a major powerhouse on the American media scene. In fact, old E.W. invented the notion of the modern daily newspaper chain. He would not be pleased to see that his company has slid into second-tier status.

But old man Scripps would be even more displeased by how his namesake company handles CEO compensation, only not displeased in the way you might think. CEO Adam Symson’s $1.9 million — and the $3.9 million that went to his predecessor in his last year as the company’s chief exec — wouldn’t have struck Scripps as too little. He would have considered these millions much too much.

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