DENVER — Richard B. Scudder, co-founder and former chairman of MediaNews Group Inc., the nation’s second-largest newspaper company, who also helped invent a process allowing newsprint to be recycled, died Wednesday at his home in New Jersey. He was 99.
William Dean Singleton, the other founder of Denver-based MediaNews and Scudder’s longtime friend, confirmed the death.
Singleton, current chairman of MediaNews Group and a former chairman of The Associated Press, said Scudder was the “conscience of the company” who loved newspapers and emphasized the importance of local coverage that was hard-hitting.
Singleton said Scudder didn’t flinch at spending money to fight for information to be released to the public or to defend a reporter’s right to protect sources.
“He was a newsman through and through. He was certainly a good businessman, but his heart and soul was always on the news side,” said Singleton, who also is publisher of The Denver Post and The Salt Lake Tribune.
Scudder, who died in Atlantic Highlands, was a native of Newark, N.J. He was born May 13, 1913, into a newspaper family. His grandfather, Wallace Scudder, founded the Newark Evening News and his father, Edward Scudder, ran it.
Richard Scudder worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald before joining the Evening News as a reporter in 1938. He took over from his father as publisher of the Evening News in 1952 and held the post for 20 years.
In 1983, Scudder and Singleton bought the Gloucester County Times of Woodbury, N.J., and later purchased Today’s Sunbeam of Salem, N.J., and several small papers in Ohio and California.
Their partnership eventually became MediaNews Group, a privately owned company with newspaper holdings that include the Post, The Detroit News and San Jose Mercury News.
Its 57 newspapers in 11 states have combined daily circulations of 2.3 million, making MediaNews the nation’s second-largest newspaper company after Gannett Co. MediaNews also owns a television station in Alaska and radio stations in Texas.
New York-based Digital First Media was formed last year to manage MediaNews Group and the Journal Register Co.
Scudder was chairman of MediaNews from 1985 through 2009.
Scudder served in the Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star. He had learned German as a child and put the knowledge to use writing scripts for a German-language radio station to mislead the Nazis as part of “Operation Annie.” He remained with the Army in Europe until 1946, working to help civilians take over newspapers that had been run by the Nazis, said Nancy Conway, editor of The Salt Lake Tribune.
She said Scudder was kind of a hero to MediaNews editors because he would fly or drive to newsrooms around the country to offer encouragement and moral support.
“When budgets got tight and you were weighing what to do, he was always extremely encouraging. He and Dean always managed to get us what we needed to do the best we could do,” said Conway, who is working on a book about Scudder.
In the early 1950s, Scudder had a hand in inventing a process to remove ink from newsprint so newspapers could be recycled into quality newsprint, an effort once mocked as “Scudder’s folly.” After being approached by a news dealer who came up with the idea, Scudder initially tested the process in his office and home before moving the research to university and laboratory settings, according to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wis. Scudder was admitted to the hall in 1995.
He went on to found the Garden State Paper Co., which had a mill in Garfield, N.J., that began production in 1961. The firm later opened several other plants and became one of the largest companies in the world to recycle newspapers into newsprint.
Conway said Scudder became interested in conservation issues after working as a ranch hand in the West during college.
In 2006, the same year MediaNews purchased four newspapers from McClatchy Co., Scudder said in an interview for a book on New Jersey newspaper history that the future of newspapers was positive.
“We believe it and are proving it,” he told author Jerome Aumente. “We wish Wall Street would stay the hell out of it. They (publicly-owned newspapers) are run by accountants and lawyers for Christ’s sake.”
Conway said Scudder and Singleton seemed so different on paper, starting with the nearly 40-year age difference. Scudder’s East Coast family was on the social register and mixed with people such as Woodrow Wilson, while Singleton grew up poor in Texas. But she said they shared a vision that newspapers exist to serve their communities.
One thing they disagreed about was George W. Bush. Singleton is a friend and backed him, but Scudder was critical of the president.
Scudder had deep ties to New Jersey, where he returned after serving during World War II.
The Princeton University graduate was a trustee of the school’s Environmental Institute and of Rutgers University. He also received an honorary doctorate from Monmouth University.
His wife, Elizabeth Shibley Scudder, died in 2004 at 83. He is survived by daughters Jean Scudder of Readfield, Maine, Carolyn Miller of Devon, Pa., and Holly DiFani of Arroyo Seco, N.M.; a son, Charles Scudder of Portland, Ore., and eight grandchildren.
A private burial will be held Saturday and a public memorial is being planned for July 28. A location hasn’t been set yet.
By COLLEEN SLEVIN/