When E. K. Gaylord arrived in Oklahoma City in 1902 he found a young town of 7,000 residents with two newspapers, including the one he would work at and own for more than seventy years–the Daily Oklahoman. After Gaylord met with Roy E. Stafford, the publisher of the eight-year-old Oklahoman, the men reached an agreement for Gaylord to become Stafford's business manager and financial partner.
The newspaper had passed through several hands since its founding in 1894. Gaylord began his duties on January 27, 1903, and two days later the Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) was incorporated. In less than a century, Gaylord's original five-thousand-dollar investment in a fledgling newspaper would become a billion-dollar media empire.
Oklahoma became a state on November 16, 1907, and soon the state capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. Gaylord chaired the Oklahoma City campaign for the capital site. With the move came higher statewide status for the Daily Oklahoman. However, the Oklahoman's early growth was impeded by circulation wars with both paid and free newspapers and a fire that destroyed its building and melted its printing equipment in 1909.
In 1916 OPUBCO purchased the Oklahoma Times, which it operated until 1984. That purchase left only one rival, the Oklahoma City News, an afternoon daily owned by the Scripps- Howard chain. The News folded in the 1970s when afternoon newspapers across America faced circulation declines with the advent of evening television news, making Oklahoma City one of the many cities in American with a single newspaper.
Gaylord's efforts to buy and beat the competition and his courage in facing down political opposition and an advertising boycott impressed the directors of OPUBCO, and in 1916 they named him president of the company, despite the fact that Stafford owned the majority of the stock. Stafford, who perceived the directors' action as a vote of no confidence, quickly sold his interest in the newspaper for $300,000.
Stafford's departure set the stage for a remarkable career for Gaylord as president of a growing newspaper in a growing state, a career that lasted until his death in 1974 at the age of 101. In those years Oklahoma saw both bad times–the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl–and good–the discovery of huge oil fields throughout the state. Through them all the Daily Oklahoman steadily maintained its mission to be the newspaper of record for the state. National attention focused on the city and the newspaper in 1995, when the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed in the largest act of domestic terrorism in the nation's history. Reporters and editors worked nonstop for more than a month, covering the story in a manner praised by consumers and industry insiders alike.
Over the years the Daily Oklahoman gained a reputation for embracing new technology, shunning special interests, and encouraging economic growth in the city and state. From their earliest days, radio and television fascinated Gaylord with their possibilities. OPUBCO brought radio to Oklahoma City in 1928 and television in 1949, often pioneering technologies and fostering talent later enjoyed nationwide. Edward L. Gaylord, who followed his father into the OPUBCO presidency in 1974, expanded the OPUBCO media holdings, purchasing television stations in Seattle, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Fort Worth. In 1983 OPUBCO bought the Opryland hotel and entertainment complex in Nashville, Tennessee, and media properties, including the Nashville Network, Country Music Television, wsm Radio, and the Grand Ole Opry, forming the publicly held Gaylord Entertainment in the process.
The Daily Oklahoman stands today as the centerpiece of the Oklahoma Publishing Company and is one of the largest family-owned newspapers in the United States, with circulation in excess of 225,000 daily and 330,000 on Sunday.
See also CITIES AND TOWNS: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Philip D. Patterson Oklahoma Christian University
Daily Oklahoman Archives, Tom and Ada Beam Library, Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City.
Dary, David. "A Work in Progress: The Oklahoma Publishing Company Celebrates 95 Years." Daily Oklahoman, supplement, November 8, 1998: 1–17.