Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


In 1885 a young, wealthy lawyer named Gilbert M. Hitchcock and four business partners decided that the booming city of Omaha, Nebraska, needed an independent newspaper. Hitchcock founded the Omaha Daily World on August 24, 1885, promising a newsy newspaper for business people. The paper struggled financially in the early years, but Hitchcock, who provided most of the capital and owned almost all the paper's stock, paid $30,000 for the competing morning Herald, and on July 15, 1889, the combined Omaha World-Herald hit the streets.

Hitchcock's independent stance didn't last, and his interest in Democratic politics helped turn the paper Democratic by 1888. The turn came just in time to boost the political career of young politician William Jennings Bryan. In 1894 Hitchcock and Bryan worked out an arrangement that put Bryan on the World-Herald masthead as editor in chief. Bryan wanted a platform for his beliefs, and Hitchcock thought Bryan's editorials would help boost the paper's circulation. Bryan, who received a salary and free rail passes as editor, was mostly absent. Political reporter and editor Richard Metcalfe rewrote Bryan's notes into editorials. The arrangement failed to build circulation, and Bryan left the paper two years later when he first won the Democratic nomination for president.

Hitchcock, who continued as head of the newspaper during his own political career of three terms in the House of Representatives and two terms as a senator, died in 1934. His son-in-law Henry Doorly became president of the World Publishing Company, the publisher of the World-Herald. More familiar with the business side of running a newspaper, Doorly worked to standardize ad policies and practices. He became disenchanted with the New Deal and Democrats, switching the paper's political allegiance to the Republican Party.

In 1937 the World-Herald became the only paper in the city after the demise of the Hearstowned Omaha Bee-News. After Doorly's retirement in 1955, Walter E. Christenson took over. Harold W. Andersen succeeded Christenson, followed by John A. Gottschalk in 1989.

The World-Herald, owned by Hitchcock and family members since 1885, attracted the interest of Samuel Newhouse of the Newhouse newspaper chain in 1962. This interest prompted Omaha construction executive Peter Kiewit to make a successful bid for the paper to keep the ownership local. After Kiewit's death in 1979, ownership was divided, with about 80 percent going to nonunion employee-stockholders and the remaining 20 percent to the Peter Kiewit Foundation.

A regional newspaper with morning and evening editions, the World-Herald is distributed across Nebraska and into surrounding states. The paper now takes a moderate conservative stance. In 2001 production switched to a new 100-million-dollar press and plant in downtown Omaha.

The World-Herald has won three Pulitzer Prizes. The first went to longtime editor Harvey Newbranch for a 1919 editorial written after a mob lynched a black prisoner. Newbranch's editorial called for sanity. In 1943 the paper won the Public Service Pulitzer for collecting about six million tons in a scrap metal drive. Photographer Earle Bunker won the third Pulitzer in 1944 for a photo of a soldier returning to his family.

See also AFRICAN AMERICANS: Omaha Race Riot / CITIES AND TOWNS: Omaha, Nebraska.

Carol Zuegner Creighton University

Limprecht, Hollis J. A Century of Service, 1885–1985. Omaha: Omaha World-Herald Company, 1985.

Roesgen, Bill. "Staying the Course." American Journalism Review 21 (1999): 40–46.

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