With very little fanfare save a front-page announcement, a thin fourteen-page edition marked the end of the The Toledo News-Bee on August 2, 1938. The News-Bee was the last remaining competition to The Blade (unless you count the Daybreak Dispatch in the 1970s). Small bits of the announcement are gone forever, but here’s what it mostly said:
NEWS-BEE RETIRES FROM TOLEDO FIELD
THE NEWS-BEE will suspend publication with its last edition today.
The News-Bee, for several years, has been published at a loss. So long as it appeared that there was a place in the Toledo field for The News Bee…..been willing to sustain these losses, and …..investments on the chance that The News-Bee would, in time, become a reasonably profitable institution. This was done in the face of greatly increased production costs due to mounting labor costs and rising newsprint prices.
The decision to retire from the field was based on the conviction, finally, that two afternoon newspapers cannot be published, with a fair profit for both, in Toledo. It was felt by the owners of The News-Bee to be sound business, as well as good journalism, to retire from a field which offered no hope of betterment – and to concentrate time and effort and investment on those properties within the Scripps-Howard concern which occupy more favorable fields for expansion and growth.
WE REGRET the circumstances which made this action necessary, but we hold no one to blame for those circumstances. They rise from a trend in newspaper economics over which we have no control. The News-Bee has been in Toledo a long time. It is with a feeling of regret that we now suspend publication. We sincerely wish Toledo and its people well. We have only friendliness and good wishes for The Blade and its people.
Nowhere else in that day’s News-Bee is there any hint of its folding. And nowhere in the News-Bee is notice of the business transaction that took place: The Blade had bought the assets of the News-Bee
Probably the most famous News-Bee alumni was Allen Saunders, who for many years wrote the comic strips Mary Worth, Steve Roper and Mike Nomad, and Kerry Drake.
Its editor in 1938, Carlton K. Matson, went to work for Libbey-Owens Ford before returning to the Scripps chain as a columnist and editorial writer for the Cleveland Press. His death from cancer in 1948 was notable for the uncommon way he wrote openly and frankly about his disease, in the pages of The Press and other publications where it was widely reprinted (“What I want to do is strike a blow against this mysterious, paralyzing hush-hush that surrounds every case of cancer”). Here’s the article as it appeared in the Tuscaloosa News.
When The Blade folded the morning Toledo Times (and the last relic of the competitive newspaper history in Toledo) in 1975, it died in the same unheralded sort of way: there was a small story on the front page and nothing else was said about it. No long history about The Times, or any recounting of the history behind it.
The Blade published a great book in 1985, The Blade of Toledo: The First 150 Years, by John M. Harrison, which was mostly about The Blade (no surprise) but also went into some detail regarding the 20th century roll of Toledo newspapers:
In 1903, the Scripps-McRae League, the forerunner of Scripps-Howard and today’s E.W. Scripps Co., bought three Toledo dailies: the News, the Bee, and the Times. The News and the Bee were combined into one evening paper, while the Times continued in the mornings. During the first decade of the 20th century, the News-Bee held a fairly substantial advantage over The Blade: 86,000 subscribers versus The Blade’s 40,000 (and also, The News-Bee had a Sunday edition while The Blade did not).
Both papers ceaselessly tried to outhustle each other: being first on the street with a big story, for news, for employees. In 1931, The Blade purchased The Times, though the book is unclear as to who owned it at the time, and continued to publish it as a separate entity with a separate editorial policy.
I had always been under the impression that The News-Bee simply folded on its own, but the book notes on p. 261 that, in fact, The Blade purchased The News-Bee for $787,000 – payable in quarterly installments beginning in 1939, and continuing for 20 years. The author said in a footnote: “As late as 1950, some Toledoans still recalled the ‘good old days’ of the News-Bee, though most Scripps-Howard newspapers had by then moved well to the right politically. Even in the summer of 1984, a carry-out clerk at a Toledo grocery store suggested that a history of the News-Bee would be even more interesting than one of The Blade.”
So while the history of The Blade is well-documented, the history of the News-Bee is probably gone forever. For forty-plus years after its closing, the dark red News-Bee Building, as it was called until it was torn down, was at 604 Jackson St. (at Huron) downtown, and was the home of WTOL and WIOT-FM. It opened in 1912, and the paper invited readers to come on down anytime. It was eventually demolished in the early 80s (after haggling over price) to make way for One Government Center and the boulevarding of Jackson Street.
The microfilm pages of the Toledo News-Bee are now in Google’s archive search, so you’ll no doubt be reading more about the growth pains of early 20th century Toledo here. The city grew at an overwhelming rate in The News-Bee’s heyday, from 131,822 in 1900 to 243,164 in 1920, and flipping through the papers is like looking at a mirror full of problems of a city that grew rapidly: crime, the rise of the automobile, city politics, as well as a generous amount of national and international news, all presented in a way to sell newspapers (and therefore very entertaining).