Do you know Paul Miller?
Almost a century ago, the son of a minister from Pawhuska graduated from high school and embarked on a career as a journalist. He rose through the corporate ranks and became a press executive best known for his talent as an organization builder.
As the flow of events dictates, the organization he built into an industry leader now owns the small weekly newspaper in the town where he made his debut.
The son of the minister who became known as “the big buyer” was Paul Miller, who graduated in 1925 from Pawhuska High School. He was born in September 1906 in Diamond, Missouri, and died at the age of 84 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Oklahoma State University’s journalism building is named after him, and the company he worked so mightily to build – Gannett Co. – is America’s largest newspaper company. The Pawhuska Journal-Capital is one of the many publications he owns.
Miller worked as an Associated Press news gathering employee before becoming an executive. He rose to the rank of PA bureau chief in Washington, DC, in 1942 and held that position during World War II. Even after becoming an executive, he wrote a regular column on national and world events, and at times demonstrated a continued need to cover current events. For example, his obituary in the New York Times recounted that while on vacation in 1971, Miller interviewed the Prime Minister of Japan and filed an article.
In 1947 Miller left the Associated Press as an employee and moved to Rochester, New York, to become executive assistant to Frank E. Gannett, the founder of Gannett Co. In 1957, Miller held the position management of the company. .
In a personal letter from September 1948, Miller described the size of the Gannett Co. at the time, stating that it “included 21 newspapers and five radio stations in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois.” A 1985 article in the Pawhuska Journal-Capital stated that Miller guided Gannett’s growth to a total of 80 newspapers.
When it merged in 2019 with GateHouse, Gannett consisted of around 260 dailies and numerous weeklies.
Miller became chairman and chief executive officer of Gannett in 1957 and chairman of the Associated Press in 1963. He was the first PA employee to become its top executive.
Miller was known as a strong advocate of the value of a free press. He was Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press from 1942 to 1947, and his articles (now housed at Oklahoma State University) reflect a wide range of wartime contacts, including with U.S. presidents and foreign leaders. His documents are also said to contain information on business management decisions made by The Associated Press and Gannett.
In an interview with AP writer Saul Pett, when Miller resigned from the AP board after 28 years, Miller indicated that he believed Gannett would continue to grow.
âWhy buy more? When is it enough? Pett asked Miller.
âThis will continue,â Miller said. “Are you going to tell a guy he can’t sell his paper?” Or if you say a business can’t have more than X numbers, what’s the number – 25, 50, 70? And what are you basing yourself on? I think we will have over 100 logs for the foreseeable future.
Miller has regularly written editorial columns during his career as a senior news executive. When President Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974, Miller lamented that the president failed to tell the American people the truth about the Watergate scandal. He observed that no one has registered on Nixon’s White House registration system “is heard to advance the idea of ââjust doing the right thing.” Indeed, they kept sinking deeper.
âThey thought they did,â Miller concluded of Nixon’s White House. Still, he wondered if things could have turned out differently: “What if the president had said to the country, as he gracefully and eloquently did on Thursday night, ‘There you go. I made a big mistake. I deeply regret it. I’m working as hard as I can to clean it up. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, please try to put up with us. ‘ No one can say for sure what the outcome would have been, but how much better it would have likely been for everyone. â
As the leader of Gannett, Miller was an advocate for the principle of local editorial autonomy, rather than the corporate-level dictation of a single editorial policy. Gannett was a “group” of journals with publication-by-publication autonomy, rather than a “chain” of related publications to articulate the same conclusions.
Miller was also known to retain a concern for his roots in a small town in Oklahoma, which the local newspaper reports from his remarks during a mortgage burning service on Sunday, October 31, 1948. The service took place. at the First Christian Church in Pawhuska, where his father, the late Reverend James Miller, had served as a pastor and helped grow church membership and the construction of a new church building.
Miller’s address provided the occasion for a kind of family reunion, as his mother returned to Pawhuska from Seneca, Missouri, and other family members traveled from Clarksville, Tennessee, Claremore and Tulsa. Miller was then a resident of Rochester, New York.
The church originally cost $ 80,000. Much of that was paid off up front, with a remaining debt of $ 35,000 that was paid over 21 years.
Miller described his father as a practical man who âapplied his Christianity to everyday life, to real people, to familiar things. He also described his father as a believer in the supreme power of prayer to “solve anything.”
“I’m sure he used to pray for the Pawhuska High School football teamâ¦ Definitely he did when we played in Fairfax!”