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St. Louis Business Journal History

St.Louis Business Journal Debuts With 40% Advertising

By Louis Rose

            The St. Louis Business Journal, a weekly tabloid focusing on local financial news, made its debut Oct. 6 on schedule. The new entry weighed in with a 36-page issue – 12 more than originally planned – and a 40 percent advertising content.

            (The second issue had the same amount of advertising, but because the number of pages was reduced to 32, the percentage increased to 44.7).

            Although heftier than expected, the publication’s maiden issue reflected a low-key approach.

            There were no startling revelations. Nor was there anything likely to titillate sensation-seekers or to cause tremors either in the business community or among the Journal’s competitors, including the city’s two daily newspapers.

            About 45,000 copies were mailed or distributed, almost all of them free copies, according to Journal Editor Donald L. Keough, a veteran newsman who built a reputation as an incisive, hard-hitting political columnist while covering Missouri state government.

            Keough said he expects the Journal to become the chief chronicler of St. Louis area business by providing in-depth coverage that cannot be matched by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat with their needs to appeal to mass circulation.

            The advertiser response for the first issue, Keough said, “was astonishing when you consider they were buying a product they hadn’t seen. I think that is some indication that this type of publication is needed in St. Louis.”

            Keough said the Journal has a 16-member staff, projected first-year budget of about $500,000 and it hopes to build up a 10,000-paid circulation within the year. He said he believed the circulation goal is a conservative one.

            He said the publication will take a positive and friendly approach to business, without allowing itself to become unduly cozy.

            “We don’t intend to become a house organ,” he declared. “We are a newspaper primarily oriented toward business coverage, but we are still a newspaper and we are going to keep our credibility.”

            Keough agrees to become editor at the repeated urgings of Mark Vittert, a St. Louis investor who is president of the publication firm and one of three principals in it. The other principals are Andrew E. Newman, an executive with Edison Brothers, and John E. Burkhart, a retired Indianapolis businessman.

            The 38-year-old Keough, who rarely backs away from a challenge, has been quoted as being little concerned by competition from the Post and Globe, both of which have expanded their business and financial news coverage in recent weeks.

            “We’ll run circles around the Globe and Post,” he told the writer of a St. Louis publication, “because when you’re small and locally controlled, you can move faster and with more flexibility. There is inertia in large organizations.”

            Financial news editors of both dailies say they welcome the new publication, adding that everyone involved will benefit from the competition.

            “I look at the competition as healthy,” said Robert Blanchard, Globe financial editor. “I don’t see anything as bad. I think it helps bring about a general awakening of more business news and I think everyone in the community will benefit.”

            Bruce Sankey, news editor and business editor at the Post, said he was encouraged by the Journal’s entry into the publication field.

            “I think anything that is going to create interest in business news is going to be healthy for all of us,” Sankey commented. “The more interest that is generated in business news – whether it be by us, the Globe or the Business Journal – can only stand to help all three publications. I would think that there is plenty of news and plenty of advertisers.”

            Sankey, however, was less charitable in evaluating the Journal’s performance in its debut issue.

            “Frankly, I was disappointed in it,” Sankey said. “Virtually every story in there had been in the Post or Globe within the last month.” He said the Journal’s front-page lead story – about Mallinckrodt, Inc., fighting a takeover attempt – had been the lead story in a Post Sunday financial section last month.

            He also said he was told that portions of a Journal story on St. Louis football Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell were reminiscent of a feature story on Bidwell that appeared about two years ago in the Post’s Everyday section.

            Overall, however, he said the Journal’s maiden issue was “not too bad” for a first effort. But, Sankey added, “If they are going to succeed as a valid news vehicle they are going to have to come up with more stories that haven’t appeared elsewhere. After all, they are a weekly and they are going to have to offer something new and different.

            (Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 11/1980).