The story of the man who transformed The Wall Street Journal and modern media
In 1929, Barney Kilgore, fresh from college in small-town Indiana, took a sleepy, near bankrupt New York financial paper—The Wall Street Journal—and turned it into a thriving national newspaper that eventually was worth $5 billion to Rupert Murdoch. Kilgore then invented a national weekly newspaper that was a precursor of many trends we see playing out in journalism now.
Tofel brings this story of a little-known pioneer to life using many previously uncollected newspaper writings by Kilgore and a treasure trove of letters between Kilgore and his father, all of which detail the invention of much of what we like best about modern newspapers. By focusing on the man, his journalism, his foresight, and his business acumen, Restless Genius also sheds new light on the Depression and the New Deal.
At a time when traditional newspapers are under increasing threat, Barney Kilgore's story offers lessons that need constant retelling.
One of the forgotten titans in American journalism, Barney Kilgore is the subject of a new book by Tofel, a former assistant publisher of the Wall Street Journal and author of Sounding the Trumpet. A Midwesterner from Indiana, Kilgore emerged from smalltown America to rise through the ranks at the Wall Street Journal on the eve of the Great Depression. Through the war years of the 1940s into the Cold War era, he reshaped the publication's news focus, visuals, composition, circulation and advertising. He championed a unique style of journalism as its top executive, with keen instincts, intelligence and a progressive view, transforming the broadsheet into a first-class national business newspaper. Innovative and unyielding, Kilgore had one of his finest moments when he faced down General Motors in a controversial 1954 advertising spat, bolstering the newspaper's reputation. Tofel's excellent work on this pivotal figure in journalism is a significant addition to the seminal books on American media.