PM Daily, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 18, 1940
On June 18, 1940, PM newspaper started publishing.
PM was an innovative and progressive (and relatively expensive) liberal daily newspaper.
The first issue is somewhat typical: articles about World War II and why the U.S. should join the fight; praise of F.D.R. and F.D.R.’s praise of PM; New York City news – a page about the opening of a portion of the East River Drive; entire sections devoted to news about labor and consumer information; radio program listings; recipes; a distillation of advertising from other newspapers; a large and colorful map; and a bit of cheesecake (photos of a Gypsy Rose Lee performance in France).
PM was innovative in many way: PM didn’t sell advertising (for six years); didn’t own its presses (for a few years); printed in color; used a new printing process on good paper…
PM was ahead of its time in media criticism. It progressively and aggressively (perhaps at times over-zealously) covered and critiqued other media, mostly other newspapers. In a 1940 pre-publication office memorandum, publisher Ralph Ingersoll wrote about his plans for offering media literacy in a daily section called “Unorthodox News. A department devoted to the news of the Press itself, not only because we think this news is interesting to the public, but also because we feel that it’s important for the people of a democracy to understand their principal medium of information.” PM was also a pioneer in printing listings of radio programs for both AM and the nascent FM.
PM was also ahead of its time in its use of photographs and the way it acquired images. Ingersoll’s experience working at magazines such as Life, Time, and the New Yorker influenced his concept of what an ideal newspaper should be and what it should look like. From Ingersoll’s manifesto-like pre-publication office memorandum: “PM Will Be Written in Words and Pictures. PM’s choice of pictures: Over half of PM’s space will be filled with pictures—because PM will use pictures not simply to illustrate stories, but to tell them. Thus, the tabloids notwithstanding, PM is actually the first picture paper under the sun. . . . PM has made a contract with one of the major picture agencies [and only one of the major picture agencies, this became a source of significant litigation] for its full international picture service. PM will also maintain a staff of its own photographers, headed by Margaret Bourke-White, and employing the foremost experts [where else were photojournalists called “experts”?] in the country. In addition to this, special editors [principally Ralph Steiner] of PM will devote all their time and energy to tapping every possible photographic source, such as the 12,000,000 American camera fans [anticipating “crowd sourcing” or public photojournalism and web sites like Flickr by 60 years], government bureaus, foreign agencies, etc… (PM does not believe in horror for horror’s sake—but its editors will not deny its readers truth of social importance simply because it’s unpleasant).” Weegee published hundreds of photos, and often wrote his own captions, in PM.
The first issue sold out very quickly and the delivery trucks were mobbed by inquisitive customers. The following week sales fell precipitously. World War II took its toll on PM… After printing some of the most important photos of the twentieth century and some great writing by, among others, Richard Wright, losing millions of dollars, PM stopped publishing in 1948.