Was William Jennings Bryan a Good Newspaper Editor?

Did you know William Jennings Bryan was the editor of the Omaha World-Herald for two years? Or that he didn’t do a lot of actual editing in that time?

William Jennings Bryan delivering a speech, circa 1905. [RG3198.PH000047-000010]

Among the many credits following the name of William Jennings Bryan is that of “editor of the Omaha World-Herald, 1894-1896.” His name did appear on the masthead of the Nebraska newspaper from September 1894 until he was selected to carry the standard of the Democratic Party in the summer of 1896. In fact, however, Bryan did little actual editing. If the success of the World-Herald at that time depended upon his presence and direction as an editor, it is very likely that the newspaper would have ceased publication.

So if that is the case, how did Bryan become editor of the World-Herald? Why did he choose to give up his seat in the House of Representatives in 1894 by not seeking reelection to what would have been a third term? What did Bryan expect to gain by a switch from politics to the newspaper industry? And why did Gilbert M, Hitchcock, the apparently successful publisher of the newspaper, think that the addition of Bryan’s name to the staff was important to the future of the paper?

The answers to all those questions are in Paul V Peterson’s 1968 Nebraska History article. Read it here.

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