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Richard Scudder, newspaper executive, dies

DENVER -- Richard B. Scudder, co-founder and former chairman of MediaNews Group Inc., the nation's second-largest newspaper company, who also helped invent a process allowing newsprint to be recycled, died Wednesday at his home in New Jersey. He was 99.

William Dean Singleton, the other founder of Denver-based MediaNews and Scudder's longtime friend, confirmed the death.

Singleton, current chairman of MediaNews Group, said Scudder was the "conscience of the company" who loved newspapers and emphasized the importance of local coverage that was hard-hitting.

Singleton said Scudder didn't flinch at spending money to fight for information to be released to the public or to defend a reporter's right to protect sources.

"He was a newsman through and through. He was certainly a good businessman, but his heart and soul was always on the news side," Singleton said.

Scudder, a native of Newark, was born into a newspaper family. His grandfather, Wallace Scudder, founded the Newark Evening News, and his father, Edward Scudder, ran it.

Richard Scudder worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald and the Evening News. He took over from his father as publisher of the Evening News in 1952 and held the post for 20 years.

In 1983, Scudder and Singleton bought the Gloucester County Times of Woodbury, N.J., and later purchased other small papers. Their partnership eventually became MediaNews Group, a privately owned company with newspaper holdings that include the Denver Post, The Detroit News and San Jose Mercury News.

Its 57 newspapers in 11 states have a combined daily circulation of 2.3 million, making MediaNews the nation's second-largest newspaper company after Gannett Co. Scudder was chairman of MediaNews from 1985 through 2009.

Scudder served in the Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star. He had learned German as a child and put the knowledge to use writing scripts for a German-language radio station to mislead the Nazis as part of "Operation Annie." He remained with the Army in Europe until 1946, working to help civilians take over newspapers that had been run by the Nazis, said Nancy Conway, editor of The Salt Lake Tribune.

She said Scudder was kind of a hero to MediaNews editors because he would fly or drive to newsrooms around the country to offer encouragement and moral support.

"When budgets got tight and you were weighing what to do, he was always extremely encouraging. He and Dean always managed to get us what we needed to do the best we could do," said Conway, who is working on a book about Scudder.

In the early 1950s, Scudder had a hand in inventing a process to remove ink from newsprint so newspapers could be recycled into quality newsprint, an effort once mocked as "Scudder's folly."

After being approached by a news dealer who came up with the idea, Scudder initially tested the process in his office and home before moving the research to university and laboratory settings, according to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wis.