Journal Square takes its name from Jersey City's longtime daily newspaper, The Jersey Journal, just as Times Square in New York City is named after the New York Times. The bright red signage atop the five-story building at 30 "Journal" Square proudly identifies the headquarters for what has been a mainstay of Jersey City's political and cultural life.
In 2014 the newspaper moved out of the city to One Harmon Plaza in Secaucus, its fifth location. The historic Jersey City building will be preserved and renovated for commercial and retail space. The iconic sign will remain as a reminder of both the publication and the city's business hub. The property was purchased by Kushner Companies and KABR Group in 2012 as part of the revitalization of Journal Square.
John T. Rowland, Jr., a native of Jersey City and prolific architect, designed the building in 1921 at the time of the renovation of the area for new bridges over the Pennsylvania Railroad cut and the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad (now PATH) station at Summit Avenue. Facing north across the open plaza of Journal Square, the building was given a prominent location in the newly reconstructed district.
Before moving in 1925 to its namesake building, the newspaper offices relocated several times during its history. Originally published as the Evening Journal on May 2, 1867, the newspaper started out in a two-room office at 13 Exchange Place and gradually expanded its operations into other nearby buildings. In 1868, Joseph Albert Dear bought the newspaper. As the newspaper flourished, the publishers, the Evening Journal Association, constructed a new office building in 1874.
The new offices at 37 Montgomery Street remained home to the editorial offices and production facilities through the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1909, after almost forty years, the Evening Journal officially changed its name to The Jersey Journal under the parent company known as the Evening Journal Association. Soon thereafter, in 1911, the paper relocated almost two miles west to a new office at the northeast corner of Bergen and Sip Avenues. The structure was demolished to create the large open plaza that forms the core of Journal Square.
Robert Larkins, an editorial page editor, once called the Jersey Journal, "a paper with an independent political outlook with Democratic leaning." However, when the paper started as the Evening Journal, he describes the paper as "the pronounced and vigorous advocate of Republican principles and general policy of the Republican Party. It has supported and advocated the election of the national and state candidates of that party," wrote associate editor Alexander McLean in 1895" (Quoted in Weiss, 1992).
The paper began as a four-page broadsheet edition with six columns to the page. Its founders, William Dunning and Zebina K. Pangborn, were both Republicans and former Union Army officers. They supported the party's overall Reconstruction program of the Republican Party and its civil rights program of equal rights for African-Americans, but they took an independent editorial stand against the arrival of Irish Catholics into the city. Active in city politics, Pangborn served as the chairman of the 1870 city charter commission.
In 1908, the editor Joseph A. Dear renamed the newspaper the Jersey Journal. During his tenure, the newspaper gave witness to the rise of Jersey City's most controversial political figure, Democratic Party "boss" Mayor Frank Hague. The Journal initially supported Hague as a reform candidate in 1913 and backed his successful campaign to change Jersey City from a mayor-city council form of government to a commission form of government that brought him to power under New Jersey's Walsh Act of 1911. It supported Hague in his election campaign for mayor in 1921 and again in 1925, but opposed his reelection in 1929.
Dear was succeeded as editor by his son Joseph A. Dear II. A graduate of the Hasbrouck Institute in 1889 and Princeton in 1893, he was appointed for three terms to the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals (1926-1944) under New Jersey's Constitution of 1844. Like his father, he supported Republican politics but also wrote editorials favoring the progressive reform ideas of Woodrow Wilson, such as the Walsh Act for municipal government reform and the formation of the League of Nations after World War I.
Under the editorship of Joseph Dear II, the Jersey Journal began to challenge Mayor Hague's tactics and referred to his supporters as "Hague's Hoodlums" in both words and political cartoons. Hague reacted by attempting to bring the presses to a halt with tactics that included interference with newspaper sales, advertising, and distribution, as well as raising its tax assessment in 1926 by $175,000. Hague even wanted to rename Journal Square "Veterans Square" in retaliation for the paper's endorsement of his political opponent in the mayoralty election of 1929, but the name was too entrenched in city's frame of reference. Dear II also supported the Case-McAllister Committee investigation of Hague in 1928 and 1929. It reported that Hague had interfered with a Republican primary for a state senate seat and questioned Hague's personal finances and use of public funds. His last editorial for the Jersey Journal was "Hang Hitler," written in 1939.
According to Jersey Journal reporter Peter Weiss, the paper's general support of Democratic politics came during the Depression era and its reform policies. After Hague's tenure, the Jersey Journal supported his nephew Frank Hague Eggers for mayor and opposed the successful candidate John V. Kenny. In 1950 the Jersey Journal campaigned against the commission form of government that brought Hague to power and advocated a return to the mayor-council form of government, which was adopted. When a return to the commission form of government was again suggested in 1982, the Jersey Journal defended the status quo.
In 1945, S.I. Newhouse, Sr., bought the Jersey Journal from the Dear family. Today it is one of the newspapers published by the Newhouse-owned Advance Publications that includes The Star-Ledger and numerous daily and weekly newspapers. Newhouse began his vast newspaper holdings with its purchase of the Staten Island Advance and Ledger of Essex County in 1935.
The Jersey Journal purchased the daily Jersey Observer in 1951 and the Bayonne Times in 1971. The Observer or "The Obie" began as a weekly in 1892 in Hoboken and was the Hudson Observer from 1911 to 1924. To reflect the merger, the masthead of the Jersey Journal was changed to the Jersey Journal and Jersey Observer in 1998. When the Hudson Dispatch closed in 1991, the Journal began a Hudson Dispatch edition.
In 1996 Jersey City's daily newspaper moved the printing of the newspaper from 30 Journal Square to the Bergen Record's Commercial Printing facility in Rockaway, NJ, to allow for color printing. It briefly published a Spanish-language weekly newspaper, El Nuevo Hudson that was discontinued in February 2009. In 2002 it began publication of the local weeklies, The Bayonne Journal, Kearny Journal, and Waterfront Journal.ontinue
On April 25, 2005, the Jersey Journal changed the look and format of the newspaper. It published its first tabloid edition of the paper, abandoning its broadsheet format after 138 years and following the trend for tabloids in urban communities.
The Jersey Journal's future has been threatened with problems related to a reduction in circulation from as many as 100,000 newspapers a day in 1970 to approximately 40,000 and a loss of advertising revenue. In March 2002 negotiations between Newhouse owners and unions representing the employees prevented a shut down of the newspaper's operations.
Despite the ongoing challenges to print media, the Jersey Journal continues its long run and celebrated its 150th anniversary at a special event held at the historic Loew's Theater at Journal Square on April 29, 2017. An anniversary section of the paper, published on May 2, 2017, featured "the top 25 news stories in Hudson County" and some of the county's most significants persons and institutions.
"Anniversary Section," Jersey Journal 2 May 2017.
Donohue, Pete. "Traditions Spans 125 Years." Jersey Journal 11 June 1992.
Hennelly, Robert. "Deadline." New Jersey Monthly July 2002:24-29.
"Jersey Journal to Move Headquarters to Secaucus in the Fall." Jersey Journal 15 August 2014.
Jersey Journal Website: http://www.nj.com/jjournal
"Joseph Dear Dies; Jersey Publisher." New York Times 18 July 1947.
Leir, Ronald. "Journal Turns 135 Today, Building on Proud History." Jersey Journal 2 May 2002.
McDonald, Terence T. "Plan Would Transform Old Jersey Journal Building in Jersey City." Jersey Journal 4 February 2016.
McLean, Alexander. The History of Jersey City, N.J. Jersey City, NJ: F.T. Smiley and Co., 1895.
Seelye, Katharine Q. "The News Is Big. It's the Paper That Are Getting Smaller." Jersey Journal, March 21, 2005.
Villanova, Patrick. "Giving Voice to the People." Jersey Journal Anniversary Section 2 May 2017. http://www.nj.com/jerseyjournal150/2017/04/from_1867_to_2017_the_jersey_journal_has_been_the.html
Weiss, Peter. "Politics, Power and the Press."Jersey Journal 11 June 1992.