Like Times Square in New York City for the New York Times, Journal Square takes its name from the Jersey Journal, Jersey City's longtime daily newspaper. Facing north across the open plaza of Journal Square, the bright red signage atop the five-story building at 30 "Journal" Square identified the paper's former headquarters, an observer of Jersey City's political and cultural life in the city's commercial hub.
In 2014, the Jersey Journal 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 newspaper's iconic sign will remain atop the building as a reminder of the all-in-one newspaper plant. Kushner Companies and KABR Group purchased the property 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 during 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.
Before moving in 1925 to its namesake building, the newspaper offices relocated several times. Originally published as the Evening Journal on May 2, 1867, the newspaper started 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, its 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. 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.
An editorial page editor Robert Larkins referred to the Jersey Journal as "a paper with an independent political outlook with Democratic leaning." However, when the paper started as the Evening Journal, he said the newspaper was "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," according to associate editor Alexander McLean in 1895 (Quoted in Weiss, 1992). It was a four-page broadsheet with six columns a page.
Its founders, William Dunning and Zebina K. Pangborn, were former Union Army officers and Republicans. The owners supported the party's overall Reconstruction program and its civil rights program of equal rights for African-Americans. However, they had an independent editorial stand against the arrival of Irish Catholics into the city. Active in city politics, Pangborn was 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 covered the rise of Jersey City's most controversial political democratic Party "boss," Mayor Frank Hague. The Journal initially supported Hague as a reform candidate in 1913. It backed his successful campaign to change Jersey City from a mayor-city council to a commission form of government that brought Hague to power under New Jersey's Walsh Act of 1911. It also 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 reform and 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 words and political cartoons. Hague reacted by attempting to bring the press to a halt with tactics that included interference with newspaper sales, advertising, and distribution, as well as raising its tax assessment by $175,000 in 1926. Hague even wanted to rename Journal Square "Veterans Square" in retaliation for the paper's endorsement of his political opponent in the mayoral election of 1929; however, the locale's name was too entrenched in the 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 it 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 party 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. The Newhouse-owned Advance Publications also includes The Star-Ledger and several daily and weekly newspapers. Newhouse began his vast newspaper holdings with its purchase of the Staten Island Advance and the 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 its printing 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.
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 layout 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 daily and a loss of advertising revenue. In March 2002, negotiations between Newhouse owners and unions representing the employees prevented a shutdown of the newspaper's operations.
Despite the ongoing challenges to print media, the Jersey Journal continues its long run. It celebrated its 150th anniversary at a special event 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 significant 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 Papers 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.