New York City may have Rupert Murdoch but Washington has Geofrey Edwards.
The name of Edwards may not yet be so well recognized as that of his British Empire comrade but the two men share a common view about the needs for American newspapers to pay less attention to the machinery of government and more column inches to concerns and problems of the people who are governed.
Since last April, Edwards has been in charge of the fastest-growing and most widely circulated group of weekly newspapers in metropolitan Washington - the five-paper Journal Newspapers, a subsidiary of Army Times Publishing co.
The 40-year-old Edwards has come to the Washington area (this firm calls it "Journaland") from Liverpool, England, where he was general manager of the Daily Post & Echo. He has moved his family to Northern Virginia and he intends to stay in America.
What brought him here was the obvious success of the Journals, which started in 1972 with a circulation of but 2,500 at one paper and which has grown at a phenomenal pace to a weekly paid circulation today of 110,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC).
"The Journal papers mirror on the community level what the metropolitan dailies cover on the national scale," he said. "Journal sports pages, for example, are as professional as the Post and Star. The big difference is that the names are those of the boy next door and the neighbor across the street; people you know - the little leagures, the high school football coach assessing his team's chances, and the supermarket manager's daughter, who just won the playground tennis trophy."
Edwards said he will seek to put out a news report that compares with the best quality in the newspaper industry, and he metioned one of the most successful American suburgan dailies as an example of what he aims to duplicate - Newsday on Long Island.
"A requirement at the start," when Army Times decided to begin a chain of area weeklies, "was to avoid the repuation of some weeklies . . . of becoming juck mail," Edwards said. "If a person is willing to pay and will read the paper, that will do a better job for advertisers."
What the Journal offers advertisers is a choice: Ads can be placed in one of the five papers, all five papers, or in any combination of the five, thereby selecting prime markets for promotion.
Specifically, the Journal newspapers include:
The Alexandria Journal newspapers include:
The Alexandria Journal (formerlly Journal-Standard), purchased late in 1971 as the chain's initial venture, with a paid circulation of 6,922.
The Arlington Journal, started in Janurary 1973, circulation of 10,336.
The Fairfax Journal, started in November 1972, circulation of 29,868.
The Montgomery Journal, started in June 1973, circulation of 33,301.
The Prince George's Journal, started in 1975, circulation of 29,911.
The Journal newspapers are published on Thursdays and all but about 5,000 editions each week are mailed to subscribers. All printing is done at an ultra-modern, 55,000-square-foot factory in Sprinfield, Va., with fourcolor presses and automated mailing equipment.
Also published in Springfield are the other Army Times publications - Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Federal Times, with worldwide circulation to military and government workers and a total weekly press run exceeding 350,000.
Edwards head visited the U.S. several times in his job as chief executive of the newspapers in Liverpool, "because this is where progress is being made" in the newspaper business.
When Army Times offered him the post of Journal newspapers general manager, he took it because "I was fairly unhappy with the social and political climate of Britain."
He emphasized his belief in a free enterprise system he sees being eroded in Britain and said that in the U.S., the press is "more supportive" of a free economy. This is true, in part, because advertising is so much more widespread here than in other countries - providing millions of dollars in revenue support for a much larger variety of media, Edwards asserted.
One growing segment of the U.S. communications industries is the weekly newspaper, although Edwards said the Journal newspapers are not wedded to the concept of once-a-week publication.
Nationwide, there are 7,579 weeklies, an increase of nearly 100 in the past year. Weekly circulation grew by 3 million last year to more than 38 million. Although the number of weeklies has declined, weekly readership has soared to record levels.
The 37-year-old Army Times Publishing Co., headquartered at 475 School St., in Souhtweat Washington, was founded by Mel Ryder, who remains the principal owner.