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Top: Jewish Leaders Folder: Walter Annenberg, TV Guide, The Daily Racing Form, Museum and PBS Philanthropist

Walter Annenberg Study Archive
The Jew Watch Project

This article was freely available on the Internet at on November 3, 2021 and is archived by The Jew Watch Project only for scholarship, research, and personal use for those previously expressing a desire to study it in accordance with "fair use" provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law Title 17 Section 107.


U.S. Media Executive/Publisher/Diplomat

As a media magnate Walter Annenberg controlled important properties in the newspaper, television, and magazine industries. Perhaps most significantly, he was responsible for the creation of TV Guide, the largest circulation weekly magazine in the world, a magazine central to understanding television in America. He was also very active in the arena of American politics, and served as United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James. In his later life, Annenberg became renowned for his substantial philanthropic activities, which included significant donations to educational institutions and public television.

When his father was imprisoned for tax evasion, Annenberg took over the family publishing business. Triangle Publications, particularly The Daily Racing Form, proved to be extremely profitable, and Annenberg looked for ways to expand his company at precisely the time television was beginning to emerge as America's communications medium of the future. Inspired by a Philadelphia area television magazine called TV Digest, Annenberg conceived the idea of publishing a national television feature magazine, which he would then wrap around local television listings. The idea came to fruition when Annenberg purchased TV Digest, along with the similar publications TV Forecast from Chicago, and TV Guide from New York. He combined their operations to form TV Guide in 1953, and quickly expanded the magazine by creating new regional editions and purchasing existing television listings publications in other markets.

Annenberg and his aide, Merrill Panitt (who would go on to become TV Guide' s editorial director), realized that in order achieve the circulation necessary to make their publication a truly mass medium, they needed to go beyond the fan magazine approach that had been typical of most earlier television and radio periodicals. Because of this desire, they created a magazine that was both a staunch booster of the American system of television, yet at times also one of the most visible critics of the medium's more egregious perceived shortcomings. TV Guide' s editors often encouraged the magazine's readers to support quality television programs struggling to gain an audience. In fact, TV Guide' s greatest accomplishment under Annenberg may have been the magazine's success in walking the fine line between encouraging and prodding the medium to achieve its full potential without becoming too far removed from the prevailing tastes of the mass viewing public. As a consequence, TV Guide became extremely popular and widely read, and very influential among those in the television industry. A large number of distinguished authors wrote articles for the magazine over the years, including such names as Margaret Mead, Betty Friedan, John Updike, Gore Vidal, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Many of these writers were attracted by the lure of reaching TV Guide' s huge audience; at its peak in the late 1970s, TV Guide had a paid circulation of nearly 20 million copies per week.

Annenberg remained supportive of conservative political causes throughout the years, and his efforts on behalf of Republicans were rewarded with his designation by President Richard Nixon as U. S. Ambassador to Great Britain in 1969. The appointment led Annenberg to sell his newspapers and television stations, but he retained TV Guide and remained active in managing the publication throughout his five-year tenure as Ambassador.

Shortly after the election of his close friend, Ronald Reagan, as President in 1980 (he would endorse Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984 in TV Guide, the only such political endorsement ever to appear in the magazine), Annenberg announced a plan to provide the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with $150 million in funds over a fifteen year period to produce educational television programs through which viewers could obtain college credits. Annenberg's sympathy for educational causes had already been evidenced by his financial support of the Annenberg Schools of Communication at both the University of Pennsylvania and at the University of Southern California. His activities in this regard would grow even more pronounced in the years to come, particularly after his sale of TV Guide and Triangle Publications to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in 1988 for approximately $3 billion--at the time, the largest price ever commanded for a publishing property.

Annenberg continued to make news after his sale of Triangle because of his many substantial donations to educational causes. In addition, Annenberg was also one of the country's foremost collectors of art, and in 1991, he bequeathed his extensive collection--valued at more than $1 billion--to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. His post-Triangle era charitable activities in the areas of education, art, and television served to further assure Annenberg's lasting legacy to a wide spectrum of American culture.

-David Gunzerath


Walter Annenberg
Photo courtesy of Walter Annenberg


WALTER H(UBERT) ANNENBERG. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 13 March 1908. Moved with family to Great Neck, Long Island, New York, 1920. Educated at The Peddie School, Highstown, New Jersey, graduated 1927; attended Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1927-28. Married (1) Veronica Dunkelman, 1938 (divorced, 1950); children: Wallis, Roger (deceased); (2) Leonore (Cohn) Rosentiel. Joined father, Moses Annenberg, successful publisher, as assistant in the bookkeeping office, 1928; upon father's death, 1942, assumed leadership of family business, Triangle Publications, Inc. which included the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Inquirer, the Daily Racing Form, the Morning Telegraph, and other minor publications; founded Seventeen magazine, 1944; TV Guide, 1953; acquired the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Daily News, 1957; acquired WFIL-AM and FM radio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1945; expanded station to television outlet, 1947; acquired radio and television stations in Altoona and Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Binghamton, New York; New Haven, Connecticut; Fresno, California; United States Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 1968-74; sold Triangle Publications to Rupert Murdoch, 1988. Founder Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania; Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California; Annenberg Washington Program in Communication Policy Studies, Washington, D.C.; Annenberg/Corporation for Public Broadcasting Math & Science Project; Founder, Trustee, Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships, Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, California. Emeritus Trustee, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Museum of Art; University of Pennsylvania; The Peddie School, Highstown, New Jersey; Churchill Archives Center, Cambridge (England) College. Recipient: Order of the British Empire (Honorary); Legion of Honor (France); Order of Merit (Italy); Order of the Crown (Italy); Order of the Lion (Finland); Bencher of the Middle Temple (Honorary); Old Etonian (Honorary); Freedom Medal for Pioneering Television for Educational Purposes, President Ronald Reagan; Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Society; Linus Pauling Medal for Humanitarianism; George Foster Peabody Award; Ralph Lowell Award, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; Generous American, Town and Country Magazine; Wagner Medal for Public Service, Robert F. Wagner; Award of Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; The Churchill Bell Award.


"A $150 Million Gift for Educational TV." Newsweek (New York), 9 March 1981.

"Annenberg Gives a Life Injection to Public Television." New York Times, 1 March 1981.

Altschuler, Glenn C., and David I. Grossvogel. Changing Channels: America in TV Guide. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

Blumenstyk, Goldie. "Annenberg Gives $265-million to 3 Universities." The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.), 23 June 1993.

Celis, William. "Annenberg to Give Education $500 Million Over Five Years." New York Times, 17 December 1993.

Cooney, John. The Annenbergs. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Fonzi, Gaeton. Annenberg: A Biography of Power. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1970.

Grassmuck, Karen. "A $50-million Gift Buoys Black Colleges for Ambitious Drive; Annenberg Makes Big Donation to United Negro College Fund." The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.), 14 March 1990.

Nicklin, Julie L. "Annenberg Shifts Priorities" (interview). The Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, D.C.), 12 January 1994.

Russell, John. "Annenberg Picks Met for $1 Billion Gift." New York Times, 12 March 1991.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Story of the Inquirer 1829 to the Present. Philadelphia: Triangle Publications, 1956.

Traub, James. "It's Elementary." The New Yorker (New York), 17 July 1995.

Wilson, William. "Walter Annenberg Surveys the Land: In Art as in Politics, the Collector and Former Diplomat Knows What He Likes." Los Angeles Times, 12 August 1990.



This article was freely available on the Internet by Slate Magazine at on November 3, 2021 and is archived by The Jew Watch Project only for scholarship, research, and personal use for those previously expressing a desire to study it in accordance with "fair use" provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law Title 17 Section 107.



PRESS BOX:  Media criticism.

Annenberg's Ticket Out of Hell

Dead almost four years,

he's still rehabilitating his image.

Walter Annenberg

Nothing resuscitates a foul reputation as reliably as cash distributed to the right folks. Preferably lots of cash.

Evil press mogul Walter H. Annenberg observed this maxim decades before he died, grubstaking the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and another Annenberg outpost at the University of Southern California. To the Corporation for Public Broadcasting went a 1980 pledge of $150 million. In 1993, he promised $365 million to education and continued to make one publicity-seeking act of philanthropy after another—did I mention the $1 billion worth of art masterpieces pledged to the Metropolitan Museum of Art?—as he sought to rehabilitate his thuggish image before he died in 2002.

Annenberg's billion-dollar makeover campaign continues from the grave. If you've got a spare $750 and a clean tuxedo you don't mind soiling, you can participate in it by purchasing a ticket to tonight's (May 22) tribute to Annenberg and his widow, Leonore, at the "WETA Salute to Excellence." The black-tie, corporate fund-raiser is sponsored by the capital-area's public TV and radio broadcaster, a plump beneficiary of Annenberg's largesse.

The Annenbergs are third on the bill of honorees, beneath headliners Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil. Whatever Lehrer and MacNeil's shortcomings, they are not the enemies of journalism that Annenberg was. Annenberg punished his foes and rewarded his friends with coverage—or noncoverage—from his Philadelphia-based media empire, which included the Philadelphia Inquirer (which he sold in 1969), TV Guide, Seventeen, the Daily Racing Form, and broadcast stations.

The Annenberg blacklist was not written down and was subject to change, reports Christopher Ogden's Legacy: A Biography of Moses and Walter Annenberg: "Certain folders in the morgue, the Inquirer's clip library, were red-flagged with tags advising reporters or deskmen to check first with [the top editor] before writing a story on that subject." Ogden continues, "There was never any question but that the blacklist was Walter's."

A local builder, a school president, and the head of the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stock Exchange graced the Annenberg Inquirer blacklist. So did entertainers Zsa Zsa Gabor and Imogene Coca. Ogden notes that boxer Sonny Liston "was banned from front-page mentions because of his criminal past and unsavory companions. 'He was a bum,' said Walter, a lifelong boxing fan. 'I didn't want to give him publicity.' " Ralph Nader became an Inquirer nonperson for criticizing General Motors.

When the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors could not come to lease-renewal terms with the Annenberg arena they played in, the Inquirer stopped covering the team for the rest of the season. "There were no game stories, no features, no line scores, no mention in the NBA standings box and promotional ads were rejected. Game attendance plummeted," writes Ogden.

Johnson administration Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach "inquired why references to him in the Inquirer during the 1960s were invariably critical. 'A guy at the paper said I was on Walter's blacklist, but to this day I have absolutely no idea why.' "

As a longtime Nixon supporter, Annenberg banned his Philadelphia and New Haven television affiliates from broadcasting an ABC network news program titled The Political Obituary of Richard Nixon, which was completed after Nixon lost the 1962 race for governor in California. Annenberg's stated objection: The producers interviewed convicted perjurer and suspected Soviet spy Alger Hiss.

Annenberg's ugliest crime against journalism came in 1966, when he ordered the Inquirer's editor to generate coverage that would knock liberal Democrat Milton Shapp out of the Pennsylvania governor's contest. Annenberg, as we've observed, loved hating people, and Shapp rankled him on several scores: Shapp opposed the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads; he spent a lot of his own money on his campaign; he considered Shapp an "oily windbag and a faker," as well as a "sleazy son of a bitch with bad character."

The Inquirer's most famous smear came when it presented Shapp with the false charge that he had been treated in a mental institution. When Shapp denied it, the Inquirer published the denial, raising the issue in everybody's mind. In case the voters missed it, an Inquirer columnist repeated the candidate's denial nine days before the election. Annenberg biographer and former Inquirer reporter John Cooney writes in The Annenbergs: The Salvaging of a Tainted Dynasty:

Thus the Philadelphia Inquirer embarked on one of the most brutal attacks on a politician that journalism in a major metropolitan area had witnessed in years. The Inquirer's role in the campaign more than any other act revealed the lengths to which Annenberg would go to harm someone. The coverage showed his autocratic nature; he indulged his emotions at the expense of his responsibilities as a publisher. It was the act of a vindictive man.

WETA claims in its honoree propaganda that Annenberg "enjoyed a distinguished career as a publisher [and] broadcaster," and I'm certain that tonight's proceedings will compound the lies in hopes that widow Annenberg will fork over more loot before she dies.

WETA isn't the only craven organization on the take. As I noted before, the institutions at Penn and USC bear the disgraced Annenberg name.

Listen to USC President Stephen B. Sample upon the occasion of Annenberg's death: "I can say without reservation that his warmth, sincerity and devotion to the ideals of promoting greater human understanding through education and communication more than match the magnitude of his generous gifts. He was a pioneer, a visionary, an exemplary philanthropist and, above all, an extraordinary human being. He leaves an enduring legacy at USC." For a bigger laugh, read the hagiographic note by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of Penn's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

These people would praise Kim Jong-il if he funded their programs. Edward Barrett, former dean of Columbia University's journalism school, captured the rotten piece of work that was Annenberg when he wrote in 1970 in the Columbia Journalism Review "perhaps Walter Annenberg never really understood the mission, the obligations or the ethical principles of ethical journalism."

I'll salute that instead—and save myself the $750.


Requests for grants to the Kim Jong-il School of Communication, Jack Shafer proprietor, should be addressed to . (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer is Slate's editor at large.
Photograph of Walter Annenberg by Michael Mercanti/KRT.


This article was freely available on the Internet by Slate Magazine at on November 3, 2021 and is archived by The Jew Watch Project only for scholarship, research, and personal use for those previously expressing a desire to study it in accordance with "fair use" provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law Title 17 Section 107.



PRESS BOX:  Media criticism.

Citizen Annenberg
So long, you rotten bastard.

Annenberg bought and paid for his rose-colored obits

Today's Page One obituaries for Walter H. Annenberg in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post barely scrape the festering keratosis that was his career in crime, journalism, and politics. "Media Tycoon Gave Fortunes to Others," soft-pedals the Los Angeles Times. "Walter Annenberg, Philanthropist and Publisher, Dies at 94," intones the New York Times. "Publisher, Philanthropist Walter Annenberg Dies," echoes the Post.

I'd prefer the headline, "Billionaire Son of Mobster, Enemy of Journalism, and Nixon Toady Exits for Hell—Forced To Leave Picassos and van Goghs at Metropolitan Museum."

The dailies concede that the bedrock upon which Walter built his fortune was cleared by a tax-evading father, Moses; that the son dodged a trip to the slammer with Dad via a plea bargain; that Walter punished his political and personal enemies with his publishing empire; and that he ingratiated himself with his soul mate, the odious Richard Nixon. But in skimming only the surface scum of his life, these obituaries neglect the fetid undercurrents and tidal filth of his complete life. The ugly arc of Annenberg's life rivals that of fellow press baron William Randolph Hearst or even his fictional stand-in, Charles Foster Kane. It's a life that proves that you can earn polite notices in death no matter how you lived if you give away a billion dollars to the right places before you croak.

(In the time-honored tradition of obituary writing, I've plundered the archives for this Annenberg appreciation. I lean especially hard on a June 1993 piece I wrote after Annenberg bought his way onto Page One of America's top dailies by giving hundreds of millions of dollars away. One of the many luxuries of the rich is that if they go philanthropic at the right time, they can read their obituary before they die—obits that are usually more flattering than their real obits.)

Walter Annenberg was born of a congenital criminal, a rascal who never saw a business proposition that he couldn't improve with a bit of violence. Moses "Moe" Annenberg developed these talents in 1900 in Chicago when he worked as a circulation manager for the monstrous William Randolph Hearst, back when circulation wars were fought with clubs and torches. At Hearst's behest, Moe and his gang cracked the heads of rival newsboys, burned uncooperative newsstands, and toppled competitors' delivery vans. When Marshall Field's department store canceled an ad in Hearst's Evening American, Moe's brother Max led 60 drivers and newsboys to the store, where they terrorized shoppers and employees by surrounding it and chanting, "Marshall Field's closed! Marshall Field's closed!" The store reordered its ad, reports John Cooney's The Annenbergs: The Salvaging of a Tainted Dynasty, a detailed 1982 dual biography of Walter and Moses. In Moe and Max's defense, it should be said that the competition used the same tactics to move newspapers.

When Hearst needed circulation help with the New York Daily Mirror, Moe enlisted Lucky Luciano, the numbers and loan-sharking gangster. "I used to think of the Mirror as my paper," Luciano said. "I always thought of Annenberg as my sort of guy."

In the early '20s, Moe purchased the Daily Racing Form and became the major owner of the General News Bureau, a race wire that provided horse race results to newspapers and bookies. With what biographer Cooney calls "methods of strong-arm tactics and bribes" to politicians and police, Moses expanded his business in city after city by ruthlessly destroying the local race-wire competition. "The hoods on his payroll might intimidate a racing publication one day, a man with wires to bookies the next," Cooney writes. Moe's boys literally made Blanie Shields an offer he couldn't refuse. When the small-time race-wire operator in Covington, Ky., declined to sell his business, they sabotaged Shields' office and told him that he would be "bumped off."

In his drive for domination, Moe double-crossed his racketeering wire partners by going into business against them. That put him on the Capone-mob hit parade, so he moved himself and his family to Miami, protected by gangster Meyer Lansky. As the Racing Form and the wire thrived, Moe expanded his publications empire by buying the Philadelphia Inquirer, which he turned into his personal anti-New-Deal political sheet.

Walter Annenberg, writes Cooney, was shielded from his father's illegal enterprises and connections. Although he held titles in his father's businesses, he mostly busied himself with Hollywood starlets and the playgirls of Miami and New York. The publicity created by Moe Annenberg's scummy enterprises was plain for all to see. If Walter didn't know, he would have to be stupid, which he was not. If he knew and still worked for the old man ... you make the moral call.

Moe's bribery, blackmail, and mobstering career ended when he was indicted for tax evasion in 1939. Walter, a company VP, was indicted on charges of "aiding and abetting." Moe pleaded guilty, agreeing to pay the $9.5 million in back taxes and fines. Prosecutors offered to dismiss Walter's charges if Moe went directly to jail, which he did. Moe served two years and died 39 days after his release.

Assuming control of his father's shattered company, Annenberg launched the phenomenally successful Seventeen magazine in the '40s and TV Guide in the '50s and acquired several radio and TV stations. Annenberg habitually turned his head to the right to obscure the disfigured ear he had been born with. His politics usually followed his ear after his second marriage, to Leonore Cohn Rosenstiel. Like his father, he used the Inquirer and his media empire as his bully pulpit, punishing enemies real and imagined. After purchasing the Philadelphia Daily News, Annenberg practically turned over local police coverage in the city to Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, a brutalist who rose to mayor in large part thanks to Annenberg. Rizzo returned the favor by providing extraordinary protection when the Teamsters and Newspaper Guild struck the Inquirer. Annenberg also waged a smear campaign against Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp, using his two dailies, two radio stations, and three Pennsylvania TV stations. In one example, reported in today's Philadelphia Inquirer obit, an Inquirer reporter got Shapp to deny that he'd ever been in a mental hospital and then printed the denial on Page One. The media war subsided only when Shapp asked the FCC to revoke Annenberg's broadcast licenses. And in the mid-'70s, he sicced TV Guide on the liberal media culture. TV Guide may be the only publication to become more liberal after Rupert Murdoch purchased it.

"Annenberg became an oddity in Philadelphia," Cooney writes. "His name was associated with numerous good works, and he was often the first prominent citizen anyone seeking charitable donations approached, but the whimsical use of his paper on occasion to punish those who offended him made many people uneasy." The kindest thing he ever did for Philadelphia was to sell the Inquirer to John Knight, who turned it into a real newspaper.

President Richard Nixon rewarded Annenberg for his anti-communism and pro-Vietnam-War views by appointing him ambassador to Great Britain, where he attacked U.S. student radicals in his first speech. Ambassador Annenberg, as he thereafter preferred to be called, returned to the States and expanded both his media properties and burgeoning art collection. He also entertained the flow of human sewage that visited him at his own Xanadu, a mansion set on 250 acres (complete with its own golf course) in Palm Springs. There at "Sunnylands," he hosted the disgraced Nixon ("Life is 99 rounds," he told Dick), the detestable Frank Sinatra, and offered refuge for his political soul mate, the shah of Iran. Talk about guilt by association.

By the late '70s, the racketeer's son launched the rehabilitation of his reputation with philanthropy. He gave $150 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1981 and went on a giving binge after selling his media properties to Murdoch in 1988 for $3.2 billion. He pledged his $1 billion collection of Cézannes, Monets, van Goghs, Gauguins, and others to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (postponing delivery, of course, until his death; meanwhile he collected tax breaks). He also donated hundreds of millions to various educational foundations and projects.

The light from Annenberg's philanthropy will continue to burn brightly at the various Annenberg organizations: Annenberg Center for Health Sciences; Annenberg Center for Communication (University of Southern California); Annenberg School for Communication (University of Southern California); Annenberg School for Communication (University of Pennsylvania); Annenberg Foundation; Annenberg/CPB Projects; and Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Some may find justice in this finale: That Annenberg's billions are being spent to still the wretched wake he churned with his life and his media empire. The less charitable of us will nod, smile, and mutter that there's no rap you can't beat if you're willing to empty the purse.


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