Chronicle Publishing Company

The Chronicle Publishing Company was a print and broadcast media corporation headquartered in San Francisco, California that was in operation from 1865 until 2000. Owned for the whole of its existence by the de Young family, it was most notable for owning the namesake San Francisco Chronicle newspaper and KRON-TV, the longtime NBC affiliate in the market.


The Chronicle

What would become Chronicle Publishing was formed on January 16, 1865 when teenage brothers Charles and Michael de Young published the first edition of the Daily Dramatic Chronicle, a venture funded by a borrowed $20 gold piece. The paper began with a circulation of 2000 readers daily, tripling within six months as the paper gained readership in the wake of breaking the news of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to San Francisco. In September 1868, the paper would change its name to the Morning Chronicle.

Over the coming decades, the Chronicle would see massive growth alongside that of San Francisco, weathering the 1880 assassination of Charles de Young in the Chronicle offices. In 1890, the company built a 10-story building at Kearny and Market streets which was the tallest building in the western United States at the time as well as the first to use steel framing. This building would be superseded by the final company headquarters (still used by the Chronicle), built in 1924 at Fifth and Mission Streets.

With the diversification of interests in the 1960s, the corporation owning the Chronicle was spun off into its own unit as Chronicle Publishing to signify a diversifcation of its interests outside of San Francisco. The second century of the company began with the Chronicle entering a Joint Operating Agreement with the rival San Francisco Examiner in which the Chronicle would publish mornings while the Examiner published afternoons.


With the growth of television in the 1940s, the Chronicle decided to diversify into that medium by applying for a construction permit for a station that would be operated alongside the Chronicle. On November 5, 1949, the Chronicle would sign on KRON-TV on VHF channel 4 which became the NBC affiliate for the market. This was much to the chagrin of NBC itself, which was a runner-up for the station and would pine for KRON for the next half-century. In the 1950s, KRON would add an FM station (KRON-FM, now KOIT-FM) at 96.5 MHz.

Further diversification into broadcasting came in 1975 when the sale of KRON-FM to Bonneville International allowed them to purchase the Meredith Corporation's WOWT-TV in Omaha, Nebraska. This was followed in 1979 with the purchase of KAKE-TV in Wichita, Kansas and in 1987 when independently owned KLBY in Colby, Kansas was purchased to increase KAKE's reach.

Outside of the broadcast realm, Chronicle owned cable systems in California, Hawaii, and New Mexico for several years under their Western Communications unit before those systems were sold to Tele-Communications Inc. in 1995. In the early 1990s, Chronicle launched the Bay TV cable network which was operated in conjunction with KRON and was seen on most cable systems in the Bay Area.


In 1968, the Chronicle established their own book imprint in Chronicle Books, which would eventually become a successful publishing firm. The profits from Chronicle Books and the other new ventures of the company allowed the company to add to their print holdings as they purchased two newspapers, The Pantagraph of Bloomington, Illinois in 1980 and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1986. In 1990, Chronicle would make its final purchase in buying Motor Books, a renowned imprint dealing with automotive books; Chronicle would soon change their name to MBI Publishing.


With the growing consolidation of print and broadcast media in the 1990s, the heirs of the de Young family decided to sell the aspects of Chronicle Publishing in 1999 when the consolidation of media in the United States was at its peak. Over the latter half of 1999 into 2000, the units of the company were sold separately to different entities:

With the exception of the Pantagraph and the book imprints, all of the former Chronicle assets have met some degree of criticism, misfortune, or both. Concerns about the Telegram & Gazette being pared down into a "(Boston) Globe West" arose in Worcester while Hearst's purchase of the Chronicle led to the Examiner having to reinvent itself under its new local ownership as it struggled. The television properties became a strain on their new owners as the Chronicle/LIN/Benedek deal pushed Benedek Broadcasting into bankruptcy with most of the company (including the former Chronicle) stations being purchased in 2002 by Gray Television. Young Broadcasting has struggled since purchasing KRON-TV, having sold four stations and pare down operations at KRON to keep afloat due to the heavy debt incurred by the massive purchase of the station.

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