The Oakland Tribune newspaper was published weekly in the Oakland area of California. The newspaper was printed by the Bay Area News Group (BANG), a subsidiary of MediaNews Group, between 2010 and 2016. The last issue of the newspaper was printed on April 4, 2016. 

If you’re hoping to find physical copies of the newspaper from years gone by, then you can explore our collection of old newspapers. Read on for the fascinating history of this revered bay area newspaper.

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Early History 

On February 21, 1874, the Oakland Tribune was established by Benet A. Dewes and George Sandiford. When the newspaper started out, the founders handed out issues with no charge, and the newspaper was originally printed at 468 Ninth St. in Oakland. The early issues of the Oakland Tribune featured 43 advertisements among news stories. 

Dewes and Sandiford were praised for the typographical look of their newspaper, as well as for their editorial nature, which was very positive considering the Oakland Tribune competed with two other city newspapers, the Oakland News and Oakland Transcript. 

In late 1874, Dewes bought Sandiford’s half interest, and later sold a half interest to A. B. Gibson. Another sale took place again when Gibson sold his half interest to A. E. Nightingill and the newspaper moved to a new location, 911 Broadway, in 1875. Dewes and Nightingill then found a buyer for the Oakland Tribune a year later in 1876, ending their ownership of the newspaper. 

Oakland Tribune Archive

Oakland Tribune front page, Thursday, June 18, 1942


William E. Dargie 

The Oakland Tribune was bought by William E. Dargie, and when it was passed over to the Knowlands. who turned the publication into a major newspaper. Under Dargie, The Tribune Publishing Company was created. Dargie took the position as Manager, and A. K. P. Harmon, Jr. became the Secretary. 

Dargie was very progressive within the news industry, bringing important and useful changes to the Oakland Tribune before the century came to an end. In 1876, as soon as he took over the newspaper, he began wire service dispatches, and the following year, Dargie implemented a book and job department. 

The Bell Telephone System came to Oakland in 1878, and at the Tribune, one of the first telephones was installed. The newspaper expanded in 1883 to include a Saturday edition, and 1888 saw the introduction of a special extra feature for the presidential election. Just after the turn of the century, 1906 was the year the newspaper began to print a Sunday edition. 

It was in 1891 that the publication officially took the name Oakland Tribune, after previously being called the Oakland Daily Tribune, the Oakland Daily Evening Tribune, and the Oakland Evening Tribune. At the turn of the century, Dargie hired one-eyed lensman Jack Gunin, who, in the Western United States, was the first full-time photojournalist. 


The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

On April 18, 1906 an earthquake hit the San Francisco area and subsequently caused dangerous fires throughout the area. With over 3,000 people losing their lives, the earthquake and fires destroyed 80% of the city, blazing for numerous days. 

As a result, San Francisco’s newspapers were destroyed and the Oakland Tribune printed many extra issues. In order to create a joint edition of the San Francisco Call-Chronicle-Examiner, William E. Dargie lent the presses of the Oakland Tribune. The efforts of the newspaper during the crisis led the Mayor of San Francisco, Eugene E. Schmitz, to declare that the Oakland Tribune would be the official newspaper of San Francisco. 

Following the devastation caused by the fire, many San Francisco residents moved out to Oakland and Alameda County, which only served to increase the circulation of the newspaper further.

oakland tribune history

Aftermath of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, April 1906
Image: Picryl


From Dargie to Knowland 

On February 10, 1911, William E. Dargie passed away following 35 years in publishing. Upon his death, Melvin C. Chapman, the former Oakland Mayor, became the acting president of the Tribune Publishing Company. As publisher and manager, Bruno Albert Forester took over, and he was also the executor of Dargie’s estate. 

Purchasing the newspaper from William E. Dargie’s widow, Hermina Peralta Dargie, Joseph R. Knowland became the next owner of the Oakland Tribune. Knowland took over the newspaper after spending five terms in the United States House of Representatives. Three years after his first edition as publisher, in 1918, Knowland decided to move the newspaper to a different building at 12th and Franklin Streets. 

The Oakland Tribune became a third of a triumvirate of California Republican newspapers offering conservative outlooks, alongside the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. 

The newspaper continued to expand technologically under Knowland, with him starting a radio station, KLX, in 1921, alongside his newspaper library. Two years later, construction of the 305 feet tall Tribune Tower was completed and became a landmark feature of the Oakland skyline. 

William F. Knowland’s ownership of the newspaper was brought to a tragic end when he took his own life on February 23, 1974. This was just two days after the Oakland Tribune celebrated its 100th anniversary, and William’s son Joseph took on the role of editor and publisher. The Tribune Publishing Company’s presidency was taken over by Emelyn K. Jewett. 

A year later, Joseph W. Knowland was honored by the California Press Association and won the 1975 Publisher of the Year award.


Later History and Demise of the Post Enquirer

The 1930s brought more developments when Knowland managed to tie in with the Associated Press Wirephoto Service, which gave the Oakland Tribune a direct wire link from London, England, to receive international news. When the 1950s began, the demise of the Oakland Post Enquirer, the Tribune’s main competitor, meant the Tribune would become the sole daily newspaper in Oakland. The Post Enquirer was abruptly shut down by Hearst Newspapers, ending a 29-year run. 

The newspaper remained in the Knowland family, with Joseph R. Knowland’s son William taking over as editor in 1960. He then became publisher and president when his father passed away on February 1, 1966 at the age of 92. William’s son, Joseph, was appointed as the vice-president and general manager.

During the 1960s, a large part of the paper’s original subscription base moved out to the developing suburbs in the south and east of Oakland, causing a decline in readership. 

oakland tribune history

Oakland Tribune building
Image: Flickr


CCC, Gannett and East Bay Today 

The Knowland family decided to disband The Tribune Publishing Corporation, and ended up selling the Oakland Tribune to Combined Communications Corporation in 1977. The CCC was owned by Karl Eller, who also recently purchased The Cincinnati Enquirer. Two years later, the CCC joined with the Gannett Company, a media conglomerate based on the East Coast. 

In turn, the Oakland Tribune was purchased by the Gannett Company, and the CEO of the company, Allen H. Neuharth, decided to use the Oakland Tribune as a pilot project along with East Bay Today, a brand new morning newspaper. East Bay Today was an early model for USA Today, the later national newspaper owned by Gannett. 


Merging with East Bay Today 

Robert C. Maynard became the editor of the Oakland Tribune in 1979, appointed by Gannett. Maynard made history by becoming the first African-American editor in the history of the newspaper. Becoming publisher and with the permission of Gannett Company, Maynard decided to combine East Bay Today and the Oakland Tribune to create one single morning newspaper, keeping the Tribune name. 


Robert C. Maynard

Four years after he became editor, Robert C. Maynard and his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, bought the Oakland Tribune from Gannett Company. The cost was $17 million, which was supported by a loan by Gannett Company, and was the first management-led leverage buyout in the history of the United States. This was also a very notable moment in general newspaper history, since the publication became the first one owned by an African American. 

Maynard’s ownership was a reflection of the changing nature of society at the time, since Oakland’s African American community was growing at a large scale. By the 1980s, it was becoming very dominant in local politics and business. It was also under Maynard that the newspaper’s reputation was restored, which earned the publication a Pulitzer Prize in 1990. 


Financial Troubles

While Maynard was being praised for the editorial content in the newspaper, financial troubles beyond the owner’s control were affecting the Oakland Tribune. The newspaper was saved, when it was on the edge of collapse and in $31.5 million debt, by the Freedom Forum, a media foundation owned by Allen H. Neuharth. 

The Oakland Tribune received financial aid to try and keep the newspaper on its feet. The debt of the newspaper was resolved, and Gannett Company received $2.5 million. Maynard himself received $5 million in funds for operation, but monetary issues remained, and Maynard was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 1993, forcing him to put the newspaper up for sale. 

oakland tribune history

Oakland Tribune Tower
Image: Wikimedia Commons


The Loma Prieta Earthquake and Relocation 

The Loma Prieta earthquake that occurred on October 17, 1989 caused a lot of damage in the Oakland area, including immense damage to the Tribune Tower. Despite the damage, the newspaper remained publishing there until it was moved to Oakland’s Jack London Square. The Tribune Tower would remain unused until 1999, when it would reopen after being bought by John Protopappas for $300,000 back in 1995. The Oakland Tribune would then resume its operations at the tower into the new millennium. 

The newspaper would relocate again in 2007, permanently moving to a new building on Oakport Street from Tribune Tower. Since the tower had become a landmark of Oakland, the tower still stands, housing other companies and operating a cafe on the ground floor. The newspaper would move once again in 2012 to Oakland’s Uptown district on 1970 Broadway. 


ANG 

With the Maynards looking to sell the newspaper, it was eventually bought by the Alameda Newspaper Group, now known as the Bay Area News Group. The group purchased the Oakland Tribune for $10 million, with the last issue under the Maynards being printed on November 30, 1992. 

The very next day, the first issue under ANG was printed. However, since the newspaper was being published at the group’s plant at Hayward, the newspaper ceased to be the dominating newspaper in the East Bay area.  


Chauncey Bailey 

Chauncey Bailey was a former Tribune journalist, working with the newspaper between the years of 1993 and 2005. On his way to work, he was killed in a targeted hit while on his commute to work. As a result of the devastating event, the Tribune started “The Chauncey Bailey Project,” bringing together articles that focused on the cause and consequences of his death. Journalists who were outraged by his death came together to work and answer questions about the incident, hoping to get to the bottom of what happened and thoroughly investigate all possible avenues. 

Bailey focused largely on issues affecting the African American community and had 37 years of journalism behind him when he lost his life. He was killed on August 2, 2007, becoming the victim of a crime syndicate he was investigating, and his death made him the first American journalist killed for domestic reporting since 1976. 


Becoming The East Bay Times

The Bay Area News Group announced in 2011 that it might merge the Oakland Tribune with its sister newspapers also based in the East Bay area, but later decided to keep the Oakland Tribune masthead. 

However, five years later, the company would then combine the East Bay newspapers together and the Oakland Tribune would print its last daily edition on April 4, 2016. The Hayward Daily Review, the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune were merged together to form a new newspaper, called East Bay Times.


Political Stance 

When William E. Dargie took over the Oakland Tribune in 1876, the newspaper became strongly Republican. It remained to be Republican when Joseph R. Knowland bought the newspaper upon Dargie’s death in 1911, endorsing Republican candidates. 

Knowland frequently chose and controlled Republican elected officials, and the newspaper would be responsible for making many political careers, including that of Knowland’s son, William F. Knowland. When William F. Knowland assumed ownership of the newspaper, he gave the newspaper a reputation for being extremely pro-business and held a conservative editorial position. 

With a strongly conservative outlook, the newspaper struggled to keep up in the 1960s and 1970s when Oakland became much more diverse politically and socially. There was a slow response to the changes in demographics as well as the unrest that broke out throughout the decades, namely by the Black Panther movement and student uprisings. 


Oakland Tribune Circulation Figures

Not much is known about the circulation figures for the Oakland Tribune, apart from a 1997 figure from SFGATE reporting 69,629.