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Barry Bingham Jr., 72; Former Kentucky Newspaper Publisher

April 04, 2006|From the Associated Press

Former publisher Barry Bingham Jr., who guided the Louisville Courier-Journal and Louisville Times to three Pulitzer Prizes before the newspapers were sold as the Kentucky family that owned them battled over finances, died Monday. He was 72.

Bingham had been suffering from complications of pneumonia, said Donna Watson, an assistant in his office. Bingham died at his home in Louisville, Ky., his family said in a statement.

A third-generation publisher of the family-owned newspapers, Bingham took over in June 1971 from his father, Barry Bingham Sr., and quickly emphasized ethics and public service journalism. He led the newspapers until his family sold them in 1986 despite his bitter opposition.

The newspapers shared a Pulitzer in 1976 for photos of court-ordered busing. The Courier-Journal won a Pulitzer in 1978 for a series of articles on a fire that killed 164 people at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., and another in 1980 for reporting on Cambodian refugees in Southeast Asia.

Dissension among the children surfaced in 1984, when daughter Sallie Bingham challenged her brother's control of the companies. She and her sister, Eleanor Bingham Miller, were ousted from the board of directors.

After nearly two years of infighting, Bingham's family placed the media properties on the market.

The newspapers were sold to Gannett Co. in 1986 for more than $300 million. The Louisville Times, an afternoon publication, was dissolved in 1987.

Bingham saw the future of computer-based media long before the rise of the Internet. In a 1984 article in the Courier-Journal, Bingham suggested that computers eventually would replace newsprint as the medium for newspapers.

Calling newsprint an "arcane" way to deliver information, he saw computer delivery of news as a solution to the rising cost of newsprint and other problems, such as ink-stained fingers.

"Readers would get their news from a computer monitor, like a television screen. They'd switch the thing on and push a button for news, and an up-to-the-minute front page would scroll past," Bingham said in the article.

Bingham earned a bachelor's degree in history at Harvard University in 1956 and served in the Marine Corps before starting a career in broadcast journalism, working for CBS and NBC in New York.

Bingham's older brother, Worth, had been groomed by the family to take over as publisher of the newspapers, while Bingham was to have assumed control of the family's WHAS radio and TV stations. But Worth Bingham died in an accident while on vacation in 1966. Another brother, Jonathan, was accidentally electrocuted in 1964.

Bingham's father died in 1988, and his mother, Mary, died in 1995.

Bingham is survived by his wife, Edith, whom he married in 1963; two daughters, Emily and Molly; two stepsons, Charles Bingham and Philip Franchini; and two sisters.

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