VOL. 126 | NO. 197 | Monday, October 10, 2011
Still a Newspaperman
By Aisling Maki
Faith, family, philanthropy, a love of basketball and a passion for the newspaper business are the foundations of Memphian John Paul Jones’ life.
John Paul “Jack” Jones served as publisher of The Daily News for 34 years, from 1960 to 1994. The paper has been in his family since it began in 1886.
(Photo: Courtesy of Sandra Jones)
Jones, 91, known by friends as “Jack,” served for 34 years as the publisher of The Daily News, a publication his family has owned and operated for 125 years.
This is the latest in a series of stories looking at the past, present and future of The Daily News.
There was little doubt in Jones’ mind that he’d be a journalist. Early on, Jones served as editor of his junior high school newspaper, The Fairview.
And he learned what it took to run a successful newspaper by working with his parents every summer at The Daily News, 193 Jefferson Ave. in Downtown Memphis.
“I ran errands for people when I started off,” Jones said. “Some of the reporters at the paper would instruct me, show me how to write stories. And that’s what I did.”
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, Jones returned to the Bluff City, where he worked briefly as a sportswriter for The Commercial Appeal and worked for several years as a lawyer before returning to The Daily News.
“I wanted to be in the newspaper business and I also wanted to be a lawyer – the two most non-respected professions in America, journalists and lawyers,” Jones said with a smile. “But I enjoyed both of them.”
Jones’ mother, Louise Berlin Jones, had taken the reins of the publication at a time when it was almost unheard of for women to be in business, much less the newspaper business. Under her leadership, the newspaper – which went through several name changes – flourished and evolved.
She served as publisher for 60 years, until her son assumed the role of president and publisher in 1960.
“She convinced me that The Daily News had a great future, which it did,” Jones said.
For many years, in addition to operating The Daily News, Jones practiced transportation law from an office located next door to the paper.
He also enjoyed serving as president of the Tennessee Press Association, which allowed him to connect with other publishers from across the state.
“I would go to the convention, which gave me the opportunity to become an officer of the Tennessee Press Association,” Jones said. “Those conventions would be in several parts of the state of Tennessee, and from meeting the people who attended those conventions, I learned a lot about the newspaper business that I didn’t know.”
Jones ran The Daily News until 1982, when he handed the reins to son Peter Schutt, the company’s current president.
"My dad has always been a stickler for detail – no mistakes of any kind were acceptable in the newspaper," Schutt said. "That is a critical component of all newspapers, particularly newspapers of record such as The Daily News. It's a major reason that the paper has been successful for so many years."
Jones maintained ownership of the publishing company until 1994 when he sold it to Schutt, who represents the fourth generation in the family-owned business since it began in 1886.
“I feel that Peter has done an excellent performance and over the years we’ve had people like Ed Rains, the general manager emeritus, and (current publisher) Eric Barnes,” Jones said. “And those are the people that kept The Daily News in the minds and hearts of so many different groups in our city.”
Jones is equally passionate about basketball, saying “we’re so fortunate here in Memphis to have the University of Memphis basketball teams, both men and women. I go to a good number of the women’s basketball games.”
Jones has also been a courtside season-ticket holder since the Memphis Grizzlies arrived in town in 2001.
Several years ago, Jones decided to share his passion for the game by launching the Jack Jones Shootout, a basketball extravaganza that gives kids ages 8 to 18 a chance to learn from professional coaches in a camp and also play on the same floor as the world’s best players.
“It’s just a very interesting way to support the youth and to give them an education using sports because it teaches them life lessons,” said Jones’ wife, Sandra. “How to give back and how to help children who are younger than they are, and it’s just something we’re very interested in.”
Jones even has a basketball arena named in his honor – The John Paul Jones Arena at his law school alma mater, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Nicknamed “The Jack,” the arena was built after Jones’ son Paul Tudor Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corp., donated $35 million to the university in his father’s honor.
Jones and Sandra dedicate much of their time nowadays to philanthropic projects, which include continuing support for the University of Memphis, sponsorship of Calvary & The Arts Concert Series at Calvary Episcopal Church, and an annual luncheon for breast cancer survivors.
And Jones still enjoys reading the newspaper every day.