Alvah H Chapman Jr.’s vision as a newspaper executive cemented the role of The Miami Herald as a powerhouse of Florida journalism and has had a lasting imprint on the business of journalism nationwide. Chapman was among the first of a “new breed” of newspaper executives who realized that having profitable business operations was the only way to assure journalistic independence.
Alvah Chapman joined The Herald in August of 1960 as assistant to James L. Knight. At the time, Jim Knight was general manager of The Herald as well as executive vice president of Knight Newspapers and publisher of the Charlotte Observer and News. He figured he could use a hand. And what a hand he got!
Chapman was born into the newspaper business in Georgia, where his grandfather, R.W. Page, owned and published the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger from 1888 until his death in 1920. Alvah Chapman’s father, A.H. Chapman, Sr., was the president of the Ledger-Enquirer Company in Columbus as well as the Bradenton (Florida) Herald. Prior to joining The Miami Herald, Alvah Chapman had worked not only in his family operation, but also as executive vice president and general manager of the St. Petersburg Times and part-owner of the Savannah Morning News and Press.
Once in Miami, Chapman quickly moved to assemble a highly skilled and responsible staff of key managers. Chapman quickly moved up the ranks, becoming The Miami Herald’s general manager and president, and eventually CEO and chairman of Knight Ridder Inc. Among his list of accomplishments is the merger of Knight Newspapers with Ridder Publications in 1974, the biggest transaction of its kind in newspaper history to that date. During his 12 years as CEO, revenue at the new corporation tripled, and Knight Ridder newspapers won 33 Pulitzer Prizes.
“I have been a newspaperman all of my adult life, and my father and grandfather before me. I never aspired to anything else,” Chapman told Charles Whited, the late Herald columnist, in a 1989 interview.