Irving Martin, founder of the Stockton Daily Record, is the acknowledged “Dean of California Newspaper Men.”
Born in 1865 in South Carolina, Martin was orphaned as an infant. He lived with relatives in the East before coming to California to live with other relatives at the age of 7.
At 17, young Martin moved to Stockton with the hope of taking a college business course. Instead, he secured a job as shop boy in the composing room of the Stockton Morning Independent at $4 a week.
At 23 years of age, he was a journeyman printer, and after a short stint at free-lance writing he took a place on The Independent reporting staff.
Martin soon acquired a half interest in a weekly paper, the Commercial Record, and later he acquired full ownership. On April 8, 1895, he began daily publication and renamed the paper the Stockton Daily Record.
In his early years as a publisher, Martin and his newspaper faced discouraging competition. Two established opposing dailies provided competition and rivalry for subscribers and also advertising that was frequently “touch and go.” During much of this time The Record took a loss, sustaining itself on income from job printing and book binding.
As the people became aware of the young publisher’s deep interest in community affairs, the little paper gained influence. It began to be known for its “vigilance, sometimes for its militancy, certainly for its independence.”
And as circulation increased and advertising began to grow, Martin took on a new burden of debt — the building of a three-story plant in 1912.
In the following years, The Record went through several financial crises. In 1917, The Mail, evening competitor of the Record, was taken over by creditors, the chief of whom appealed to Martin to buy the dying paper. The Record’s publisher responded to the appeal by buying up the competitor paper and absorbing most of its staff into his own.
Buying The Mail proved to be a wise move. There had been too many newspapers for the size of the city. In the booming years after World War I, advertising revenue grew, circulation was vastly extended and The Record’s plant was thoroughly modernized. Capping the process, the debt of the paper was finally paid off.
The Stockton publisher served many years in public service. He was appointed to the California Water Commission by Gov. Hiram Johnson. Gov. William D. Stephens appointed him to the state Railroad Commission, Gov. C.C.Young placed him on the state Board of Control and made him chairman of the state Tax Commission in 1927. He was campaign chairman for Gov. Earl Warren in 1942.
Statewide affairs did not absorb all of Martin’s energies. In the 1920s, Stockton’s future was being shaped, and Martin was extremely active in the molding.
He was a strong influence in promotion of the deep-water channel of the San Joaquin River, in flood control, in the modernization of the fire department, in development of the city park system and in numerous civic improvement projects. He was president of the Stockton Chamber of Commerce and subsequently served on Stockton’s first port commission until 1937.
In 1952, Martin became chairman of the board of The Daily Record, leaving to his grandson the position of president. On Dec. 7, 1952, the contributor to California journalism for more than half a century died at age 87.
Martin’s concept of the principal duties of the newspaper are: “First, to get and publish as much news as you can. “Second, to interpret that news and make it plain. Third, to provide descriptive comment and opinion.
“This last does not necessarily mean that the readers are going to follow you and be influenced by you. They want your opinion as a mark to shoot at and will follow you only to a certain extent ... if you express your honest convictions, few readers will quarrel with you.”
As publisher at the same newspaper in the same burgeoning city for 57 years, Martin strongly influenced the city’s progress and future. His influence reached, at times, far beyond his own city and into state affairs.
Martin’s life, like that of many a famous newspaperman of the last century, was primarily the life of the newspaper.