Who coined the phrase if it bleeds it leads?

The earliest use of the phrase that I can find is from 1982, in an issue of the weekly industry periodical Broadcasting. An article entitled "Preparing for a Boston news war" describes the relaunch of channel 7 in Boston. It had been WNAC from 1948-1982, but it lost its license due to illegal business practices by its parent company, and was being relaunched as WNEV (it's since morphed into WHDH). The story includes the following: "Asked whether WNEV-TV would continue its predecessor's policy, described as 'If it bleeds, it leads,' [news director Bill] Applegate said..."

Sadly Google Books won't let me see Applegate's response, and more importantly it won't let me see the name of the article's author, so I've no idea who actually first put the phrase into print, much less where he heard it. But I can probably tell you who popularized the phrase.

After that first appearance Broadcasting, the phrase appears in TV Guide in 1983, but after that there's nothing for 6 years. Then in 1989 New York magazine ran an article entitled "Grins, Gore, and Videotape - The Trouble with Local TV News" by Eric Pooley. In a scathing indictment of local newscasts, Pooley writes that, "The thoughtful report is buried because sensational stories must launch the broadcast: If it bleeds, it leads." The phrase was reprinted (with credit to Pooley) in the Washington Post in October of '89 in an article called "Bodybag Journalism" by Eleanor Randolph. Within a few months it was popping up in letters and op-eds in papers all around the country.

So, in the end, I can't find who actually coined the phrase, but Eric Pooley is probably the one responsible for bringing it into the mainstream, maybe with a little help from Eleanor Randolph.