When media mogul Amos Kyne (Robert Warwick) dies, his business, which includes a major newspaper, a television station, and a wire news service, is turned over to his sole heir, his foppish, ne'er do well son (Vincent Price).
The younger Kyne has no knowledge of how to run the company his father built, preferring to spend his time spending the money that it generates, and he decides to let the heads of the three divisions -- newspaper editor John Day Griffith (Thomas Mitchell), wire service chief Mark Loving (George Sanders), and photo chief Harry Kritzer (James Craig) -- fight it out among themselves, winner-take-all. Each one has a key alley: Griffith, in Edward Mobley (Dana Andrews), a top reporter who is lately appearing on television as well; Loving, in resourceful but sluttish columnist Mildred Donner (Ida Lupino), who has her own way of digging up secrets; and Kritzer, who doesn't think he needs to dig up secrets because he's sitting on the biggest one of all, his friendship with Kyne's ex-model wife, Dorothy (Rhonda Fleming).
Mobley becomes a focal point because the story-of-the-moment concerns the Lipstick Killer, a serial murderer, burglar, and sex fiend who has been terrorizing the city -- break that case first and the job is won, and Mobley's specialty is crime reporting.
The Lipstick Killer, a disturbed teenager named Robert Manners (John Drew Barrymore), continues to elude the police, and Loving's stumbling attempts to get information out first don't aid in the manhunt.
Meanwhile, Mobley, using his own deductive powers and some basic psychology, manages to get under the killer's skin from afar on television and in print; however, unbeknownst to the reporter, the murderer is feeling more pressure to commit his crimes, and taking a very personal interest in targeting Mobley and his fiancée, Nancy Liggett (Sally Forrest).
The two interwoven stories all get pulled together in a chase through the streets and into the city's subway tunnels, with Mobley, Nancy, Police Lieutenant Kaufman (Howard Duff), and the killer all crossing paths.