- History of American newspapers
The history of American newspapers goes back to the 17th century with the publication of the first colonial newspapers.
(This section is based on [http://www.bartleby.com/225/index.html#7 The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I. Colonial Newspapers and Magazines, 1704–1775 by Elizabeth Christine Cook] )
The New England Courant
It was James Franklin,
Benjamin Franklin’s older brother, who first made a news sheet something more than a garbled mass of stale items, "taken from the Gazetts and other Publick Prints of London" some six months late. James Franklin, "encouraged by a number of respectable characters, who were desirous of having a paper of a different cast from those then published,…began the publication, at his own risk, of a third newspapers, entitled The New England Courant." These respectable characters were known as the Hell-Fire Club; they succeeded in publishing a paper "of a different cast", which, although it shocked New England orthodoxy pretty thoroughly, nevertheless proved vastly entertaining and established a kind of literary precedent. Instead of filling the first page of the "Courant" with the tedious conventionalities of governors’ addresses to provincial legislatures, James Franklin’s club wrote essays and satirical letters after the manner of "The Spectator" just ten years after the first appearance of " The Spectator" in London. As a result, the very look of an ordinary first page of the Courant is like that of a "Spectator" page. After the more formal introductory paper on some general topic, such as zeal or hypocrisy or honour or contentment, the facetious letters of imaginary correspondents commonly fill the remainder of the "Courant"’s first page. Timothy Turnstone addresses flippant jibes to Justice Nicholas Clodpate in the first extant number of the "Courant" Tom Pen-Shallow quickly follows, with his mischievous little postscript: "Pray inform me whether in your Province Criminals have the Privilege of a Jury." Tom Tram writes from the moon about a certain "villainous Post master" he has heard rumours of. (The "Courant" was always perilously close to legal difficulties and had, besides, a lasting feud with the town postmaster.) Ichabod Henroost complains of a gadding wife. Abigail Afterwit would like to know when the editor of the rival paper, the Gazette, "intends to have done printing the Carolina Addresses to their Governour, and give his Readers Something in the Room of them, that will be more entertaining." Homespun Jack deplores the fashions in general, and small waists in particular. Some of these papers represent native wit, with only a general approach to the model; others are little more than paraphrases of "The Spectato"r. And sometimes a "Spectator" paper is inserted bodily, with no attempt at paraphrase whatever.
Ben Franklin, journalist
When Benjamin Franklin established himself in Philadelphia, shortly before 1730, the town boasted two "wretched little" news sheets, Andrew Bradford’s "American Mercury", and Keimer’s" Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences, and Pennsylvania Gazette". This instruction in all arts and sciences consisted of weekly extracts from Chambers’s Universal Dictionary, actually commencing with A, and going steadily on towards Z, followed by instalments of Defoe’s "Religious Courtshi"p, called by the editor "a scarce and delightful piece of History." Franklin quickly did away with all this when he took over the Instructor, and made it "The Pennsylvania Gazette". The "Gazette" soon became Franklin’s characteristic organ, which he freely used for satire, for the play of his wit, even for sheer excess of mischief or of fun. From the first he had a way of adapting his models to his own uses. The series of essays called The Busy-Body, which he wrote for Bradford’s "American Mercury" in 1729, followed the general Addisonian form, already modified to suit homelier conditions. The thrifty Patience, in her busy little shop, complaining of the useless visitors who waste her valuable time, is related to the ladies who address Mr. Spectator. The Busy-Body himself is a true Censor Morum, as Isaac Bickerstaff had been in the "Tatler". And a number of the fictitious characters, Ridentius, Eugenius, Cato, and Cretico, represent traditional eighteenth-century classicism. Even this Franklin could use for contemporary satire, since Cretico, the "sowre Philosopher", is evidently a portrait of Franklin’s rival, Samuel Keimer. As time went on, Franklin depended less on his literary conventions, and more on his own native humour. In this there is a new spirit—not suggested to him by the fine breeding of Addison, or the bitter irony of Swift, or the stinging completeness of Pope. The brilliant little pieces Franklin wrote for his Pennsylvania Gazette have an imperishable place in American literature. It is nonetheless true that they belong to colonial journalism. The "Pennsylvania Gazette", like most other newspapers of the period was often poorly printed. Franklin was busy with a hundred matters outside of his printing office, and never seriously attempted to raise the standards of his trade. Nor did he ever properly edit or collate the chance medley of stale items which passed for news in the Gazette. His influence on the practical side of journalism was very small. On the other hand, his advertisements of books show his very great interest in popularizing secular literature. Undoubtedly his paper contributed to the broader culture which distinguished Pennsylvania from her neighbours before the Revolution. Starting with the custom of importing a stray volume or two along with stationer’s supplies, Franklin gradually developed a book shop in his printing office. There was nothing unusual in this fact, by itself.
The South Carolina Gazette
Franklin’s influence in journalism was not confined to Pennsylvania. He often assisted young journeymen in the establishment of newspapers in distant towns. Thomas Whitemarsh, for instance, went to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1731, as Franklin’s partner in a new enterprise, which soon included a new paper, "The South Carolina Gazette". Naturally, Whitemarsh filled his front page with essays, sometimes reprinted from "The Spectator", but often original, with a facetious quality suggesting Franklin. Essays of one sort or another were always popular in "The South Carolina Gazette". Here may be found interesting notices of the various performances (probably professional) of Otway’s Orphan, Farquhar’s "Recruiting Officer", and other popular plays of the period which were given at the Charleston theatres for twenty or thirty years before the first wandering professional companies began to play in the Northern colonies.
The Virginia Gazette
Early theatrical notices may also be followed in "The Virginia Gazette", a paper of unusual excellence, edited by William Parks in Williamsburg, the old capital of Virginia. Here "The Busy-Body", "The Recruiting Officer", and "
The Beaux' Stratagem" were all performed, often by amateurs, though professionals were known as early as 1716 in Williamsburg. Life in Williamsburg in 1736 had a more cosmopolitan quality than in other towns. A sprightly essay-serial called The Monitor, which fills the first page of "The Virginia Gazette" for twenty-two numbers, probably reflects not only the social life of the capital, but also the newer fashion in such periodical work. It is dramatic in method, with vividly realized characters who gossip and chat over games of piquet or at the theatre. "The Beaux' Stratagem", which had been played in Williamsburg three weeks before, is mentioned as delightful enough to make one of the ladies commit the indiscretion of giggling. The Monitor represents a kind of light social satire unusual in the colonies.
Politics in the later newspapers
After 1750, general news became accessible, and the newspapers show more and more interest in public affairs. The literary first page was no longer necessary, though occasionally used to cover a dull period. A new type of vigorous polemic gradually superseded the older essay. A few of the well-known conventions were retained, however. We still find the fictitious letter, with the fanciful signature, or a series of papers under a common title, such as "The Virginia-Centinel", or Livingston’s "Watch-Tower". The former is a flaming appeal to arms, running through "The Virginia Gazette" in 1756, and copied into Northern papers to rouse patriotism against the French enemy. The expression of the sentiment, even thus early, seems national. Livingston’s well-known "Watch-Tower", a continuation of his pamphlet-magazine "The Independent Reflecto"r, has already the keen edge of the Revolutionary writings of fifteen and twenty years later. The fifty-second number even has one of the popular phrases of the Revolution: "Had I not sounded the Alarm, Bigotry would e’er now have triumphed over the natural Rights of British Subjects." [Gaine’s Mercury in 1754–1755]
Revolutionary epoch and early national era: 1770–1820
(This section is based on [http://www.bartleby.com/226/index.html#12 Newspapers, 1775–1860 by Frank W. Scott] )
The Massachusetts Spy
Isaiah Thomas’s "Massachusetts Spy," published in Worcester, was constantly on the verge of being suppressed, from the time of its establishment in 1770 to 1776, during the American Revolution. It carried radicalism to its logical conclusion. When articles from the "Spy" were reprinted in other papers, as "the most daring production ever published in America," the country as a whole was ready for Tom Paine's "Common Sense" (1775).
The turbulent years between 1775 and 1783 were a time of great trial and disturbance among newspapers. Interruption, suppression, and lack of support checked their growth substantially. Although there were forty-three newspapers in the United States when the treaty of peace was signed (1783), as compared with thirty-seven on the date of the battle of Lexington (1775), only a dozen remained in continuous operation between the two events, and most of those had experienced delays and difficulties through lack of paper, type, and patronage. Not one newspaper in the principal cities, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, continued publication throughout the war. When the colonial forces were in possession, royalist papers were suppressed, and at times of British occupation Revolutionary papers moved away, or were discontinued, or they became royalist, only to suffer at the next turn of military fortunes. Thus there was an exodus of papers from the cities along the coast to smaller inland places, where alone it was possible for them to continue without interruption. Scarcity of paper was acute; type worn out could not be replaced. The appearance of the newspapers deteriorated, and issues sometimes failed to appear at all. Mail service, never good, was poorer than ever; foreign newspapers, an important source of information, could be obtained but rarely; many of the ablest writers who had filled the columns with dissertations upon colonial rights and government were now otherwise occupied.
News from a distance was less full and regular than before; yet when great events happened reports spread over the country with great rapidity, through messengers in the service of patriotic organizations. The newspapers made use of such assistance, and did service in further spreading the tidings, though they seldom overtook the flying word of mouth. Naturally, reporting was still imperfect. "The Salem Gazette" printed a full but coloured account of the battle of Lexington, giving details of the burning, pillage, and barbarities charged to the British, and praising the militia who were filled with "higher sentiments of humanity." The Declaration of Independence was published by Congress, 6 July 1776, in the "Philadelphia Evening Post", from which it was copied by most of the papers; but some of them did not mention it until two weeks later, and even then found room for only a synopsis. When they were permitted to do so they printed fairly full accounts of the proceedings of provincial assemblies and of Congress, which were copied widely, as were all official reports and proclamations. On the whole, however, a relatively small proportion of such material and an inadequate account of the progress of the war is found in the contemporaneous newspapers.
The general spirit of the time found fuller utterance in mottoes, editorials, letters, and poems. In the beginning both editorials and communications urged united resistance to oppression, praised patriotism, and denounced tyranny; as events and public sentiment developed these grew more vigorous, often a little more radical than the populace. Later, the idea of independence took form, and theories of government were discussed. More interesting and valuable as specimens of literature than these discussions were the poems inspired by the stirring events of the time. Long narratives of battles and of heroic deaths were mingled with eulogies of departed heroes. Songs meant to inspire and thrill were not lacking. Humour, pathos, and satire sought to stir the feelings of the public. Much of the poetry of the Revolution is to be found in the columns of dingy newspapers, from the vivid and popular satires and narratives of
Philip Freneauto the saddest effusions of the most commonplace schoolmaster.
The newspapers of the Revolution were an effective force working towards the unification of sentiment, the awakening of a consciousness of a common purpose, interest, and destiny among the separate colonies, and of a determination to see the war through to a successful issue. They were more single-minded than the people themselves, and they bore no small share of the burden of arousing and supporting the often discouraged and indifferent public spirit. Many of the papers, however, which were kept alive or brought to life during the war could not adapt themselves to the new conditions of peace.
Perhaps a dozen of the survivors held their own in the new time, notably the "Boston Gazette", which declined rapidly in the following decade, The "
Connecticut Courant" of Hartford, "The Providence Gazette", and "The Pennsylvania Packet" of Philadelphia, to which may be added such representative papers as "The Massachusetts Spy", the "Boston Independent Chronicle", the "New York Journal and Packet", the "Newport Mercury", the " Maryland Gazette" of Annapolis, "The Pennsylvania Gazette" and "The Pennsylvania Journal", both of Philadelphia. Practically all were of four small pages, each of three or four columns, issued weekly. The "Pennsylvania Packet", which appeared three times a week, became in 1784 the first daily paper. In the same year the "New York Journal" was published twice a week, as were several of the papers begun in that year. There was a notable extension to new fields. In Vermont, where the first paper, established in 1781, had soon died, another arose in 1783; in Maine two were started in 1785. In 1786 the first one west of the Alleghanies appeared at Pittsburg, and following the westward tide of immigration The "Kentucky Gazette" was begun at Lexington in 1787.
Conditions were hardly more favourable to newspapers than during the recent conflict. The sources of news were much the same; the means of communication and the postal system were little improved. Newspapers were not carried in the mails but by favour of the postmen, and the money of one state was of dubious value in another. Consequently circulations were small, rarely reaching a thousand; subscribers were slow in paying; and advertisements were not plentiful. Newspapers remained subject to provincial laws of libel, in accordance with the old common law, and were, as in Massachusetts for a short time in 1785, subject to special state taxes on paper or on advertisements. But public sentiment was growing strongly against all legal restrictions, and in general the papers practised freedom, not to say license, of utterance.
With independence had come the consciousness of a great destiny. The collective spirit aroused by the war, though clouded by conflicting local difficulties, was intense, and the principal interest of the newspapers was to create a nation out of the loose confederation. Business and commerce were their next care; but in an effort to be all things to all men, the small page included a little of whatever might "interest, instruct, or amuse." Political intelligence occupied first place; news, in the modern sense, was subordinated. A new idea, quite as much as a fire, a murder, or a prodigy, was a matter of news moment. There were always a few items of local interest, usually placed with paragraphs of editorial miscellany. Correspondents, in return for the paper, sent items; private letters, often no doubt written with a view to such use, were a fruitful source of news; but the chief resource was the newspapers which every office received as exchanges, carried in the post free of charge, and the newspapers from abroad.
The editor, usually reflecting the sentiment of a group or a faction, began to emerge as a distinct power. He closely followed the drift of events and expressed vigorous opinions. But as yet the principal discussions were contributed not by the editors but by "the master minds of the country." The growing importance of the newspaper was shown in the discussions preceding the Federal Convention, and notably in the countrywide debate on the adoption of the Constitution, in which the newspaper largely displaced the pamphlet. When
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jayunited to produce the Federalist essays, they chose to publish them in "The Independent Journal" and "The Daily Advertiser", from which they were copied by practically every paper in America long before they were made into a book.
When the first Congress assembled 4 March 1789, the administration felt the need of a paper, and, under the influence of Hamilton,
John Fennoissued at New York, 15 April, the first number of " The Gazette of the United States", the earliest of a series of administration organs. The seat of government became the journalistic centre of the country, and as long as party politics remained the staple news interest the administration organs and their opponents were the chief sources of news for the papers of the country.
Partisan bitterness increased during the last decade of the century as the
First Party Systemtook shape. The parties needed newspapers to communicate with their voters. New England papers were generally Federalist; in Pennsylvania there was a balance; in the West and South the Republican press predominated. Though the Federalists were vigorously supported by such able papers as Russell’s "Columbian Centinel" in Boston, Isaiah Thomas’s "Massachusetts Spy", "The Connecticut Courant", and, after 1793, Noah Webster’s daily "Minerva" (soon renamed "Commercial Advertiser") in New York, the "Gazette of the United States", which in 1790 followed Congress and the capital to Philadelphia, was at the centre of conflict, "a paper of pure Toryism", as Thomas Jefferson said, "disseminating the doctrines of monarchy, aristocracy, and the exclusion of the people." To offset the influence of this, Jefferson and Madison induced Philip Freneau, who had been editing "The Daily Advertiser" in New York, to set up a "half weekly", to "go through the states and furnish a Whig vehicle of intelligence." Freneau’s " National Gazette", which first appeared 31 October, 1791, soon became the most outspoken critic of the administration of Adams, Hamilton, and Washington, and an ardent advocate of the French Revolution. Fenno and Freneau, in the "Gazette of the United States" and the "National Gazette", at once came to grips, and the campaign of personal and party abuse in partisan news reports, in virulent editorials, in poems and skits of every kind, was echoed from one end of the country to the other.
The other Republican paper of primary importance was the "Aurora General Advertiser", founded by Ben Franklin's grandson and heir, Benjamin Franklin Bache, on
October 2, 1790. The "Aurora", published from Franklin Court in Philadelphia, was the most strident newspaper of its time, attacking John Adams' anti-democratic policies on a daily basis. No paper is thought to have given Adams more trouble than the "Aurora". His wife, Abigail, wrote frequent letters to her sister and others decrying what she considered the slander spewing forth from the "Aurora". Jefferson credited the "Aurora" with averting a disastrous war with France, and laying the groundwork for his own election. Following Bache's death (the result of his staying in Philadelphia during a yellow fever epidemic, while he was awaiting trial under the Sedition Act), William Duane, an immigrant from Ireland, led the paper until 1822 (and married Bache's widow, following the death of his own wife in the same Yellow Fever epidemic). Like Freneau, Bache and Duane were involved in a daily back-and-forth with the Federalist editors, especially Fenno and Cobbett.
Noah Webster, strapped for money accepted an offer in late 1793 from
Alexander Hamiltonof $1500 to move to New York Cityand edit a Federalist newspaper. In December he founded New York's first daily newspaper, "American Minerva" (later known as "The Commercial Advertiser"). He edited it for four years writing the equivalent of 20 volumes of articles and editorials. He also published the semi-weekly publication, "The Herald, A Gazette for the country" (later known as "The New York Spectator"). As a partisan he soon was denounced by the Jeffersonian Republicans as "a pusillanimous, half-begotten, self-dubbed patriot", "an incurable lunatic", and "a deceitful newsmonger … Pedagogue and Quack." Fellow Federalist Cobbett labeled him "a traitor to the cause of Federalism", calling him "a toad in the service of sans-cullottism", "a prostitute wretch", "a great fool, and a barefaced liar", "a spiteful viper", and "a maniacal pedant." The master of words was distressed. Even the use of words like "the people", "democracy", and "equality" in public debate, bothered him for such words were "metaphysical abstractions that either have no meaning, or at least none that mere mortals can comprehend."
The first party newspapers were full of vituperation. As one historian comments,
It was with the newspaper editors, however, on both sides that a climax of rancorous and venomous abuse was reached. Of the Federalist editors, the most voluminous masters of scurrility were William Cobbett of "Porcupine's Gazette" and John Ward Fenno of the "United States Gazette", at Philadelphia; Noah Webster of the "American Minerva", at New York; and at Boston, Benjamin Russell of the "Columbian Centinel", Thomas Paine of the "Federal Orrery", and John Russell of the "Boston Gazette". Chief of these was Cobbett, whose control of abusive epithet and invective may be judged from the following terms applied by him to his political foes, the Jacobins: "refuse of nations"; "yelper of the Democratic kennels"; "vile old wretch"; "tool of a baboon"; "frog-eating, man-eating, blooddrinking cannibals"; "I say, beware, ye under-strapping cut-throats who walk in rags and sleep amidst filth and vermin; for if once the halter gets round your flea-bitten necks, howling and confessing will come too late." He wrote of the "base and hellish calumnies" propagated by the Jacobins, and of "tearing the mask from the artful and ferocious villains who, owing to the infatuation of the poor, and the supineness of the rich, have made such fearful progress in the destruction of all that is amiable and good and sacred among men." Among the milder examples of his description of Jacobins was the following:
"Where the voice of the people has the most weight in public affairs, there it is most easy to introduce novel and subversive doctrines. In such States too, there generally, not to say always, exists a party who, from the long habit of hating those who administer the Government, become the enemies of the Government itself, and are ready to sell their treacherous services to the first bidder. To these descriptions of men, the sect of the Jacobins have attached themselves in every country they have been suffered to enter. They are a sort of flies, that naturally settle on the excremental and corrupted parts of the body politic … The persons who composed this opposition, and who thence took the name of Anti-Federalists, were not equal to the Federalists, either in point of riches or respectability. They were in general, men of bad moral characters embarrassed in their private affairs, or the tools of such as were. Men of this caste naturally feared the operation of a Government imbued with sufficient strength to make itself respected, and with sufficient wisdom to exclude the ignorant and wicked from a share in its administration." ["Jacobin and Junto" by Charles Warren (1931) pp 90–91.
This decade, of violence was nevertheless one of development in both the quality and the power of newspapers. News reporting was extended to new fields of local affairs, and the intense rivalry of all too numerous competitors awoke the beginnings of that rush for the earliest reports which was to become the dominant trait in American journalism. The editor evolved into a new type. As a man of literary skill, or a politician, or a lawyer with a gift for polemical writing, he began to supersede the contributors of essays as the strongest writer on the paper. Much of the best writing, and of the rankest scurrility, be it said, was produced by editors born and trained abroad, like Bache of the "Aurora", Cobbett, Cooper, Gales, Cheetham, Callender, Lyon, and Holt. Of the whole number of papers in the country towards the end of the decade, more than one hundred and fifty, at least twenty opposed to the administration were conducted by aliens. The power wielded by these anti-administration editors impressed John Adams, who in 1801 wrote: "If we had been blessed with common sense, we should not have been overthrown by Philip Freneau, Duane, Callender, Cooper, and Lyon, or their great patron and protector. A group of foreign liars encouraged by a few ambitious native gentlemen have discomfited the education, the talents, the virtues, and the prosperity of the country."
The most obvious example of that Federalist lack of common sense was the passage of the Alien and Sedition laws in 1798 to protect the government from the libels of editors. The result was a dozen convictions and a storm of outraged public opinion that threw the party from power and gave the Jeffersonian Republican press renewed confidence and the material benefit of patronage when the Republicans took control of the government in 1800. The Republican party was especially effective in building a network of newspapers in major cities to broadcast its statements and editorialize in its favor.
Fisher Ames, a leading Federalist, blamed the newspapers for electing Jefferson: they were "an overmatch for any Government… The Jacobins owe their triumph to the unceasing use of this engine; not so much to skill in use of it as by repetition." [Cunningham "The Jeffersonian Republicans: 1789–1801" 1957 p 167]
The newspapers continued primarily party organs; the tone remained strongly partisan, though it gradually gained poise and attained a degree of literary excellence and professional dignity. The typical newspaper, a weekly, had a paid circulation of 500. The growth of the postal system, with the free transportation of newspapers locally and statewide, allowed the emergence of powerful state newspapers that closely reflected, and shaped, party views.
The number and geographical distribution of newspapers grew apace. In 1800 there were between 150 and 200; by 1810 there were 366, and during the next two decades the increase was at least equally rapid. With astonishing promptness the press followed the sparse population as it trickled westward and down the Ohio or penetrated the more northerly forests. By 1835 papers had spread to the Mississippi River and beyond, from Texas to St. Louis, throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and into Wisconsin. These pioneer papers, poorly written, poorly printed, and partisan often beyond all reason, served a greater than a merely local purpose in sending weekly to the seat of government their hundreds of messages of good and evil report, of politics and trade, of weather and crops, that helped immeasurably to bind the farflung population into a nation. Every congressman wrote regularly to his own local paper; other correspondents were called upon for like service, and in some instances the country editors established extensive and reliable lines of intelligence; but most of them depended on the bundle of exchanges from Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, and reciprocally the city papers made good use of their country exchanges.
Meanwhile the daily newspapers were increasing in number. The first had appeared in Philadelphia and New York in 1784 and 1785; in 1796 one appeared in Boston. By 1810 there were twenty-seven in the country—one in the city of Washington, five in Maryland, seven in New York, nine in Pennsylvania, three in South Carolina, and two in Louisiana. As early as 1835 the "Detroit Free Press" began its long career.
The press served the
Second Party System: 1820–1890
(This section is based on [http://www.bartleby.com/226/index.html#12 Newspapers, 1775–1860 by Frank W. Scott] )
The political and journalistic situation made the administration organ one of the characteristic features of the period. Fenno’s Gazette had served the purpose for Washington and Adams; but the first great example of the type was the "
National Intelligencer" established in October, 1800, by Samuel Harrison Smith, to support the administration of Jefferson and of successive presidents until after Jackson it was thrown into the opposition, and "The United States Telegraph", edited by Duff Green, became the official paper. It was replaced at the close of 1830 by a new paper, "The Globe", under the editorship of Francis P. Blair, one of the ablest of all ante-bellum political editors, who, with John P. Rives, conducted it until the changing standards and conditions in journalism rendered the administration organ obsolescent. The Globe was displaced in 1841 by another paper called "The National Intelligencer", which in turn gave way to "The Madisonian". Thomas Ritchiewas in 1845 called from his long service on "The Richmond Enquirer" to found, on the remains of "The Globe", the "Washington Union", to speak for the Polk administration and to reconcile the factions of democracy. Neither the Union nor its successors, which maintained the semblance of official support until 1860, ever occupied the commanding position held by the "Telegraph" and "The Globe", but for forty years the administration organs had been the leaders when political journalism was dominant. Their influence was shared and increased by such political editors as M. M. Noah and James Watson Webbof the "New York Courier and Enquirer", Solomon Southwickof the "Albany Register", Edwin Croswell, who edited "The Argus" and who, supported by Martin Van Burenand others, formed what was known as the " Albany Regency." The "Regency", the Richmond "Junta", which centred in the Enquirer, and the "Kitchen Cabinet" headed by the editor of "The Globe", formed one of the most powerful political and journalistic cabals that the country has ever known. Their decline, in the late thirties, was coincident with great changes, both political and journalistic, and though successors arose, their kind was not again so prominent or influential. The newspaper of national scope was passing away, yielding to the influence of the telegraph and the railroad, which robbed the Washington press of its claim to prestige as the chief source of political news. At the same time politics was losing its predominating importance. The public had many other interests, and by a new spirit and type of journalism was being trained to make greater and more various demands upon the journalistic resources of its papers.
The administration organ presents but one aspect of a tendency in which political newspapers generally gained in editorial individuality, and both the papers and their editors acquired greater personal and editorial influence. The beginnings of the era of personal journalism were to be found early in the 19th century. Even before Nathan Hale had shown the way to editorial responsibility,
Thomas Ritchie, in the Richmond Enquirer in the second decade of the century, had combined with an effective development of the established use of anonymous letters on current questions a system of editorial discussion that soon extended his reputation and the influence of his newspaper far beyond the boundaries of Virginia. Washington Barrow and the "Nashville Banner", Amos Kendalland "The Argus of Western America", G. W. Kendall and the "New Orleans Picayune", John M. Francis and the "Troy Times", and Charles Hammond and the "Cincinnati Gazette", to mention but a few among many, illustrate the rise of editors to individual power and prominence in the third and later decades. Notable among these political editors was John M. Daniel, who just before 1850 became editor of the "Richmond Examiner" and soon made it the leading newspaper of the South. Perhaps no better example need be sought of brilliant invective and literary pungency in American journalism just prior to and during the Civil War than in Daniel’s contributions to the "Examiner".
Though it could still be said that "too many of our gazettes are in the hands of persons destitute at once of the urbanity of gentlemen, the information of scholars, and the principles of virtue", a fact due largely to the intensity of party spirit, the profession was by no means without editors who exhibited all these qualities, and put them into American journalism. William Coleman, for instance, who, encouraged by
Alexander Hamilton, founded the "New York Evening Post" in 1801, was a man of high purposes, good training, and noble ideals. The "Evening Post", reflecting variously the fine qualities of the editor, exemplified the improvement in tone and illustrated the growing importance of editorial writing, as did a dozen or more papers in the early decades of the century. Indeed the problem most seriously discussed at the earliest state meetings of editors and publishers, held in the thirties, was that of improving the tone of the press. They tried to attain by joint resolution a degree of editorial self-restraint which few individual editors had as yet acquired. Under the influence of Thomas Ritchie, vigorous and unsparing political editor but always a gentleman, who presided at the first meeting of Virginia journalists, the newspaper men in one state after another resolved to "abandon the infamous practice of pampering the vilest of appetites by violating the sanctity of private life, and indulging in gross personalities and indecorous language", and to "conduct all controversies between themselves with decency, decorum, and moderation." Ritchie found in the low tone of the newspapers a reason why journalism in America did not occupy as high a place in public regard as it did in England and France. The editorial page was assuming something of its modern form. The editorial signed with a pseudonym gradually passed away, but unsigned editorial comment and leading articles did not become an established feature until after 1814, when Nathan Hale made them a characteristic of the newly established Boston Daily Advertiser. From that time on they grew in importance until in the succeeding period of personal journalism they were the most vital part of the greater papers.
Several of these changes are exemplified in the work of
James Gordon Bennett(1794–1872), though he originated few of them. In more than ten years of unsuccessful effort as a political journalist he had become familiar with the increasing enterprise in news-gathering that had already distinguished American methods. He despised the journalism of the day—the seriousness of tone, the phlegmatic dignity, the party affiliations, the sense of responsibility. He believed journalists were fools to think that they could best serve their own purposes by serving the politicians. As Washington correspondent for the "New York Enquirer", he wrote vivacious, gossipy prattle, full of insignificant and entertaining detail, to which he added keen characterization and deft allusions. Bennett saw a public who would not buy a serious paper at any price, who had a vast and indiscriminate curiosity better satisfied with gossip than discussion, with sensation rather than fact, who could be reached through their appetites and passions. The idea which he did much to develop rested on the success of the one-cent press created by the establishment of the New York Sun in 1833. To pay at such a price these papers must have large circulations, sought among the public that had not been accustomed to buy papers, and gained by printing news of the street, shop, and factory. To reach this public Bennett began the "New York Herald", a small paper, fresh, sprightly, terse, and "newsy".
"In journalistic débuts of this kind", he wrote, "many talk of principle—political principle, party principle—as a sort of steel trap to catch the public. We … disdain … all principle, as it is called, all party, all politics. Our only guide shall be good, sound, practical common sense, applicable to the business and bosoms of men engaged in every-day life."
News was but a commodity, the furnishing of which was a business transaction only, which ignored the social responsibility of the press, "the grave importance of our vocation", prized of the elder journalists and of the still powerful six-cent papers. The Herald, like the Sun, was at once successful, and was remarkably influential in altering journalistic practices.In a period of wide-spread unrest and change many specialized forms of journalism sprang up—religious, educational, agricultural, and commercial, which there is no space here to discuss. Workingmen were questioning the justice of existing economic systems and raising a new labour problem; the socialistic ideas of Cabet and Fourier were spreading; Unitarianism and Transcendentalism were creating and expressing new spiritual values; temperance, prohibition, and the political status of women were being discussed; abolition was a general irritant and a nightmare to politicians. The subject of controversy most critically related to journalism was abolition. The which began with "
The Emancipator" of 1820, and had its chief representative in William Lloyd Garrison’s "Liberator", first issued 1 January 1831, forced the slavery question upon the newspapers, and there ensued a struggle for the freedom of the press more acute than any since that caused by the Alien and Sedition laws. Many abolitionist papers were excluded from the mails; their circulation was forcibly prevented in the South; in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Alton, and elsewhere, editors were assaulted, offices were attacked and destroyed; rewards were offered in the South for the capture of Greeley and Garrison; in a few instances editors, like Lovejoy at Alton, lost their lives at the hands of mobs.
Associated Press and impact of telegraphy
This idea of news and the newspaper for its own sake, the unprecedented aggressiveness in news-gathering, and the blatant methods by which the cheap papers were popularized aroused the antagonism of the older papers, but created a competition which could not be ignored. Systems of more rapid news-gathering and distribution quickly appeared. Sporadic attempts at co-operation in obtaining news had already been made; in 1848 the "Journal of Commerce", "Courier and Enquirer", "Tribune", "Herald", "Sun", and "Express" formed the New York Associated Press to obtain news for the members jointly. Out of this idea grew other local, then state, and finally national associations. European news, which, thanks to steamship service, could now be obtained when but half as old as before, became an important feature. In the forties several papers sent correspondents abroad, and in the next decade this field was highly developed.
The telegraph, in 1844 shown to be practical, and put to successful use during the
Mexican-American War, led to numerous far-reaching results in journalism. Telegraphic columns became a leading feature; news associations grew as the wires lengthened; but the greatest effect on the journalism of the country at large was to decentralize the press by rendering the inland papers, in such cities as Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and New Orleans independent of those in Washington and New York. A change made in the postal laws in 1845 favoured the local circulation of newspapers. The country circulation of most of the large Eastern papers was so curtailed that only one or two, like the " New York Tribune", were able to maintain through their weekly editions something of their national character; the organs in Washington, even " Niles’s Weekly Register", which had been a most useful vehicle for the disseminating of political information, were still further shorn of their usefulness and soon eliminated; and the already vigorous provincial press became numerous and powerful.
Out of the period of restless change in the thirties there emerged a few great editors whose force and ability gave them and their newspapers an influence hitherto unequalled, and made the period between 1840 and 1860 that of personal journalism. These few men not only interpreted and reflected the spirit of the time, but were of great influence in shaping and directing public opinion. Consequently the scope, character, and influence of newspapers was in the period immensely widened and enriched, and rendered relatively free from the worst subjection to political control.
Naturally, the outstanding feature of this personal journalism was the editorial. Rescued from the slough of ponderousness into which it had fallen in its abject and uninspired party service, the editorial was revived, invigorated, and endowed with a vitality that made it the centre about which all other features of the newspaper were grouped. It was individual; however large the staff of writers, the editorials were regarded as the utterance of the editor. "Greeley says" was the customary preface to quotations from the Tribune, and indeed many editorials were signed.
James Gordon Bennett, Samuel Bowles (1826–78), Horace Greeley(1811–72), and Henry J. Raymond(1820–69) are the outstanding figures of the period. Of Bennett’s influence something has already been said; especially, he freed his paper from party control. His power was great, but it came from his genius in gathering and presenting news rather than from editorial discussion, for he had no great moral, social or political ideals, and his influence, always lawless and uncertain, can hardly be regarded as characteristic of the period. Of the others named, and many besides, it could be said with approximate truth that their ideal was "a full presentation and a liberal discussion of all questions of public concernment, from an entirely independent position, and a faithful and impartial exhibition of all movements of interest at home and abroad." As all three were not only upright and independent, but in various measure gifted with the quality of statesmanship at once philosophical and practical, their newspapers were powerful moulders of opinion at a critical period in the history of the nation.
The news field was immeasurably broadened; news style was improved; interviews, newly introduced, lent the ease and freshness of dialogue and direct quotation. There was a notable improvement in the reporting of business, markets, and finance. In a few papers the literary department was conducted by staffs as able as any today. A foreign news service was developed which in intelligence, fidelity, and general excellence reached the highest standard yet attained in American journalism. A favourite feature was the series of letters from the editor or other member of the staff who travelled and wrote of what he heard or saw. Bowles, Olmsted, Greeley, Bayard Taylor, Bennett, and many others thus observed life and conditions at home or abroad; and they wrote so entertainingly and to such purpose that the letters—those of Olmsted and Taylor, for instance—are still sources of entertainment or information.
The growth of these papers meant the development of great staffs of workers that exceeded in numbers anything dreamed of in the preceding period. Although later journalism has far exceeded in this respect the time we are now considering, still the scope, complexity, and excellence of our modern metropolitan journalism in all its aspects were clearly begun between 1840 and 1860.
New York Tribune" under Horace Greeleyexhibited the best features of the new and semi-independent personal journalism based upon political beginnings and inspired with an enthusiasm for service that is one of the fine characteristics of the period. In editing the "New Yorker" Greeley had acquired experience in literary journalism and in political news; his Jeffersonian and Log Cabin, popular campaign papers, had brought him into contact with politicians and extended his acquaintance with the masses. Being with all his independence a staunch party man, he was chosen to manage a party organ when one was needed to support the Whig administration of Harrison, and the prospectus of the "New York Tribune" appeared 3 April, 1841. Greeley’s ambition was to make the "Tribune" not only a good party paper, but also the first paper in America, and he succeeded by imparting to it a certain idealistic character with a practical appeal which no other journal possessed. His sound judgment appeared in the unusually able staff which he gathered about him. Almost from the first, the staff which made the Tribune represented a broad catholicity of interests and tastes, in the world of thought as well as in the world of action, and a solid excellence in ability and in organization which were largely the result of the genius of Greeley and over which he was the master spirit. It included Henry J. Raymond, who later became Greeley’s rival on the "Times", George M. Snow, George William Curtis, Charles A. Dana, Bayard Taylor, George Ripley, William H. Fry, Margaret Fuller, Edmund Quincy, and Charles T. Congdon. It is easy to understand how with such a group of writers the idea of the literary newspaper, which had been alive from the beginning of the century, should have advanced well-night to its greatest perfection.
The great popular strength of the "Tribune" doubtless lay in its disinterested sympathy with all the ideals and sentiments which stirred the popular mind in the forties and fifties. "We cannot afford", Greeley wrote, "to reject unexamined any idea which proposes to improve the moral, intellectual, or social condition of mankind." He pointed out that the proper course of an editor, in contrast to that of the time-server, was to have "an ear open to the plaints of the wronged and suffering, though they can never repay advocacy, and those who mainly support newspapers will be annoyed and often exposed by it; a heart as sensitive to oppression and degradation in the next street as if they were practiced in Brazil or Japan; a pen as ready to expose and reprove the crimes whereby wealth is amassed and luxury enjoyed in our own country as if they had only been committed by Turks or Pagans in Asia some centuries ago." In conformity with these principles Greeley lent his support to all proposals for ameliorating the condition of the labouring men by industrial education, by improved methods of farming, or even by such radical means as the socialistic Fourier Association. He strongly advocated the protective tariff because he believed that it was for the advantage of the workingman; and the same sympathy led him to give serious attention to the discussion of women’s rights with special reference to the equal economic status of women. There were besides many lesser causes in which the Tribune displayed its spirit of liberalism, such as temperance reform, capital punishment, the Irish repeals, and the liberation of Hungary.
On the most important question of the time, the abolition of slavery, Greeley’s views were intimately connected with party policy. His antipathy to slavery, based on moral and economic grounds, placed him from the first among the mildly radical reformers. But his views underwent gradual intensification. Acknowledged the most influential Whig party editor in 1844, he had by 1850 become the most influential anti-slavery editor—the spokesman not of Whigs merely but of a great class of Northerners who were thoroughly antagonistic to slavery but who had not been satisfied with either the non-political war of Garrison or the one-plank political efforts of the
Free Soilparty. This influence was greatly increased between 1850 and 1854 by some of the most vigorous and trenchant editorial writing America has ever known. The circulation of the Tribune in 1850 was, all told, a little less than sixty thousand, two-thirds of which was the Weekly. In 1854 the Weekly alone had a circulation of 112,000 copies. But even this figure is not the measure of the "Tribune"’s peculiar influence, "for it was pre-eminently the journal of the rural districts, and one copy did service for many readers. To the people in the Adirondack wilderness it was a political bible, and the well-known scarcity of Democrats there was attributed to it. Yet it was as freely read by the intelligent people living on the Western Reserve of Ohio", ( James Ford Rhodes) and in Wisconsin and Illinois. The work of Greeley and his associates in these years gave a new strength and a new scope and outlook to American journalism. Henry Jarvis Raymond, who began his journalistic career on the Tribune and gained further experience in editing the respectable, old-fashioned, political "Courier and Enquirer", perceived that there was an opening for a type of newspaper which should stand midway between Greeley, the moralist and reformer, and Bennett, the cynical, non-moral news-monger. He was able to interest friends in raising the hundred thousand dollars which he thought essential to the success of his enterprise. This sum is significant of the development of American daily journalism, for Greeley had started the "Tribune" only ten years earlier with a capital of one thousand dollars, and Bennett had founded the "Herald" with nothing at all. On this sound financial basis, Raymond began the career of the " New York Times" on September 18 1851, and made it a success from the outset. He perfected his news-gathering forces and brought into play his intimate acquaintance with men of affairs to open up the sources of information. Above all he set a new standard for foreign service. The American public never had a more general and intelligent interest in European affairs than in the middle years of the nineteenth century. The leading papers directed their best efforts toward sustaining and improving their foreign service, and Raymond used a brief vacation in Europe to establish for his paper a system of correspondence as trustworthy, if not as inclusive, as that of the "Herald" or "Tribune". If our newspapers today are immeasurably in advance of those of sixty years ago in almost every field of journalism, there is only here and there anything to compare in worth with the foreign correspondence of that time. The men who wrote from the news centres of Europe were persons of wide political knowledge and experience, and social consequence. They had time and ability to do their work thoroughly, carefully, and intelligently, innocent of superficial effort toward sensation, of the practices of inaccurate brevity and irresponsible haste which began with the laying of the Atlantic cable.
The theory of journalism announced by Raymond in the "Times" marks another advance over the party principles of his predecessors. He thought that a newspaper might assume the rôle now of a party paper, now of an organ of non-partisan, independent thought, and still be regarded by the great body of its readers as steadily guided by principles of sincere public policy. An active ambition for political preferment prevented him from achieving this ideal. Although he professed conservatism only in those cases where conservatism was essential to the public good and radicalism in everything which might require radical treatment and radical reform, the spirit of opposition to the "Tribune", as well as his temperamental leanings, carried him definitely to the conservative side. He was by nature inclined to accept the established order and make the best of it. Change, if it came, should come not through radical agitation and revolution, but by cautious and gradual evolution. The world needed brushing, not harrowing. Such ideas, as he applied them to journalism, appealed to moderate men, reflected the opinions of a large and influential class somewhere between the advanced thinkers and theorists and the mass of men more likely to be swayed by passions of approbation or protest than by reason.
It was the tone of the "Times" that especially distinguished it from its contemporaries. In his first issue Raymond announced his purpose to write in temperate and measured language and to get into a passion as rarely as possible. "There are few things in this world which it is worth while to get angry about; and they are just the things anger will not improve." In controversy he meant to avoid abusive language. His style was gentle, candid, and decisive, and achieved its purpose by facility, clearness, and moderation rather than by powerful fervor and invective. His editorials were generally cautious, impersonal, and finished in form. With abundant self-respect and courtesy, he avoided, as one of his coadjutors said, vulgar abuse of individuals, unjust criticism, or narrow and personal ideas. He had that degree and kind of intelligence which enabled him to appreciate two principles of modern journalism—the application of social ethics to editorial conduct and the maintenance of a comprehensive spirit. As he used them, these were positive, not negative virtues.
Raymond’s contribution to journalism, then, was not the introduction of revolutionizing innovations in any department of the profession but a general improving and refining of its tone, a balancing of its parts, sensitizing it to discreet and cultivated popular taste. Taking "
The Times" as his model, he tried to combine in his paper the English standard of trustworthiness, stability, inclusiveness, and exclusiveness, with the energy and news initiative of the best American journalism; to preserve in it an integrity of motive and a decorum of conduct such as he possessed as a gentleman.
Mass markets, yellow journalism and muckrakers, 1890–1920
A muckraker is an American English term for a person who investigates and exposes issues of corruption that violate widely held values, such as political corruption, corporate crime, child labor, conditions in slums and prisons, unsanitary conditions in food processing plants (such as meat), fraudulent claims by manufacturers of patent medicines, labor racketeering, and similar topics. In British English however the term is applied to sensationalist scandal-mongering journalist, not driven by any social
The term muckraker is most usually associated in America with a group of American investigative reporters, novelists and critics in the Progressive Era from the 1890s to the 1920s. It also applies to post 1960 journalists who follow in the tradition of those from that period. See History of American newspapers for Muckrakers in the daily press.
Muckrakers have most often sought, in the past, to serve the public interest by uncovering crime, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in both the public and private sectors. In the early 1900s, muckrakers shed light on such issues by writing books and articles for popular magazines and newspapers such as "Cosmopolitan", "The Independent", "Collier's Weekly" and "McClure's". Some of the most famous of the early muckrakers are Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker.
An example of a contemporary muckraker work is Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" (1965) which led to reforms in automotive manufacturing in the United States. Nader's publication led to a stop in the production of the Chevrolet Corvair, one of the first rear-engine American cars. The discontinuation of the Corvair was controversial because many believed the innovative style could have been altered for safety and could have spurred the American automobile industry. The rise of muckraking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries corresponded with the advent of Progressivism yet, while temporally correlated, the two are not intrinsically linked.
History of term muckraker
President Theodore Roosevelt is attributed as the source of the term 'muckraker'. During a speech in 1906, he likened the muckrakers to the Man with the Muckrake, a character in John Bunyan's "
Pilgrim's Progress" (1678).
While Roosevelt apparently disliked what he saw as a certain lack of optimism of muckraking's practitioners:
…the Man with the Muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck-rake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor. His speech strongly advocated against the muckrakers:
There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful."
*Nellie Bly (1864–1922) "Ten Days in a Mad-House"
*Thomas W. Lawson (1857–1924) "Frenzied Finance" (1906) on Amalgamated Copper stock scandal
*Fremont Older (1856–1935) San Francisco corruption and the case of Tom Mooney
*Lincoln Steffens (1866–1936) "The Shame of the Cities" (1904)
*Charles Edward Russell (1860–1941)—investigated Beef Trust, Georgia's prison )
*Ida Minerva Tarbell (1857–1944) expose, "The History of the Standard Oil Company"
*Burton J. Hendrick (1870–1949)—"The Story of Life Insurance" May–November 1906 "McClure's" magazine
Westbrook Pegler(1894–1969)—exposed crime in labor unions in 1940s
I.F. Stone(1907–1989)—McCarthyism and Vietnam War, published newsletter, "I.F. Stone's Weekly"
*George Seldes (1890–1995)—"Freedom of the Press" (1935) and "Lords of the Press" (1938), blacklisted during the 1950s period of McCarthyism
*Casey Swint (1904–1999)—Weekly editor of "Atlanta Journal Constitution", wrote "Keys to the City" (non-fiction book about influence of political bosses on Atlanta politics). Early Civil Rights advocate.
*Wayne Barrett—investigative journalist, senior editor of the Village Voice; wrote on mystique and misdeeds in Rudy Giuliani's conduct as mayor of New York City, "Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11" (2006)
*Richard Behar—investigative journalist, two-time winner of the 'Jack Anderson Award'. Anderson himself once praised Behar as "one of the most dogged of our watchdogs"
Barbara Ehrenreich—journalist and author—"Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America"
*Juan Gonzalez (journalist)—investigative reporter, columnist in "New York Daily News"; authored book on Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush administration's handling of the aftermath of the
September 11, 2001 attacksin New York City and illnesses from Ground Zero dust: "Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse" (2004)
*Amy Goodman—broadcast journalist, host of Pacifica Network's program "Democracy Now!"
*John Howard Griffin (1920–1980)—white journalist who disguised himself as a black man to write about racial injustice in the south
Seymour Hersh—My Lai massacre, Israeli nuclear weapons program, Henry Kissinger, the Kennedys, 2003 invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib abuses
*Malcolm Johnson—exposed organized crime on the New York waterfront
*Kevin Keating—director and producer of "Giuliani Time", the 2006 documentary on the career of Rudy Giuliani
*Jonathan Kwitny (1941–1998)—wrote numerous investigative articles for the "The Wall Street Journal"
*Joshua Micah Marshall—writer and journalist, operates the muckraking blog TPM Muckraker, responsible for helping to break the 2006–2007 US Attorney firing scandal, the Duke Cunningham corruption case and others.
*Mark Crispin Miller—professor and writer; has written on 2000 and 2004 contested elections
Michael Moore—documentary filmmaker, director of " Roger & Me", " Bowling for Columbine", " Fahrenheit 911"
Ralph Nader—consumer rights advocate; "Unsafe at Any Speed" (1965), exposed unsafe automobile manufacturing
*Allan Nairn—Dili Massacre, US backing of Haitian death squad FRAPH
*Jack Newfield—muckraking columnist; wrote for "New York Post"; and wrote "The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania" [about Rudy Giuliani] (2003) and other titles
*Greg Palast—politics and elections issues, Exxon Valdez, corporate crime, corruption
John Pilger—award-winning war correspondent, film maker and author
Geraldo Rivera—exposed abuse of mentally retarded patients, led to reforms
Studs Terkel—Legendary Chicago writer, journalist, DJ, and historian
Hunter S. Thompson(1937–2005)—American journalist and author credited with the invention of gonzo journalism
*Gary Webb (1955–2004)—investigated Contra-crack cocaine connection, published as "Dark Alliance" (1999)
*Gary Weiss—exposed the Mob on
Wall Street, described by "Barron's" magazine as "an old-time gumshoe, with a soupçon of little-guy champion Jimmy Breslinand a dash of 1950s bad-boy comic Lenny Bruce"
Bob Woodwardand Carl Bernstein—breakthrough journalists for "Washington Post" on the Watergate scandal; authors of " All the President's Men", non-fiction account of the scandal Yellow journalism is a pejorative reference to journalism that features scandal-mongering, sensationalism, jingoism or other unethical or unprofessional practices by news media organizations or individual journalists.
The term originated during the circulation battles between Joseph Pulitzer's "New York World" and William Randolph Hearst's "New York Journal" from 1895 to about 1898, and can refer specifically to this period. Both papers were accused by critics of sensationalizing the news in order to drive up circulation, although the newspapers did serious reporting as well. The "New York Press" coined the term "Yellow Journalism" in early 1897 to describe the papers of Pulitzer and Hearst. The newspaper did not define the term, and in 1898 simply elaborated, "We called them Yellow because they are Yellow." 
Origins: Pulitzer v. HearstJoseph Pulitzer purchased the "World" in 1882 after making the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" the dominant daily in that city. The publisher had gotten his start editing a German-language publication in St. Louis, and saw a great untapped market in the nation's immigrant classes. Pulitzer strove to make "The World" an entertaining read, and filled his paper with pictures, games and contests that drew in readers, particularly those who used English as a second language. Crime stories filled many of the pages, with headlines like "Was He A Suicide?" and "Screaming for Mercy".  In addition, Pulitzer only charged readers two cents per issue but gave readers eight and sometimes 12 pages of information (the only other two-cent paper in the city never exceeded four pages). 
While there were many sensational stories in the "World", they were by no means the only pieces, or even the dominant ones. Pulitzer believed that newspapers were public institutions with a duty to improve society, and he put the "World" in the service of social reform. During a heat wave in 1883, "World" reporters went into the Manhattan's tenements, writing stories about the appalling living conditions of immigrants and the toll the heat took on the children. Stories headlined "How Babies Are Baked" and "Lines of Little Hearses" spurred reform and drove up the "World"'s circulation. 
Just two years after Pulitzer took it over, the "World" became the highest circulation newspaper in New York, aided in part by its strong ties to the Democratic Party.  Older publishers, envious of Pulitzer's success, began criticizing the "World", harping on its crime stories and stunts while ignoring its more serious reporting—trends which influenced the popular perception of yellow journalism, both then and now. Charles Dana, editor of the "New York Sun", attacked the "World" and said Pulitzer was "deficient in judgment and in staying power." 
Pulitzer's approach made an impression on William Randolph Hearst, a mining heir who acquired the "
San Francisco Examiner" from his father in 1887. Hearst read the "World" while studying at Harvard University and resolved to make the "Examiner" as bright as Pulitzer's paper.  . Under his leadership, the "Examiner" devoted 24 percent of its space to crime, presenting the stories as morality plays, and sprinkled adultery and "nudity" (by 19th century standards) on the front page.  A month after taking over the paper, the "Examiner" ran this headline about a hotel fire:
HUNGRY, FRANTIC FLAMES. They Leap Madly Upon the Splendid Pleasure Palace by the Bay of Monterey, Encircling Del Monte in Their Ravenous Embrace From Pinnacle to Foundation. Leaping Higher, Higher, Higher, With Desperate Desire. Running Madly Riotous Through Cornice, Archway and Facade. Rushing in Upon the Trembling Guests with Savage Fury. Appalled and Panic-Striken the Breathless Fugitives Gaze Upon the Scene of Terror. The Magnificent Hotel and Its Rich Adornments Now a Smoldering heap of Ashes. The "Examiner" Sends a Special Train to Monterey to Gather Full Details of the Terrible Disaster. Arrival of the Unfortunate Victims on the Morning's Train—A History of Hotel del Monte—The Plans for Rebuilding the Celebrated Hostelry—Particulars and Supposed Origin of the Fire.  Hearst could go overboard in his crime coverage; one of his early pieces, regarding a "band of murderers", attacked the police for forcing "Examiner" reporters to do their work for them. But while indulging in these stunts, the "Examiner" also increased its space for international news, and sent reporters out to uncover municipal corruption and inefficiency. In one celebrated story, "Examiner" reporter Winifred Black was admitted into a San Francisco hospital and discovered that indigent women were treated with "gross cruelty". The entire hospital staff was fired the morning the piece appeared. 
With the "Examiner"'s success established by the early 1890s, Hearst began shopping for a New York newspaper. Hearst purchased the "New York Journal" in 1895, a penny paper which Pulitzer's brother Albert had sold to a Cincinnati publisher the year before.
Metropolitan newspapers started going after department store advertising in the 1890s, and discovered the larger circulation base, the better. This drove Hearst; following Pulitzer's earlier strategy, he kept the "Journal"'s price at one cent (compared to The "World"s two cent price) while providing as much information as rival newspapers.  The approach worked, and as the "Journal"s circulation jumped to 150,000, Pulitzer cut his price to a penny, hoping to drive his young competitor (who was subsidized by his family's fortune) into bankruptcy. In a counterattack, Hearst raided the staff of the "World" in 1896. While most sources say that Hearst simply offered more money, Pulitzer—who had grown increasingly abusive to his employees—had become an extremely difficult man to work for, and many "World" employees were willing to jump for the sake of getting away from him. 
Although the competition between the "World" and the "Journal" was fierce, the papers were temperamentally alike. Both were Democratic, both were sympathetic to labor and immigrants (a sharp contrast to publishers like the "New York Tribune"'s Whitelaw Reid, who blamed their poverty on moral defects  ), and both invested enormous resources in their Sunday publications, which functioned like weekly magazines, going beyond the normal scope of daily journalism. 
Their Sunday entertainment features included the first color comic strip pages, and some theorize that the term yellow journalism originated there, while as noted above the New York Press left the term it invented undefined.
The Yellow Kid, a comic strip revolving around a bald child in a yellow nightshirt, became exceptionally popular when cartoonist Richard Outcault began drawing it in the "World" in early 1896. When Hearst predictably hired Outcault away, Pulitzer asked artist George Luks to continue the strip with his characters, giving the city two Yellow Kids.  The use of "yellow journalism" as a synonym for over-the-top sensationalism in the U.S. apparently started with more serious newspapers commenting on the excesses of "the Yellow Kid papers".
Pulitzer and Hearst are often credited (or blamed) for drawing the nation into the Spanish-American War with sensationalist stories or outright lying. In fact, the vast majority of Americans did not live in New York City, and the decision makers who did live there probably relied more on staid newspapers like the "Times", the "Sun" or the "Post". The most famous example of the exaggeration is the apocryphal story that artist Frederic Remington telegrammed Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba and "There will be no war." Hearst responded "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." The story (a version of which appears in the Hearst-inspired Orson Welles' film "
Citizen Kane") first appeared in the memoirs of reporter James Creelman in 1901, and there is no other source for it.
But Hearst was a war hawk after a rebellion broke out in Cuba in 1895. Stories of Cuban virtue and Spanish brutality soon dominated his front page. While the accounts were of dubious accuracy, the newspaper readers of the 19th century did not need, or necessarily want, his stories to be pure nonfiction. Historian Michael Robertson has said that "Newspaper reporters and readers of the 1890s were much less concerned with distinguishing among fact-based reporting, opinion and literature." 
Pulitzer's treatment in the "World" emphasizes horrible explosion Hearst's treatment was more effective and focused on the enemy who set the bomb—and offered a huge reward to readers. Pulitzer, though lacking Hearst's resources, kept the story on his front page. The yellow press covered the revolution extensively and often inaccurately, but conditions on Cuba were horrific enough. The island was in a terrible economic depression, and Spanish general Valeriano Weyler, sent to crush the rebellion, herded Cuban peasants into concentration camps and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Having clamored for a fight for two years, Hearst took credit for the conflict when it came: A week after the United States declared war on Spain, he ran "How do you like the Journal's war?" on his front page.  In fact, President William McKinley never read the "Journal", and newspapers like the "Tribune" and the "New York Evening Post", both staunchly Republican, demanded restraint. Moreover, journalism historians have noted that yellow journalism was largely confined to New York City, and that newspapers in the rest of the country did not follow their lead. The "Journal" and the "World" were not among the top ten sources of news in regional papers, and the stories simply did not make a splash outside Gotham.  War came because public opinion was sickened by the bloodshed, and because conservative leaders like McKinley realized that Spain had lost control of Cuba. These factors weighed more on the president's mind than the melodramas in the "New York Journal". 
Hearst sailed directly to Cuba, when the invasion began, as a war correspondent, providing sober and accurate accounts of the fighting.  Creelman later praised the work of the reporters for exposing the horrors of Spanish misrule, arguing, " no true history of the war … can be written without an acknowledgment that whatever of justice and freedom and progress was accomplished by the Spanish-American war was due to the enterprise and tenacity of yellow journalists, many of whom lie in unremembered graves." 
After the War
Hearst placed his newspapers at the service of the Democrats during the 1900 presidential election. He later campaigned for his party's presidential nomination, but lost much of his personal prestige when columnist
Ambrose Bierceand editor Arthur Brisbane published separate columns months apart that called for the assassination of McKinley. When McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, the Republican press went livid, accusing Hearst of driving Leon Czolgosz to the deed. Hearst did not know of Bierce's column and claimed to have pulled Brisbane's after it ran in a first edition, but the incident would haunt him for the rest of his life and all but destroyed his presidential ambitions. 
Pulitzer, haunted by his "yellow sins"  , returned the "World" to its crusading roots as the new century dawned. By the time of his death in 1911, the "World" was a widely-respected publication, and would remain a leading progressive paper until its demise in 1931.
In popular culture
In many movies, sitcoms and other works of fiction, reporters often use yellow journalism against the main character, which typically works to set up the reporter character as an antagonist. This is done so often that it is sometimes considered to be a cliché.
For instance in the
Spider-Manfranchise, publisher J. Jonah Jamesonspitefully and constantly smears the superhero in his "Daily Bugle" despite having his suspicions repeatedly proven wrong. Likewise, in the 1997 James Bond movie " Tomorrow Never Dies", an evil media magnate tries to start a war between Great Britain and China via sensationalized news stories; in the movie, the villain even alludes to Hearst's role in the Spanish-American War, using the apocryphal quote "You provide the pictures and I'll provide the war." (This quotation is also in Orson Welles' classic film " Citizen Kane".) In Thomas Harris' novel " Red Dragon", from the Hannibal Lecter series, a sleazy yellow journalist named Freddy Lounds, who writes for the "National Tattler" tabloid, is tortured and set aflame for penning a negative article about serial killer Francis Dolarhyde.
In the movie "
Bob Roberts", Senator Roberts characterises media investigations into his business dealings (and particularly the links between his anti-drugs charity and CIA drug trafficking) as "yellow journalism".
The term has largely fallen into disuse as the media world has grown both in scope and in complexity.
The gentler pejorative "infotainment" was coined more recently to refer to generally inoffensive news programming that shuns serious issues, but blends "soft" journalism and entertainment rather than emphasizing more important news values. When infotainment involves celebrity sex scandals, dramatic (or dramatized) "true crime" stories and similar trivia, it borders on the tricks of old-fashioned yellow journalism.
Corporate media is another recent pejorative, when applied to news conglomerates whose business interests critics see as counter to the public interest. For example, such media may avoid incisive reporting on influential corporations or limit public information about proposed government regulation of media industries. Collusion between political, business and media worlds sometimes brings allegations of illegal or unethical practices ranging from fraud to antitrust violations.
While bland infotainment and unethical corporate media practices may be considered "yellow" in the sense of "cowardly", the term yellow journalism traditionally refers to news organizations for whom some combination of sensationalism, profiteering, propaganda, journalistic bias or jingoism takes dominance over factual reporting and the profession's public trust. If one may construe gradations of bias, then Yellow journalism may be considered less subtle and coarser in content and execution than media bias, though bias is indeed evident. Some claim that a Fox News internal memo uncovered in late 2006 reveals evidence of that organization's bias in favor of the Republican Party.
A current perceived rift is therefore more akin to a segmentation according to definitions of "news." The public still attaches to "news" the connotations of "journalism." Because of these developments, the common definition of "news" no longer belongs in the domain of journalists, but to wider television and internet media outlets over a vast spectrum of target issues and audiences. The proliferation of web media has in a certain sense re-validated journalistic ethics: reports that conform best tend to be treated as more authoritative. "Pseudo-news" organizations draw general audiences, who tend to fall into market demographics that each favor particular blends of issues-based entertainment along with their "news."
Chains and syndicates, 1920–1960
In part to aid in his political ambitions, Hearst opened newspapers in other cities, among them Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. By the mid-1920s he had a nation-wide string of 28 newspapers, among them the "
Los Angeles Examiner", the " Boston American", the " Chicago Examiner", the " Detroit Times", the " Seattle Post-Intelligencer" and the " Washington Times" and " Washington Herald" and his flagship the San Francisco Examiner. In 1924 he opened the " New York Daily Mirror", a racy tabloidfrankly imitating the " New York Daily News". Among his other holdings were the magazines Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazaar; two news services, Universal Newsand International News Service; King Features Syndicate; and a film company, Cosmopolitan Productions, as well as real estate. Hearst used his influence to help Franklin D. Rooseveltwin the 1932 Democratic nomination. However he broke with Roosevelt in 1935 because Roosevelt did not want to fund the veterans' bonus. After that the Hearst chain became the bitter enemy of the New Deal. The other major chains likewise were hostile, and in 1936 Roosevelt had the support of only 10% of the nation's newspapers (by circulation).
Competition: Television and Internet, 1970–2008
Rapid decline in circulation
The circulation of the nation’s daily newspapers plunged during 2006, in one of the sharpest declines in recent history. The slide continues a decades-long trend and adds to the woes of a mature industry already struggling with layoffs and facing the potential sale of some of its flagships. In addition newsstand sales of magazines fell more than 4 percent, to about 48.7 million copies. Among domestic newsweeklies, Time magazine reported the biggest drop. Analysts pointed to the increased use of the Internet, noting that more people in 2006 read the "New York Times" online than on paper. Newspaper readership goes up with education, and education levels are rising. That favorable trend is offset by the choice of people in each age group to read fewer papers. [ Katharine Q. Seelye, "Newspaper Circulation Falls Sharply", "New York Times" October 31, 2006. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/31/business/media/31paper.html?_r=1&ref=business&oref=slogin online] and Journalism.org "The State of the News Media 2004" (2005) online at [http://www.stateofthenewsmedia.org/narrative_newspapers_audience.asp?cat=3&media=2] ]
After 1950 newspaper readership grew slower than the population. After 1990 the number of readers started to decline. The number of papers also declines, especially as afternoon papers collapsed in the face of television news. However sales of advertising remain strong and profits are still high. In 2002, newspapers reported advertising revenues of $44 billion. According to Morton Research, a market analysis firm, in 2003, the 13 major publicly traded newspaper companies earned an average pretax profit margin of 19 percent. [ journalism.org (2005)]
panish and Asian language newspapers
The Latino Print Network estimated the combined circulation of all Hispanic newspapers in the United States at 16.2 million in 2003. Mainstream (English) daily newspapers owned 46 Hispanic publications—nearly all of them weeklies—that have a combined circulation of 2.9 million. From 1990 to 2000, the number of Hispanic newspapers alone nearly doubled from 355 to 652
In 1976 the "Miami Herald" started "El Herald", a one-page Spanish insert that was reborn in 1987 as "El Nuevo Herald", a daily supplement to the "Miami Herald". "El Nuevo Herald" became independent of the 'Herald" in 1998 and by 2003 had an average daily circulation of 90,300. In 1981, the Gannett chain entered daily Spanish publishing when it bought "
El Diario/La Prensa", a 52,000-circulation New York City tabloid that is the nation's oldest Spanish daily.
The Tribune Co., Belo Corp. and
Knight Ridderlaunched daily Spanish-language papers in 2003. Hispanic-oriented newspapers and magazines generated $1.3 billion in revenue in 2002. By comparison, the operating revenue that year for Knight Ridder's 32 papers was $2.8 billion. Readership remains small, however. New York City already had two Spanish-language dailies with a combined circulation of about 100,000, as well as papers from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and a score of weeklies. But Louis Sito said their "circulation levels were very, very minimal when compared to the population size." (New York, population 8 million, is 27 percent Hispanic; the Bronx, 1.3 million, is 48 percent Hispanic.) Sito urged "Newsday" publisher Raymond A. Jansen to launch a daily instead of a weekly, and "Hoy" premiered on November 16, 1998, with a circulation of 25,000. By 2003, "Hoy" sold 91,000 copies a day in the New York metro area. The Dallas-Fort Worth market contains 1.3 million Latinos—22 percent of the population and growing (estimated to reach 38 percent by 2006). The "Dallas Morning News" developed "Al Día" to entice that audience. The Monday-through-Saturday paper debuted in September 2003 with a staff of 50, an initial circulation of 40,000 and a newsstand price of 25 cents. "Diario La Estrella" began in 1994 as a dual-language insert of the "Fort Worth Star-Telegram" and first grew into an all-Spanish stand-alone paper with a twice-weekly total circulation of 75,000 copies distributed free via newsstands and selective home delivery.
With the notable exception of "Viet Mercury", a five-year-old, 35,000-circulation weekly Vietnamese-language paper published by Knight Ridder's "
San Jose Mercury News", U.S. media companies have generally eschewed the Asian market even though daily papers in Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese are thriving in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities. The Mandarin-language "World Journal", which distributes from San Francisco to Toronto and states a circulation (unaudited) of 350,000. "World Journal"; its biggest competitor, "Sing Tao" (181,000 circulation unaudited); and "Korea Times" (254,000, also unaudited) are owned by international media giants based in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Seoul, respectively.
[Tim Porter, "Dismantling the Language Barrier" "American Journalism Review" October/November 2003 [http://spanish.about.com/b/a/031319.htm online] ]
: this article copies from [http://www.bartleby.com/225/index.html#7 The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I. Colonial Newspapers and Magazines, 1704–1775 by Elizabeth Christine Cook (1917)] and from ibid. : [http://www.bartleby.com/226/index.html#12 Newspapers, 1775–1860 by Frank W. Scott] (1917). This material is copyright-expired and is in the [http://www.bromsun.com/practices/copyright-portfolio-development/flowchart.htm public domain]
General: scholarly secondary sources
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* Brennen, Bonnie and Hanno Hardt, eds. "Picturing the Past: Media, History and Photography." (1999)
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* Emery, Michael, Edwin Emery, and Nancy L. Roberts. "The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media" 9th ed. (1999.), standard textbook; best place to start.
* Kotler, Johathan and Miles Beller. "American Datelines: Major News Stories from Colonial Times to the Present." (2003)
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* Miller, Sally M. The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook. (1987)
* Mott, Frank Luther. "American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States Through 250 Years, 1690–1940" (1941). major reference source and interpretive history.
* Nord, David Paul. "Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers." (2001)
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Colonial Origins, Revolution, New Nation
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Penny Press, Telegraph and Party Politics
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* editor of "New York Tribune" (1840–1872)
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* Williams Harold A. "The Baltimore Sun 1837–1987". (1987)
* Andrews, J. Cutler. "The North Reports the Civil War" (1955), the definitive study
* Andrews, J. Cutler. "The South Reports the Civil War" (1970) the definitive study
* Crozier, Emmet. "Yankee Reporters 1861–1865" (1956)
* Fermer Douglas. "James Gordon Bennett and the New York Herald: A Study of Editorial Opinion in the Civil War Era 1854–1867" (1986)
* Merrill Walter M. "Against Wind and Tide: A Biography of William Lloyd Garrison" (1963)
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Copperheadnewspaper; online at JSTOR
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Yellow Journalism & Muckrakers: 1890–1920
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* Campbell, W. Joseph. "Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies" (2003), focus on 1898
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20th Century: 1920–present
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* [http://www.neh.gov/projects/usnp.html United States Newspaper Program - created to locate, catalog, and preserve American newspapers on microfilm.]
* [http://www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica/ National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) lists all papers; many online for 1900–1910]
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