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Chapter 8 Newspapers and the Rise of Modern Journalism

Mass Media

Haleigh Kleine

on 7 November 2012

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Transcript of Chapter 8 Newspapers and the Rise of Modern Journalism

Newspapers & Modern Journalism Chapter 8 Despite the importance of newspapers in daily life, in today’s digital age, the industry’s is losing both papers and readers at an alarming rate. As chronicles of daily life, newspapers both inform and entertain. The first newspaper produced in North America was Publik Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestik, published on September 25, 1690, by Boston printer Benjamin Harris. The newspaper was banned after one issue because both British ruler and local ministers were offended by a report that the King of France had an affair with his son’s wife. In 1704, the first regularly published newspaper appeared in the American colonies-the Boston News-Letter, published by John Campbell. The Courant established a tradition of running stories that interested ordinary readers rather than printing articles that appealed primarily to business and colonial leaders. The commercial press, on the other hand, served the leaders of commerce, who were interested in economic issues. Political papers, known as the partisan press, generally pushed the plan of the particular political group that subsidized the paper. The partisan press gave us the editorial pages, and the early commercial press was the forerunner of the business section in modern papers. From the early 1700s to the early 1800s, even the largest of these papers rarely reached a circulation of 1,500. Readership was primarily confined to educated or wealthy men who controlled local politics and commerce. By the 1830, however, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the middle class had spurred the growth of literacy and set the stage for a more popular and inclusive press. The Industrial Revolution, however, spawned the conversion from expensive handmade to inexpensive machine-made paper; and when the cheaper paper combined with increased literacy, penny papers soon began competing with conventional sex-cent papers. By the late 1820s, the average newspaper cost 6 cents a copy and was sold not through the street sales but through yearly subscriptions priced at 10 to 12 dollars. In the tradition of today’s tabloids, the Sun fabricated stories, including the famous moon hoax, which reported “scientific” evidence of life on the moon. The Sun’s success initiated a wave of penny papers that favored human-interest stories: news accounts that focus on the daily trials and triumphs of the human condition, often featuring ordinary individuals facing extraordinary challenges. Within six months, the Sun’s lower price had generated a circulation of 8, 000, twice that of its nearest competitor. The penny papers were innovative; for example, they were the first to assign reporters to cover crime. Wire services began as commercial organizations that relayed news stories and information around the country and the world using telegraph lines and, later, radio waves and digital transmission. In 1848, six New York newspapers formed a cooperative arrangement and founded the Associated Press (AP), the first major news wire service. The rise of competitive dailies and the penny press triggered the next significant period in American journalism. Labeled the era of yellow journalism, this late 1800s development emphasized profitable papers that carried exciting human-interest stories, crime news, large headlines, and more readable copy. This period is generally regarded as the age of sensationalism, the direct forerunner of today’s tabloid papers, reality TV, and TV magazine shows like Access Hollywood. The era of yellow journalism featured two major characteristics; first were the overly dramatic-or sensational-stories about crime, celebrities, disasters, scandals, and intrigue; the second, and sometimes forgotten, legacy is that the yellow press provided the roots of investigative journalism: news reports that hunted out and exposed corruption, particularly in business and government. After a brief venture into St. Louis politics, Joseph Pulitzer, a Jewish-Hungarian immigrant, began his career in newspaper publishing in the early 1870s as part owner of the St. Louis Post. By 1887, the World's Sunday circulation had soared to more than 250,000, the largest in the world. Pulitzer created a lasting legacy by leaving $2 million to establish the graduate school of journalism at Columbia University in 1912. In 1917, part of Pulitzer’s Columbia endowment launched the Pulitzer Prizes, the prestigious awards given each year for achievements in journalism, literature, drama, and music. http://www.pulitzer.org/ Eight years later, however, the paper faced its fiercest competition when William Randolph Hearst bought the New York Journal. Hearst is remembered as an unscrupulous publisher who once hired gangsters to distribute his newspapers. By the 1930s, Hearsts’s holdings included more than 40 daily and Sunday papers, 13 magazines (including Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan), 8 radio stations, and 2 film companies. Two distinct types of journalism were competing for readers: the penny papers and the yellow press focused on a story-driven model, dramatizing important events; the six-cent papers emphasized "the facts, an approach that appeared to package information more impartially. With the Hearst and Pulitzer papers capturing the bulk of working and middle class readers, managers at the Times at first decided to associate their reporting with more affluent readers and high social status. The ideal of an impartial, or purely informational, news model was reinvented by Adolph Ochs, who bought the New York Times in 1896. Early in the 20th c., with reporters adopting a more “scientific” attitude to news-and-fact gathering, the ideal of objectivity began to anchor journalism. In objective journalism, which distinguishes factual reports from opinion columns, modern reporters strive to maintain a neutral attitude toward the issue or event they cover. The writing and representation of this kind of reporting is often designated as the inverted-pyramid style. Civil War correspondents developed this style by imitating the terse, compact press releases that came from President Lincoln’s secretary or war, Edwin M. Stanton. They answer who, what, where, when (and less frequently, why or how) questions at the top of the story and then narrow down to less significant details. The result was the rise of interpretive journalism, which tries to explain key issues or events and place them in a broader historical or social context. With the world becoming more complex in the modern age, some papers began to re-explore the analytical function of news. Editor and columnist Walter Lippmann insisted that the press should do more. He ranked three press responsibilities: (1) “to make a current record”; (2) “to make a running analysis of it”; and (3) “on the basis of both, to suggest plans.” With the rise of radio in the 1930s, the newspaper industry became increasingly annoyed by broadcasters who took their news directly from papers and wire services; so a major battle between radio journalism and the established power of print began. A number of reporters decided to rethink the framework of conventional journalism and improved the older approach by using a technique called advocacy journalism- in which the reporter actively promotes a particular cause or viewpoint. Precision journalism, another technique, attempted to push news more in the direction of science. Precision journalists argued that only by applying rigorous social science methods, such as using poll surveys and questionnaires, could they achieve a valid portrait of social reality. Literary journalism-sometimes dubbed new journalism- adapted fictional storytelling techniques to nonfictional material and in-depth reporting. In the United States, literary journalism’s roots are evident in such novelists as Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, and Theodore Dreiser, all of whom started out as reporters in the 19th century If Adolph Ochs and the New York Times planted the seeds of modern journalism in the late 1890s, a postmodern brand of journalism arose from 2 developments in the early 1980s. First, the Columbus Dispatch in 1890 became the first paper to go online. Today, nearly all U.S. papers are offering some kind of computerized news service. Second, the arrival of the colorful USA Today in 1982 radically changed the look of most major U.S. dailies. This new paper incorporated features closely associated with postmodern forms, including an emphasis on visual style over substantive news or analysis and the use of brief news items that appealed to readers’ short attention spans. Now the most widely circulated paper in the nation, USA Today represents the only successful launch of a new major U.S. daily newspaper in the last several decades. Today, even the writing style of USA Today news mimics TV news by casting many of its reports in the immediacy of the present tense rather than the past tense. USA Today was the first paper to openly acknowledge television's central role in mass culture: The paper designed its distribution boxes to look like color TV sets. Writing for Rolling Stone in March 1992, media critic John Katz argued that the authority of modern newspapers suffered in the wake of a variety of “news news” forms that combined immediacy, information, entertainment, persuasion, and analysis. Today, a fundamental tension exists between print and electronic conceptions of news. With news-reading habits among young people in decline, TV magazine programs, Internet sites, talk shows, sitcoms, movies, and popular music are sparking public conversation more often than are traditional newspapers. Smaller non-daily papers tend to promote social and economic harmony in their communities. Besides providing community calendars and meeting notices, non-daily papers focus on consensus-oriented journalism, carrying articles on local schools, social events, town government, property crimes, and zoning issues. In contrast, national and metro dailies practice conflict-oriented journalism, in which front-page news is often defined primarily as events, issues, or experiences that deviate from social norms. Under this news orientation, journalists see their role not merely as neutral fact-gatherers but as observers who monitor their city’s institutions and problems. They often maintain an adversarial relationship with local politicians and public officials. These papers offer competing perspectives on such issues as education, government, poverty, crime, and the economy. Most major daily papers devote 1/2 to 2/3 of their pages to advertisements. The space left over after ads are placed is a place called the newshole, which accounts for the remaining 35 to 50% of the content of daily newspapers-everything from front-page news reports to horoscopes and advice columns. Newspaper chains are companies that own several papers throughout the country. In total, there are about 85 daily newspapers, including Gannett News Service which is the largest newspaper publisher and owns USA Today. The rise of blogs in the late 1990s and early 2000s brought amateurs into the realm of professional journalism. Some newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, even hired journalists to blog exclusively for their Web sites.
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