Book Reviews -- the Sun Shines for All: Journalism and Ideology in the Life of Charles Dana by Janet Steele

Article excerpt

Steele, Janet. The Sun Shines for All: Journalism and Ideology in the Life of Charles Dana. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993. 212 pp. $29.95.

One of the chief complaints about the conventional telling of journalism history is that it inappropriately obscures the contributions of journalists who were significant in their era. Charles Anderson Dana is a perfect example of that process.

Too often the history of journalism seems to move directly from the innovations of James Gordon Bennett and Horace Greeley to those of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst fifty years later with a short stop at the Civil War. Dana edited the New York Sun from 1868 until the 1890s. Under his leadership, the Sun had the largest circulation of any newspaper in New York for about fifteen years. Moreover, Dana links Greeley, for whom he worked on the New York Tribune, with Pulitzer, who worked for Dana on the Sun. Yet, Dana has been generally ignored by historians.

This well-written, well-documented intellectual biography by Janet Steele, an assistant professor of rhetoric and communication at the University of Virginia, should help redeem Dana's position in journalism history. Although she virtually ignores his private life, Steele has synthesized an impressive array of original letters, newspapers and secondary sources to build a sustained account of Dana's activities of journalism. She also attempts to link Dana's activities to larger intellectual and social concerns of the period.

Steele's portrait of Dana demonstrates the difficulties in drawing generalizations about journalists in the second half of the nineteenth century. For example, although Dana trumpeted his political independence--proclaiming that he would "belong to no party and wear the livery of no faction"--he apparently saw nothing wrong with supping at the trough of patronage. …