The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

By Ted Curtis Smythe | Go to book overview

7

The Commercial Press and New Technologies, 1886-1895

The ten years from 1886 to 1895 were important in the spread of the New Journalism beyond the Midwest. The New York World was the exemplar on the East Coast, supported by the Boston Globe, while the San Francisco Examiner became the innovator on the West Coast. It was, however, the development of several new technologies that enabled enterprising newspapers to cut production costs, set more news copy in less time, speed up the production of illustrations, and use price cuts as a competitive weapon. While all metropolitan publishers took advantage of these technologies, they were particularly useful to the New Journalists, the publishers who sought to reach the masses with entertaining, low cost, and visually stimulating newspapers. Investors responded to the needs of the publishers for bigger and faster machines.

Five changes in technology had a profound influence. They were the web-fed rotary press, electrically run machinery, wood-based white paper, typesetting machines, and halftone engraving. Competent business managers were up-to-date on the new technologies that saved money or produced copies faster.

Manufacturers of printing technology were happy to see the increase in the number of newspapers and the circulations of several newspapers reach into the hundreds of thousands, for there was little need for the manufacturer to develop faster, more expensive presses unless there was a demand for such machines. Pulitzer recognized this incentive when he asked the Hoe Company to make two new, high-capacity, high-speed presses. He told the company that the investment in making the machines would put Hoe in the leadership of all press manufacturers, 1 and he was correct. The new presses enabled papers to expand production, extend deadlines, and, in a few cases, improve printing quality. In any case, larger editions were run off at faster speeds, which enabled editors to meet earlier deadlines.

Some inventions were not directed specifically at the newspaper, yet their development made production improvements possible. The harnessing of electricity was one of those inventions, and it had numerous effects on the press.

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