Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History: 1995 Annual

By Michael Harris ; Tom O'Malley | Go to book overview

public. Radio alone did not lead to the enactment of these programs. Other factors, such as the emergence of a discrete culture of consumption during the interwar period and the aggressive promotional policies of the ICMA, played a critical part in the construction of salesmanship in newspaper home delivery. And not all managers believed radio was undermining their profession -- some were ambiguous as to the ramifications of broadcasting, others believed that the two media could peacefully coexist. But many felt radio posed a serious threat, and this shared conviction provided a strong impetus for change.

By the latter part of the decade, the unbending fiscal logic of juvenile labor would convince circulation managers of the necessity of elevating schoolchildren to a position of prominence in the industry. In contrast to other contemporary trends that faded away when the economy recovered, carrier training programs left a lasting imprint on newspaper circulation. Newspaper boys would continue to market subscriptions long after prosperity returned and publishers recouped revenues lost in the wake of Black Tuesday. Motivated by the need to address intermedia competition during the Depression, circulation managers laid the groundwork for a unique, enduring alliance between newspapers and middle-class childhood in the United States.


NOTES
1
Boys had carried the news to readers since the dawn of printing in America, but papers did not begin to systematically train juveniles to market subscriptions until the Depression years. This training distinguishes twentieth- century route service from earlier forms of delivery work. For overviews of children in newspaper distribution see Alfred McClung Lee, The Daily Newspaper in America: The Evolution of a Social Instrument ( New York: Macmillan Company, 1937), 287-300; William J. Thorn and Mary Pat Pfeil, Newspaper Circulation: Marketing the News ( New York: Longman, 1987), 35-54 and David E. Whisnant , "Selling the Gospel News, or: The Strange Career of Jimmy Brown the Newsboy," Journal of Social History 5 (Spring 1972): 269-309.

Any discussion of carrier sales training must begin with the reports, talks, papers and annual proceedings generated by the ICMA. Founded in 1898 as the National Association Managers of Newspaper Circulation, the association served as the sole professional organization for circulation managers for most of this century. During the early to mid-1930s it had approximately eight hundred members in the United States and Canada. The ICMA was merged out of existence in 1992 when it, and six other organizations, formed the Newspaper Association of America. A brief review of the ICMA's history is provided in ICMA Update ( June 1992): 1.

2
On the role of publishers in the debate see Edwin Emery, History of the American Newspaper Publishers' Association ( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1950) and George E. Lott, Jr., "The Press-Radio War of the 1930s," Journal of Broadcasting XIV. 3 (Summer 1970).

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