Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers

By Winfield, Betty Houchin | Journalism History, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers


Winfield, Betty Houchin, Journalism History


Nord, David Paul. Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001. 293 pp. $29.95.

In twelve beautifully written essays, all previously published, David Paul Nord examines journalism as a vital component of communities. By nature, journalism is public; publication means to make public, he explains. He points out that communities are built, maintained, and wrecked in communication. Yet the role that journalism played in American society has not been contained in the purely public realm. He critically notes that the technical nature of the printing press clearly favored and centralized the one-way point to mass dissemination. Too, the commercialism of the penny press overshadowed the connection between newspapers and associations that Alexis de Tocqueville recounted.

Nord notes that in static communities the most potent forms of communication are traditions-religion, myth, ritual, and habit-which helped to shape American society. In several essays he demonstrates the power of the religious roots to journalism. Yet, when community building is active, as it has been during much of American history, communication becomes more conscious, more formal, more organized. He explains how.

Nord's public communities are primarily active with religious elites, political arenas, reform associations, ethnic communities, cultural interest groups, urban communities, reform efforts, and nation-building groups. To tie this wide-ranging set of essays together, he approaches journalism from two parts to explain the public role of journalism. Deeply rooted in the New England seventeenth-century religious culture, the producers, the institutions, and the content of journalism form one part. The second part concerns the consumers, the readers.

As an example of the first part, New England journalism, which was an extension of British culture, spawned the characteristics of American news. The publication of unusual occurrences in almanacs and sermons were what Nord calls reportorial empiricism and authoritative interpretation. The subject matter and the method of reporting became contingent upon the social contexts of the time and place. Such news in the beginning was religious and public as well as directly accessible to individual people. Yet, by the early eighteenth century news was no longer teleological (divine, according to God's perfect plan) but rather two-fold: the early newspapers distinguished between what was important (official public actions) and what was interesting (unusual public occurrences).

In another essay, he adds to the concept of the public role of journalism with a new interpretation of the John Peter Zenger case. Nord argues that the case was religious in nature over the disputation on truth and how truth is revealed to man. The individual had the right only to serve the truth because men were free to serve God.

In each of his separate essays, Nord gives a model of not only deeply developed ideas but a careful use of the primary media sources complemented by the latest historical studies with many explanations in his endnotes. More than almost anyone in the field, Nord intersects journalism and history, the news and the interpretation. He points out that historians look back for origins while journalists look ahead for outcomes. In contrast, historians begin at the beginning, and journalists begin at the end.

To combine both fields, Nord's third essay begins in the historical middle with the early national period newspapers. To be an American was to participate in the revolutionary dialogue begun by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The early Republic newspapers played an important role by amplifying the hostilities and intensifying the state crises; by doing so publicly, they made the dialogue of nation-being possible.

In another essay, Nord argues that the 1830s marked a lush first flowering of democratic journalism in America-associational, participatory journalism much as de Tocqueville had heralded in 1831-32 but with the abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.