The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook

By Sally M. Miller | Go to book overview
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The Norwegian-American Press


Journalists are at times subjects of admiration and trust. At other times they may carry the onus of suspicion and disdain. Since they deal mainly with affairs of the moment--the news, as it is called--they become identified with practical and immediate concerns. Many newspaper folk, gifted with literary talent and with more than adequate technical equipment, have succeeded in presenting the news with keen perception and effectiveness. Others have garbled the human record, whether by design or ignorance, and have pursued their special interests too aggressively. Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher of the nineteenth century, scorned this kind of news reporting and editorializing when he relegated journalism to "the lowest depth to which people can sink before God." On the other hand, he respected an honest historical approach. To repeat his sagacious words, "Life must be lived forwards, but it can only be understood backwards."1

Norwegian immigrants found America to be a land of newspapers. They were aware that Norway had already introduced freedom of the press, but the sheer magnitude of the American institution impressed them and inspired them to establish their own weekly journals, published in their own language. Having imbibed of the democratic spirit in the home country, they cherished the opportunity for expression in the new land. The resulting Norwegian-American press supplied a political medium as well as a cultural tie for the 800,000 who eventually emigrated from Norway. Politics and other public affairs came to be reflected in the news reports. Suggestions for reform commonly appeared with other commentary in the editorial columns. Hopes for the success of the great democratic experiment in the New World never faded, but the road to glory was rough. In compensation, Norwegian editors and their immigrant readers usually found comfort in the knowledge that, in the long run, their own future as well as that of America would be brighter.

Norwegian-American newspaper publishers and editors, many of them graduates of the University of Christiania (now Oslo) and of Norway's technical schools, generally enjoyed the respect and trust of their readers. They were well educated in the Western tradition. Some of them established long-lasting weekly


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