The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

Synopsis

American newspapers redefined journalism after the Civil War by breaking away from the editorial and financial control of the Democratic and Republican parties. Smythe chronicles the rise of the New Journalism, where pegging newspaper sales to market forces was the cost of editorial independence. Successful papers in post-bellum America thrived by catering to a mass audience, which increased their circulations and raised their advertising revenues. Still active politically, independent editors now sought to influence their readers' opinions themselves rather than serve as conduits for the party line.

Excerpt

The transformation of the American daily newspaper in the thirty-five years from 1865 to 1900 was so profound that even casual observers noticed it. The purpose of this book is to describe some of those changes and to explain why they occurred. You will note a focus on the organization of the newspaper as well as on its means of support, on politics and ethics related to the press, on changes in society and business that directly impacted on the press, and on those men—in nearly every case they were men—who led in changing the press. Those editors and publishers were early adopters of new technologies and innovators in news who took advantage of social and economic changes in America. They emphasized current news, sometimes sensational content, packaged it differently, and reached millions of readers.

No history can be complete. The title, The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900, reveals that the book is not about the black press, women in journalism, the religious press, the ethnic press, or even magazines. It may touch on some of those subjects in passing, but they are not its focus. It is, rather, a book about the transformation of mainstream journalism, including the country press, into a commercial medium increasingly independent of the parties to which it was joined—as with an umbilical cord. The press of 1865 at the end of the Civil War was largely a political press. It provided more news than had the antebellum press, but it was overwhelmingly interested in politics and parties. Its content—editorial, commentary, and news—reflected that interest. As that press changed during the thirty-five years covered by this book, so too did the country and its cities change. There were new states and new issues confronting the people and their leaders. Cities grew dramatically, and the source of immigration shifted from western Europe to eastern and southern Europe, primarily Russia and Italy.

As with other writers in this series, I have relied as much as possible upon primary and contemporary sources rather than on historians. Government studies, correspondence, autobiographies, articles, essays, and speeches from the

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