Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis

Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis

Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis

Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis

Synopsis

Using editorials published in 196 newspapers before the outbreak of the Civil War, Donald E. Reynolds shows the evolution of the editors' viewpoints and explains how editors helped influence the traditionally conservative and nationalistic South to revolt and secede.

Excerpt

If a newspaper of today were to publish its product in the makeup of a typical Southern paper of 1860, it would probably plunge into bankruptcy. Journals published in the period before the Civil War lacked the visual appeal necessary to attract sophisticated twentieth-century readers. They were skimpy in size, and they carried no large headlines, photographs, color, comic strips, or even cartoons. Editors usually relegated news and editorials to inside pages, devoting the front page to drab advertisements.

Unappealing as they are to the modern eye, the newspapers of 1860 were the most popular form of literature available to Southerners -- or to all Americans, for that matter. Many read nothing else. The Director of the Census of 1860 said that newspapers and periodicals "furnish nearly the whole of the reading which the greater number, whether from inclination or necessity, permit themselves to enjoy." Newspapers constituted the only true mass news medium available to Southerners in 1860. In the absence of radio, television, and weekly news magazines to supplement their knowledge of current events and to give them a better understanding of people in other regions of the country, Southerners learned from newspapers virtually everything they knew of events outside their own communities. Thus, the way in which news was selected and interpreted exerted a tremendous influence in molding the viewpoints of Southerners on many subjects.

On the eve of the Civil War, Southern newspapers were . . .

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