Academic journal article Journalism History

Freedom from Advertising: E. W. Scripps's Chicago Experiment

Academic journal article Journalism History

Freedom from Advertising: E. W. Scripps's Chicago Experiment

Article excerpt

Stoltzfus, Duane C.S. Freedom from Advertising: E. W. Scripps's Chicago Experiment. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007. 187 pp. $40.

The Day Book was a gritty little newspaper in Chicago that debated in 1910. Newspaper owner E.W. Scripps hoped to change newspaper history by publishing a newspaper without advertising. If the paper could have reached 30,000 subscribers, it would have turned a profit. If The Day Book experiment had worked, Scripps would have freed the press from the control of the corporations which advertised in other newspapers.

The experiment failed after six years, concludes historian Duane C.S. Stoltzfus, because World War I led to higher newsprint cost, Scripps lost interest, and Chicago was a market with too much newspaper competition for an ad-free newspaper to survive. As Stoltzfus points out, the writing in The Day Book rarely achieved even a level of reporting competence. If not for the presence of Carl Sandburg on the newspaper staff, it could seemingly disappear into newsprint history.

Out of this journalistic footnote, Stoltzfus has related a history worthy of our consideration. His book on the experiment, Freedom from Advertising, begins by providing insight into Scripps and the newspaper world at the turn of the twentieth century. He gives the reader enough of the factual information about The Day Book to establish context without burdening the progress of the book with insignificant details on the newspaper.

Then, Stoltzfus takes us into the streets of Chicago, where rival newspapers hire thugs to fight over street corner vendors. The author places the reader into The Day Book stories of unions fighting corporations and workers struggling to earn a living on the floors of the department chains dominating the retail business in Chicago. The Day Book writers inexpertly wrote the articles, but it was the only newspaper telling the story of the underclass in Chicago. …

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