Academic journal article Journalism History

Journalism 1914

Academic journal article Journalism History

Journalism 1914

Article excerpt

One hundred years ago, the outbreak of World War I changed the world. It is regarded as "the great seminal catastrophe" of the twentieth century.1 As World War II followed World War I only two decades later, Winston Churchill called the first half of the twentieth century the Second Thirty Years War.2 The wartime years clearly overshadowed the view on the decades before the outbreak of the Great War in terms of the history of democracy and also the history of journalism.3 The history of German journalism was therefore written as partisan and lacking modern elements until the middle of the twentieth century.4 This is understandable, due to the fact that the Nazi regime made the German media of that time a means of propaganda and gained the economic control over 80 percent of the German dailies by the end of World War II.3 But the (hi)story of continuity from the late German Kaiserreich to Hitler, especially in terms of media landscape, modernity, and journalism, will be deconstructed here.

On the basis of a systematic content analysis of journalistic handbooks and newspapers, this article reveals the state of modernity in German journalism between 1900 and 1914. This is not intended to relativize the German tradition of press control and partisanship in the media sector until the middle of the twentieth century but to give us a clearer view on the difficult process of modernization of the public sphere around 1900 on both sides of the Atlantic.

For John Nerone, the potential of deconstruction is one of the major contributions of journalism history to journalism studies/' Looking back into the evolving system of journalism a hundred years ago gives us insights into the core elements of journalism for what we call the "century of journalism."7 And this research on the emergence of modern journalism can be part of how "nineteenth-century journalism might just save twenty-first-century newspapers."8 At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Daniel C. Hallin observes "the re-emergence of partisan media in the United States."9 But before we abandon "objectivity" and move forward, "we would be wise to understand the history and structure of journalism's most celebrated and least understood practice."10 This article tries to contribute to this goal by adding an international perspective. When searching for future solutions to the actual crisis of journalism, we might look back in history and also abroad.

The backwardness of German journalism until the twentieth century is, for example, highlighted in the most famous textbook in German journalism. In his examination of the Vossische Zeitung, author Walter von La Roche points out how German news-in general-reported the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian successor to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28,1914.11 That murder meant the beginning of the Great War one month later. La Roche states in his book that a German news article waited until the very last sentence to remark that Franz Ferdinand and his wife had died. By way of illustration, he contrasted the Vossische Zeitung with the New York Times and its modern style of news reporting using the inverted pyramid model with a lead sentence that answers the main W-questions:

Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot and killed by a Bosnian student here today.12

Looking at the title page of the New York Times of that day, we can identify a modern newspaper front, with big headlines and pictures (see figure 1). One of the essentials of modern journalism is modern journalistic news writing. On the one hand, journalism is "a modern-era phenomenon,"13 and, on the other hand, it can be seen as "the sense-making practice of modernity."14 So the emergence of a modern society and the emergence of journalism as moderator of that modern society went hand in hand.

Part of the evolving new journalism was the ideal of objectivity and one of the essential tools for objective reporting is, following the works of Gaye Tuchman, the strategic ritual of the inverted pyramid model. …

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