Academic journal article Journalism History

The Golden Age of the Newspaper

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Golden Age of the Newspaper

Article excerpt

Douglas, George H. The Golden Age of the Newspaper. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,1999. 328 pp. $45.

This book summarizes a history familiar to journalism historians of the newspaper press. Filled with vignettes of Beats and near-Beats of newspaperdom across a century, notes on press-related technological developments, and sketches of familiar episodes immortalized in newspapers, it has value as a reference and a starting point for exploring the histories of the subjects treated. A bibliographical essay (in lieu of a bibliography) will aid those seeking secondary sources about these and related subjects.

Calling the book a social history, author George H. Douglas, a professor of English at the University of Illinois, says the purpose of The Golden Age of the Newspaper is to try to "tell the story of the American newspaper during its most influential years," "capture the spirit of news gathering and news making in the years when the newspaper was king," and "explain how newspaper formed a bond with the American people and helped us to discover ourselves."

Focused on 1830 to 1930, the book omits pre-1830 newspapers because they did not provide "news as we understand it today" and ends at the point where the author sees a looming challenge from radio as American newspapers reached a "pinnacle" of"glory-and influence" in the I920s.

The book comes closest to fulfilling the first part of the purpose through its summary of a version of American newspaper history across the century it spans. Among rare clues to the conceptual meaning of "golden age" are references to the newspaper as "the way that people encountered the world around them," as "the only regular source of interpretation and analysis that could make sense of the cascade of events that constitute life in a democratic republic," and as making "public response possible. …

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