Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History: 1995 Annual

By Michael Harris ; Tom O'Malley | Go to book overview

10
America's Press-Radio Rivalry: Circulation Managers and Newspaper Boys during the Depression

Todd Alexander Postol

Although the image of the American paper boy on his route is known to everyone, little has been written on the history of twentieth-century newspaper carriers or the industry in which they worked. This chapter attempts to recover part of that lost history by examining a familiar event, the press-radio "war" of the early 1930s, through the eyes of the nation's newspaper circulation managers. Drawing on the rich internal records of the International Circulation Managers' Association (ICMA), I argue that competition from commercial broadcasting played an important role in the creation of the middle-class American newspaper boy. Fighting to regain lost media market share, managers during the Depression countered the growing influence of broadcasting by reinventing daily newspaper delivery service. Central to this process was the effort to train millions of middle-class schoolchildren to inexpensive market newspaper subscriptions. 1

In discussing the impact of broadcasting on daily newspaper publishing, historians have typically focused on the reactions of publishers and print journalists. Given the power and prestige of these two groups, this orientation seems reasonable. 2 But the industry's fight with radio was not waged solely in boardrooms or editorial offices; it was also fought in living rooms where individual consumers made private decisions that ultimately transformed the way news was gathered and distributed in the United States. By concentrating on the actions of

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