Book Reviews -- Partisans of the Southern Press: Editorial Spokesman of the Nineteenth Century by Carl R. Osthaus

By Humphrey, Carol Sue | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Partisans of the Southern Press: Editorial Spokesman of the Nineteenth Century by Carl R. Osthaus


Humphrey, Carol Sue, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Partisans of the Southern Press: Editorial Spokesmen of the Nineteenth Century. By CARL R. OSTHAUS. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994. xiii, 294 pp. $39.95.

Partisans of the Southern Press is an interesting study of some of the major southern editors of the nineteenth century. Included in Carl R. Osthaus's work are Thomas Ritchie of the Richmond Enquirer, Francis A. Lumsden and George W. Kendall of the New Orleans Picayune, Robert Barnwell Rhett, Jr., of the Charleston Mercury, Aaron S. Willington and Richard Yeadon of the Charleston Daily Courier, John M. Daniel of the Richmond Examiner, John Forsyth of the Mobile Daily Register, Henry Watterson of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Francis Warrington Dawson of the Charleston News and Courier, and Henry W. Grady of the Atlanta Constitution. By using these editors as examples, Osthaus has produced a good overview of the growth, development, and change in southern journalism through the various crises of the 1800s.

According to Osthaus, "personal journalism lasted longer in the South than anywhere else" (p. 1). Southern editors continued to shape the character and content of their newspapers long after the influence of northern editors had been limited primarily to the editorial page. One reason for this continuation was the failure of southern newspapers to join in the technological revolution that transformed northern urban publications before the Civil War.

Osthaus's examination produced several conclusions. First, politics dominated southern journalism, primarily because sectional controversies dominated the public arena and encouraged the use of media by political parties. Editors voiced state interests and sought to rally the populace in support of the states' rights agenda advanced by local politicians. As a result, southern newspapers continued to appeal primarily to a limited section of society rather than seeking to broaden readership as was happening in northern cities. Furthermore, Osthaus states that Old South and New South editors had much in common, even though the issues that concerned them, such as slavery and industrial growth, appeared to be different before and after the Civil War. …

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