Recent Violence Against the Mainstream Press
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the combative Wilbur Storey was known as the "fighting editor of the Chicago Times." True to his reputation, his career was littered with violent confrontations, the most notorious being a horsewhipping by the ladies of the Lydia Thompson Burlesque Troupe, remembered as the "Battle of the Blondes"; it is anyone's guess whether the dancers or the editor milked that one for more publicity. 1 Although Storey was more flamboyant than most of his colleagues, his habits still left him within the newspaper fraternity.
One would be amused to hear a contemporary newsperson referred to as "the fighting editor of the Sun-Times; one would entertain the possibility that a "fighting editor" was a person who directed the coverage of wrestling and boxing. The term fighting editor never connoted only physical fighting, nevertheless it was assumed that a fighting editor would regularly find occasion to fight. Editors and other newspeople no longer find any more occasion to fight than anyone else.
The decline in the level of violence involving mainstream media has had a long history. In Chapter 3, we noted the disappearance in the early nineteenth century of overtly political majoritarian violence against mainstream political organs. After the War of 1812, "loyal opposition" became a normally accepted journalistic style; violence was reserved for nonmainstream groups like abolitionists or for wartime. But the disappearance of this type of political violence still left a whole range of violent behavior that newspeople were subjected to or participated in, from dueling to bombings during labor disputes.
Violence suited the volatile world of journalism. Before World War I, the newspaper industry was highly competitive; journalists were supposed to be aggressive, and the point of journalism was supposed to be confrontation, always of course of the most public sort. The metaphors applied to journalistic work were pugilistic: hard-hitting reporters wrote for their fighting editors.