Home Town News: William Allen White and the Emporia Gazette

By Sally Foreman Griffith | Go to book overview

8
Booster Nationalism

In his Autobiography William Allen White recalled that during the First World War he and the Gazette had energetically supported every measure on its behalf:

I was on all of the money-raising campaigns, chairman of a "Special Gifts" committee--which means I helped to look after the larger givers. Every country editor's job is to conduct, directly or indirectly, his town's drive for progress and benevolence; and it was no new experience for me to pound the streets of Emporia with a subscription paper in my hand. 1

White recognized that his role in promoting Emporia's full participation in the war effort was a continuation of his local booster activities. Indeed, the war years in Emporia, with their unremitting citizen activism, their patriotic unity, and their self-sacrificing enthusiasm for the common good, were a booster's dream. In many ways the war merely intensified the essential characteristics of boosterism. When President Woodrow Wilson decided to rely principally upon an aroused public opinion, rather than a greatly expanded state, to prosecute the war, he tapped boosterism's tremendous rhetorical and organizational power. He also unwittingly unleashed boosterism's capacity to foster oppression as well as loyalty. 2

Even before the beginning of World War I, however, the booster ethos had increasingly come to serve national rather than local ends. Although it was obscured by White's and other progressives' tendency to equate the local and national communities, the momentum of reform in the second decade of the twentieth century moved to the national level. As the focus of political action shifted from the cities and states to Washington, progressives who advocated reform by centralizing power in the national government assumed leadership of the movement. These nationalist progressives, gaining prominence through sheer energy and effectiveness as institutional innovators, adopted new methods of shaping public opinion and promoting reform. These methods included special-interest lobbying groups, the new "profession" of public relations, and techniques of community mobilization that united central planning with local execution.

Though he was largely unaware of the long-term implications of his actions, White aided this nationalizing and centralizing shift. By supporting new nationalist organs of progressive publicity, he gave legitimacy to their centralizing programs and obscured the real differences between those who

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Home Town News: William Allen White and the Emporia Gazette
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I - The New Man 11
  • 1 - The Education of a Somebody"" 13
  • 2 - The New Editor 32
  • Part II - The Old Order Changeth 65
  • 3 - A Practical Printer 67
  • 4 - The Making of a Progressive 92
  • 5 - Booster Progressivism 113
  • 6 - Spokesman for Community 139
  • 7 - Community Journalism 159
  • Part III - Nationalizing the Community 185
  • 8 - Booster Nationalism 187
  • 9 - Mass Media Come to the Small Town 211
  • Epilogue 240
  • Notes 243
  • Index 283
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