Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nations Journalism

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Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation's Journalism |

In Covering America, Christopher B. Daly places the current crisis within historical context, showing how it is only the latest challenge for journalists to overcome. In this revised and expanded edition, Daly updates his narrative with new stories about legacy media like the New York Times and the Washington Post, and the digital natives like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.

A new final chapter extends the study of the business crisis facing journalism by examining the "platform revolution" in media, showing how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are disrupting the traditional systems of delivering journalism to the public. In an era when the factual basis of news is contested and when the government calls journalists "the enemy of the American people" or "the opposition party," Covering America brings history to bear on the vital issues of our times.

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If you want NextDay, we can save the other items for later. Yes—Save my other items for later. No—I want to keep shopping. Order by , and we can deliver your NextDay items by. In an era when the factual basis of news is contested and when the government calls journalists "the enemy of the American people" or "the opposition party," Covering America brings history to bear on the vital issues of our times. Daly, a veteran journalist, teaches journalism and history at Boston University.

For more information, see his website, www. Table of Contents Introduction. Radicals All! A comprehensive, fresh telling of an important dimension of American history. Covering America adds shape and new understanding to the intriguing stories many of us know as myths of origin, from Ben Franklin's escape from printer's devil servitude to biographies of such greats as David Halberstam and H.

Daly is skeptical enough to dig into the facts behind the legends, but happily he is not on a debunking crusade. His obvious faith in journalism as an honorable estate as Louis Rubin calls it and learned profession as Robert E. Lee tried to envision it comes through. I learned much from it and I truly enjoyed it. When the war for independence began in , 37 weekly newspapers were in operation; 20 survived the war, and 33 new ones started up.

The British blockade sharply curtailed imports of paper, ink, and new equipment; causing thinner newspapers and publication delays. When the war ended in , there were 35 newspapers with a combined circulation of about 40, copies per week, and an actual readership in the hundreds of thousands. These newspapers played a major role in defining the grievances of the colonists against the British government in the era, and in supporting the American Revolution.

Every week the Maryland Gazette of Annapolis promoted the Patriot cause and also reflected informed Patriot viewpoints.

When he died in , his widow Anne Catherine Hoof Green became the first woman to hold a top job at an American newspaper. During the war, contributors debated disestablishment of the Anglican church in several states, use of coercion against neutrals and Loyalists, the meaning of Paine's "Common Sense", and the confiscation of Loyalist property. Much attention was devoted to the details of military campaigns, typically with an upbeat optimistic tone. In peacetime, criticism might lead to a loss of valuable printing contract, but in wartime, the government needed the newspapers.

Furthermore, there were enough different state governments and political factions that editors could be protected by their friends. When Thomas Paine lost his patronage job with Congress because of a letter he published, the state government soon hired him. Newspapers flourished in the new republic — by , there were about being published — and tended to be very partisan about the form of the new federal government, which was shaped by successive Federalist or Republican presidencies.

Newspapers directed much abuse toward various politicians, and the eventual duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr was fueled by controversy in newspaper pages. By , both parties sponsored national networks of weekly newspapers, which attacked each other vehemently. The most heated rhetoric came in debates over the French Revolution, especially the Jacobin Terror of —94 when the guillotine was used daily. Nationalism was a high priority, and the editors fostered an intellectual nationalism typified by the Federalist effort to stimulate a national literary culture through their clubs and publications in New York and Philadelphia, and Noah Webster 's efforts to simplify and Americanize the language.

Larger printing presses, the telegraph, and other technological innovations allowed newspapers to print thousands of copies, boost circulation, and increase revenue. In the largest cities, some papers were politically independent. But most, especially in smaller cities, had close ties political parties, who used them for communication and campaigning. Their editorials explained the party position on current issues, and condemned the opposition. The first newspaper to fit the 20th century style of a newspaper was the New York Herald , founded in and published by James Gordon Bennett, Sr.

It was politically independent, and became the first newspaper to have city staff covering regular beats and spot news , along with regular business and Wall Street coverage.


In Bennett also organized the first foreign correspondent staff of six men in Europe and assigned domestic correspondents to key cities, including the first reporter to regularly cover Congress. The leading partisan newspaper was the New York Tribune , which began publishing in and was edited by Horace Greeley.

History of American journalism

It was the first newspaper to gain national prominence; by , it shipped thousands of copies of its daily and weekly editions to subscribers. Greeley also organized a professional news staff and embarked on frequent publishing crusades for causes he believed in.

The Tribune was the first newspaper, in , to use the linotype machine , invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler , which rapidly increased the speed and accuracy with which type could be set. It established the principle of balanced reporting in high-quality writing. Its prominence emerged in the 20th century. The parties created an internal communications system designed to keep in close touch with the voters. The critical communications system was a national network of partisan newspapers.

Nearly all weekly and daily papers were party organs until the early 20th century. Thanks to the invention of high-speed presses for city papers, and free postage for rural sheets, newspapers proliferated. In , the Census counted 1, party newspapers with a circulation of about one per voter , and only 83 "independent" papers. The party line was behind every line of news copy, not to mention the authoritative editorials, which exposed the "stupidity" of the enemy and the "triumphs" of the party in every issue. Editors were senior party leaders and often were rewarded with lucrative postmasterships.

Covering America: A Narrative History Of A Nation's Journalism

Top publishers, such as Schuyler Colfax in , Horace Greeley in , Whitelaw Reid in , Warren Harding in and James Cox also in , were nominated on the national ticket. Kaplan outlines the systematic methods by which newspapers expressed their partisanship. Paid advertising was unnecessary, as the party encouraged all its loyal supporters to subscribe: [20].

By the time of the Civil War, many moderately sized cities had at least two newspapers, often with very different political perspectives. As the South began the task of seceding from the Union, some papers in the North recommended that the South should be allowed to secede. Those still in publication quickly came to support the war, both to avoid mob action and to retain their audience. After , William Randolph Hearst , Joseph Pulitzer and other big city politician-publishers discovered they could make far more profit through advertising, at so many dollars per thousand readers.

By becoming non-partisan they expanded their base to include the opposition party and the fast-growing number of consumers who read the ads but were less and less interested in politics.

There was less political news after , apparently because citizens became more apathetic, and shared their partisan loyalties with the new professional sports teams that attracted growing audiences. Whitelaw Reid , the powerful long-time editor of the Republican New York Tribune , emphasized the importance of partisan newspapers in As the country and its inhabitants explored and settled further west the American landscape changed.

In order to supply these new pioneers of western territories with information, publishing was forced to expand past the major presses of Washington D. Most frontier newspapers were creations of the influx of people and wherever a new town sprang up a newspaper was sure to follow. Many of the newspapers and journals published in these Midwestern developments were weekly papers. Homesteaders would watch their cattle or farms during the week and then on their weekend journey readers would collect their papers while they did their business in town. One reason that so many newspapers were started during the conquest of the West was that homesteaders were required to publish notices of their land claims in local newspapers.

Some of these papers died out after the land rushes ended, or when the railroad bypassed the town. The American Civil War had a profound effect on American journalism. Large newspapers hired war correspondents to cover the battlefields, with more freedom than correspondents today enjoy. These reporters used the new telegraph and expanding railways to move news reports faster to their newspapers.

The cost of sending telegraphs helped create a new concise or "tight" style of writing which became the standard for journalism through the next century. The ever-growing demand for urban newspapers to provide more news led to the organization of the first of the wire services, a cooperative between six large New York City-based newspapers led by David Hale , the publisher of the Journal of Commerce , and James Gordon Bennett, to provide coverage of Europe for all of the papers together.

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What became the Associated Press received the first cable transmission ever of European news through the trans-Atlantic cable in The New York dailies continued to redefine journalism. James Bennett's Herald , for example, didn't just write about the disappearance of David Livingstone in Africa; they sent Henry Stanley to find him, which he did, in Uganda. The success of Stanley's stories prompted Bennett to hire more of what would turn out to be investigative journalists.

He also was the first American publisher to bring an American newspaper to Europe by founding the Paris Herald , which was the precursor of the International Herald Tribune.