Module 11: Newspaper Journalism - Newspaper Journalism | en - 907 - 58744
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Module 11: Newspaper Journalism

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Newspaper Journalism

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Newspaper Journalism

Newspapers as Mass Media

History of Newspapers

Over the course of its long and complex history, the newspaper has undergone many transformations.

Examining the history of the newspaper can help shed some light on how and why it has evolved into the multifaceted medium that it is today.

In 1566, an ancestor of the modern newspaper appeared in Venice, Italy. These avisi or gazettes, were handwritten and focused on politics and the military conflicts. However, the absence of printing-press technology greatly limited the circulation.

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Colonial Newspapers

Newspapers did not come to the American colonies until 1690, when Benjamin Harris, a newspaper editor from England, printed Public Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick, however the publication folded after just one issue.

Fourteen years passed before the next American newspaper, The Boston News-Letter, launched. Fifteen years after that, The Boston Gazette began publication, followed immediately by the American Weekly Mercury in Philadelphia.

These early papers carefully eschewed political discussion to avoid offending colonial authorities.

Freedom of the Press

Because many of these early publications were regulated by the government, they did not report on local news or events. However, when civil war broke out in England in 1641, citizens turned to local papers for coverage of the events.

When newspapers were freed from government control, papers took advantage of this newfound freedom and began publishing more frequently. With bi-weekly publications, papers had additional space to run advertisements and market reports. This changed the role of journalists from simple observers to active players in commerce. Once publishers noticed the growing popularity and profit potential of newspapers, they founded daily publications.

European Roots

The first weekly newspapers to employ Gutenberg’s press emerged in 1609. Although the papers did not name the cities in which they were printed to avoid government persecution, their approximate location can be identified because of their use of the German language. Despite these concerns over persecution, the papers were a success, and newspapers spread throughout Central Europe.

These early newspapers followed one of two major formats. The first was the Dutch-style, corantos, a densely packed two to four page paper, while the second was the German-style pamphlet, a more expansive 8 to 24 page paper. Many publishers began printing in the Dutch format, but as their popularity grew, they changed to the larger German style.

Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press changed the face of publishing. In 1440, Gutenberg invented a movable-type press that permitted the high-quality reproduction of printed materials at a rate of nearly 4,000 pages per day, more than could be done by a scribe by hand.

This innovation drove down the price of printed materials and, for the first time, made them accessible to a mass market. Overnight, the new printing press transformed the scope and reach of the newspaper, paving the way for modern-day journalism.

Sedition Act

Sedition Act

Sedition Act

Newspapers as Mass Media

Freedom of the Press in the Early US

In 1791, the nascent United States of America adopted the First Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights. This act states that

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

In this one sentence,U.S. law formally guaranteed freedom of press.

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Sedition Act

However, as a reaction to harsh partisan writing, in 1798, the US congress passed the Sedition Act, which declared that any “writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States” was punishable by fine and imprisonment.

When Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1800, he allowed the Sedition Act to lapse, claiming that he was lending himself to “a great experiment … to demonstrate the falsehood of the pretext that freedom of the press is incompatible with orderly government.”

This free-press experiment has continued to modern times.

All that changed in 1833 when Benjamin Day created The Sun. Printed on small, letter-sized pages, The Sun sold for just a penny.

Newspapers as Mass Media

Newspapers as Mass Media

As late as the early 1800s, newspapers were still quite expensive to print. Although daily papers had become more common and gave merchants up-to-date, vital trading information, most were priced at about 6 cents a copy—well above what working-class citizens could afford.

As such, newspaper readership was limited to the elite.

The Sun

The Sun

Morning Herald

Morning Herald

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Morning Herald

Another early successful penny paper was James Gordon Bennett’s New York Morning Herald, which was first published in 1835. Bennett made his mark on the publishing industry by offering nonpartisan political reporting. He also introduced more aggressive methods for gathering news, hiring both
interviewers and foreign correspondents. His paper was the first to send a reporter to a crime scene to witness an investigation.

In the 1860s, Bennett hired 63 war reporters to cover the U.S. Civil War.
Although the Herald initially emphasized sensational news, it later became one of the country’s most respected papers for its accurate reporting.

The Sun

As he reached out to new readers, Day knew that he wanted to alter the way news was presented. He printed the paper’s motto at the top of every front page of The Sun: “The object of this paper is to lay before the public, at a price within the means of every one, all the news of the day, and at the same time offer an advantageous medium for advertisements.”

The Sun sought out stories that would appeal to the new mainstream consumer. As such, the paper primarily published human-interest stories and police reports with ample room for advertisements. the adoption of this new format and industrialized method of printing was a success and the Sun became the first paper to be printed by what is known as the penny press.

Newspapers as Mass Media

Wire Services

Another major historical technological breakthrough for newspapers came when Samuel Morse invented the telegraph.

Newspapers turned to emerging telegraph companies to receive up-to-date news briefs from cities and countries across the globe.

The expense of this service led to the formation of the Associated Press (AP) in 1846 as a cooperative arrangement of five major New York papers: the New York Sun, Journal of Commerce, the Courier and Enquirer, the New York Herald, and the Express.

Reliable Reporting

Reliable Reporting

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Reliable Reporting

The success of the Associated Press led to the development of wire services between major cities. According to the AP, this meant that editors were able to “actively collect news as it [broke], rather than gather already published news.”

This collaboration between papers allowed for more reliable reporting, and the increased breadth of subject matter lent subscribing newspapers mass appeal for not only upper but also middle and working class readers.

Newspapers as Mass Media

Sensationalist Journalism

In the late 1800s, New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer developed a new journalistic style that relied on an intensified use of sensationalism—stories focused on crime, violence, emotion, and sex.

Although he made major strides in the newspaper industry by creating a section focusing on women and by pioneering the use of advertisements as news, he relied largely on violence and sex to sell copies.

This sensationalist style served as the forerunner for today’s tabloids, ironically, journalism’s most prestigious award is named for him.

Yellow Presses

Yellow Presses

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Yellow Presses

At the same time Pulitzer was establishing the New York World, William Randolph Hearst took over the New York Journal. The battle between these two New York newspapers escalated as Pulitzer and Hearst attempted to outsell one another. The papers slashed their prices, stole editors and reporters from each other, and used outrageous and sensationalist headlines.

As historian Richard K. Hines writes, “The American Press,especially ‘yellow presses’ such as William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World … sensationalized the brutality of the Spanish-American War and the threat to American business interests. Journalists frequently embellished Spanish atrocities and invented others.”

Newspapers as Mass Media

Comics and Stunt Journalism

Stunt Journalism

Stunt Journalism

As the publishers vied for readership, an entertaining new element was introduced: the comic strip.

In 1896, Hearst’s New York Journal published R. F. Outcault’s the Yellow Kid in an attempt to “attract immigrant readers who otherwise might not have bought an English-language paper.”

The public looking for entertainment, rushed to buy papers featuring the successful yellow-nightshirt-wearing character.

Contributions

Contributions

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Contributions

Despite the sometimes questionable tactics of both Hearst and Pulitzer, each man made significant contributions to the growing journalism industry. By 1922, Hearst, a ruthless publisher, had created the country’s largest media-holding company. At that time, he owned 20 daily papers, 11 Sunday papers, 2
wire services, 6 magazines, and a newsreel company.

Likewise, toward the end of his life, Pulitzer turned his focus to establishing a school of journalism. In 1912, a year after his death and 10 years after Pulitzer had begun his educational campaign, classes opened at the Columbia University School of Journalism. At the time of its opening, the school had approximately 100 students from 21 countries. Additionally, in 1917, the first Pulitzer Prize was awarded for excellence in journalism.

Stunt Journalism

Pulitzer responded to the success of the Yellow Kid by introducing stunt journalism. The publisher hired journalist Elizabeth Cochrane, who wrote under the name Nellie Bly, to report on aspects of life that had previously been ignored by the publishing industry. Her first article focused on the New York City Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island. Bly feigned insanity and had herself committed to the infamous asylum.

She recounted her experience in her first article, “Ten Days in a Madhouse.” Her madhouse performance inaugurated the performative tactic that would become her trademark reporting style.” Such articles brought Bly much notoriety and fame, and she became known as the first stunt journalist.

Examples

Examples

Examples

Newspapers as Mass Media

Niche Newspapers

Niche newspapers represent one more model of newspapers. These publications, which reach out to a specific target group, are rising in popularity in the era of Internet.

As Robert Courtemanche, a certified journalism educator, writes, in the past, newspapers tried to be everything to every reader to gain circulation. That outdated concept does not work on the Internet where readers expect expert, niche content.

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Niche Paper Examples

Ethnic and minority papers are some of the most common forms of niche newspapers. In the United States, particularly in large cities such as New York, niche papers for numerous ethnic communities flourish.

Some common types of U.S. niche papers are those that cater to a specific ethnic or cultural group or to a group that speaks a particular language.

Papers that cover issues affecting lesbians, gay men, and bisexual individuals, like the Advocate, and religion-oriented publications, like The Christian Science Monitor are also examples of niche papers.

Newspapers as Mass Media

The Underground Press

Popularized in the 1960s and 1970s as individuals sought to publish articles documenting their perception of social tensions and inequalities.

The underground press typically caters to alternative and counter cultural groups. Most of these papers are published on small budgets. Perhaps the most famous US underground paper is New York’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Village Voice.

This newspaper was founded in 1955 and introduced free-form, high-spirited and passionate journalism into the public discourse.

Role in Media

Role in Media

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Role in Media

Despite their at-times shoestring budgets, underground papers serve an important role in the media. By offering an alternative perspective to stories and by reaching out to niche groups through their writing, underground-press newspapers fill a unique need within the larger media marketplace.

As journalism has evolved over the years, newspapers have adapted to serve the changing demands of readers.

Newspapers as Mass Media

Development of Journalism

The Future

The Future

Location, readership, political climate, and competition all contribute to rapid transformations in journalistic models and writing styles.

Over time, however, certain styles—such as sensationalism— have faded or become linked with less serious publications, like tabloids, while others have developed to become prevalent in modern-day reporting. Over the course of its long and complex history, the newspaper has undergone many transformations.

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The Future

Since the invention of radio, newspapers have worried about their future. Even though readership has been declining since the 1950s, the explosion of the Internet and the resulting accessibility of online news has led to an unprecedented drop in subscriptions since the beginning of the 21st century.

Also hit hard by the struggling economies and reluctant advertisers, most newspapers have had to cut costs. Some have closed up, while others have reinvented their style to appeal to new audiences.

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