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NEWSPAPERS. The story of America's newspapers has been one of change. Newspapers have changed with and have been changed by their target readers, whether members of a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group; a political party; or society's most elite or poorest members. From the first American newspaper printed in 1690 through the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the United States boasted 1,480 daily and 7,689 total newspapers, the industry has sought always to appeal to Americans experiencing immigration, adjustment to a new land, acculturation, and stability. For the American newspaper the equation has been simple, change or die. Many have died.

Americans have started newspapers for many reasons, including to support religious or political beliefs, to express outrage over social issues, and simply to make a buck. For those newspapers to last, however, the one imperative was to attract readers. At its heart the U.S. newspaper industry was a commercial enterprise, and readers led to profits. For even those newspapers supported by special interest groups, like unions, religious or ethnic organizations, or political parties, the need to appeal to readers has been a constant.

Newspapers have evolved throughout the years so much that some scholars liken its progress to the natural sciences, a matter of evolution from one form into another. The earliest newspapers were simple affairs, often composed of only four small pages distributed to only a few elites in colonial New England's small cities. By the twenty-first century American newspapers offered more words than a novel, hundreds of pages, thousands of advertisements, and a circulation spanning the globe. Thousands of people throughout the world read online versions. Others, reminiscent of earlier newspapers, are simple sheets targeting small, often marginalized groups.

The American newspaper story has been filled with flamboyant figures, cultural changes, technological revolutions, and a brashness mirroring that of the United States itself. Newspapers swept west along with the settlers and helped turn small towns into cities. They thundered at injustice and battled the elite. They preached to the converted and to those disdaining their messages. They attacked minorities and were minorities' voices. They gave communities not only a place to read about themselves but also a place that turned the eyes of community members outward upon the world. The story of American newspapers is one of a window on life in America.

Getting a Foothold

The earliest-known newspaper, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, lasted only one edition. Benjamin Harris, who published it in Boston, on 25 September

1690, had neglected to get official permission, and perhaps worse, he printed news from the colonies, which disturbed colonial officials. It was banned. Fourteen years later the Boston postmaster John Campbell, who had been sending handwritten newsletters to a select few in New England, bought a wooden press, and the first successful newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, was born. His was more acceptable. He got permission from authorities beforehand and focused on foreign news. Published by authority of the government and reporting foreign news, it copied the British press, which was licensed and forbidden to criticize the government. But just as America was beginning to chafe under restrictive British rules in the eighteenth century, the young American newspaper industry became unruly as well. Papers were generally published part-time by printers, and publishers objected to the licensing requirements and prior restraints on publication imposed by the British rules.

The early years were marked by repeated disputes between publishers and authorities. Benjamin Franklin first became noticed because of such a dispute. His brother James Franklin had started the New England Courant in Boston in 1821, and Benjamin Franklin was apprenticed to him as a printer at age twelve. James Franklin, a fiery sort, was imprisoned for criticizing the governor, and at age seventeen Benjamin Franklin took over the paper while his brother was imprisoned. Benjamin Franklin later moved to Philadelphia and started a number of newspapers, including one in German.

Colonial newspapers were generally politically neutral, and some publishers did not want to offend anyone. Their news was that of interest mainly to the upper and middle classes, especially news from Britain and news of shipping. Publishers were frequently related to each other, and some had patrons, wealthy individuals who found it useful to sponsor a newspaper. Boston was the center of the early colonial newspaper world, but Philadelphia became a second center by the middle of the eighteenth century. American newspapers were urban institutions, and they spread with the growth of towns and cities. Thus they followed the urbanization of America. The first newspapers were centered in New England, then they moved into the South, then slowly they moved into the West. Publishers were mostly men, although Elizabeth Timothy took over the South Carolina Gazette in 1738, when her husband, Lewis Timothy, died.

In colonial America religion and religious leaders were influential, and they played significant roles in the early newspapers. Many newspapers were founded for religious purposes, printing sermons, supporting an immigrant group's religion, and performing missionary functions as with those printed to convert Native Americans to Christianity. New England's well-educated clergy promoted the press, although Puritan leaders often engaged in spirited debates with newspaper leaders. In truth these vigorous debates helped the fledgling newspaper industry become profitable in New England, and their absence is considered one significant reason that the newspaper industry grew more slowly in the South.

The colonial era was a time of immigration, and many immigrants spoke foreign tongues. Immigrants often settled in enclaves, distinct groups of one ethnic origin within larger settlements of different backgrounds. Immigrant enclaves found newspapers in their languages welcome aids in creating a sense of community, teaching new comers how to adjust to this new culture, and bringing news of their compatriots both in America and in the Old World. Benjamin Franklin's Die Philadelphische Zeitung of 1732 was typical of the foreign-language press as it was located in a city with a sizable German-speaking population. Literate Germans dominated the foreign-language newspapers for a century and a half, although virtually every other immigrant group published newspapers in its native tongue. Among the first were French and Scandinavian language newspapers.

However, a German writing in English epitomized the growing dissatisfaction of American newspapers with colonial rulers. John Peter Zenger immigrated to America from Germany with his family in 1710 and was apprenticed a year later to the printer William Bradford in New York. After seven years Zenger started his own paper, bankrolled by a group opposed to the newly appointed governor William Cosby. One of Zenger's sponsors, James Alexander, wrote a number of articles recasting British libertarian thought, especially the need for freedom of expression, for the New World. The articles were published anonymously in Zenger's paper, and the editor was arrested in 1734 for "printing and publishing several seditious libels." He spent nine months in jail. At the trial Zenger's attorney argued basically that the articles were true. The prosecution correctly cited the law, which said truth did not matter. But a jury sided with Zenger, and trut has a defense persisted into the twenty-first century.

Newspaper disputes with colonial authorities were only one source of dissent during the middle of the eighteenth-century. American newspapers began reporting perceived British injustices. When in 1765 the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, levying taxes on admittance to the bar, legal documents, business papers, and newspapers, many publishers abandoned political neutrality. Patriot newspapers, such as the Boston Gazette of 1755–1775, opposed Boston taxes and urged boycotts. It covered the Boston Massacre in 1770, when several Bostonians were killed in struggles with British soldiers. Not all newspapers sided with the colonies, but those remaining loyal to England suffered. For example, in 1773 the New York Loyalist James Rivington founded Rivington's New York Gazetter, which supported the British. He was embattled almost from the start and was jailed for a short time in 1775. After his printing house was destroyed by a mob on 10 May 1775, he fled to England, then returned with British troops. His Revolutionary War Loyalist newspaper, the New-York Royal Gazette, became synonymous with Toryism.

Following the Revolution the United States was a good place for newspapers. Advertising increased dramatically, and the excitement of a new nation led to increased readership. The new country's first successful daily newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser, started in 1784. More efficient presses lowered production costs, which led to a rapid increase in newspapers, especially dailies. Distribution was mostly by mail, and low postal rates helped. The increased importance of advertising was evident even in the names of newspapers. Twenty of the nation's twenty-four dailies in 1800 carried the word "advertiser" as part of their names. Even the government seemed to be on the side of newspapers. In 1788 the First Amendment to the Constitution aimed to protect the press. As the nation opened the West, newspapers went along and became local boosters of the frontier towns in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

While the official name of the new nation was the United States, its citizens were anything but united in viewpoints, and the country became embroiled in a dispute over federalism. Political parties formed behind those wanting a strong federal government and those urging state sovereignty. Early debates over postal laws indicated that legislators recognized the effects of communication on modernity, and newspapers soon became leading weapons in the struggle. Both sides started or supported their own newspapers. The era was highlighted by partisan newspapers, like the Federalist Gazette of the United States, to which Alexander Hamilton was a frequent contributor, and the Jeffersonian National Gazette. One result of the struggle between the two factions was the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, aimed at silencing Thomas Jefferson's followers. One of the four laws, the Sedition Act, outlawed newspaper criticism of government officials and effectively nullified the First Amendment. Nearly 10 percent of existing American newspapers were charged under the act. However, it did provide for truth as a defense, thereby putting the Zenger verdict into law. The Sedition Act was allowed to expire in 1801, after national elections put Jefferson's party into power.

The first third of the nineteenth century was a time of expansion for the United States. The National Intelligencer was founded in 1800 as a paper of record, and it was the first to cover Congress directly. Newspapers changed their emphasis from advertising vehicles, although advertising was still a major part of their incomes. Most of their financing came from either political parties or circulation. Papers remained expensive, costing about six cents a paper. Only the mercantile and political elites could afford to buy newspapers. Ever catering to readers, editors focused on politics, business, and the comings and goings of ships in the port. Nevertheless many newspapers were feisty, fighting political or social battles. Not at all atypical of the time were lengthy attacks on immigrants, abolitionists, or black Americans, such as those in the New York Examiner in 1827 that led the Reverend Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm to found the nation's first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal. It lasted only a short time but was quickly followed by about thirty black newspapers in the next decade and even more as the abolition question heated up in the years preceding the Civil War. This lively press set the stage for the most dramatic evolution in American newspapers, the penny press.

The Era of the Reporter

The penny press derived its name from its cost, a penny apiece. It challenged the existing elite and the newspapers that served them by developing a new attitude toward advertising, cutting prices to become accessible to the masses, and by paying reporters to cover the news. Earlier newspapers had depended upon friends of the editor or publisher to provide news. The penny press revolutionized the way news was produced, distributed, and consumed. Due to faster presses and cheaper newsprint, penny papers cost less to produce. Advertising underwent a dramatic shift during this period. Previously those who advertised were those who read the paper, and advertising was seen as a mechanism for spreading information among an elite class. But the penny papers catered to the needs of all, and business advertised to inform readers about available products. These new newspapers were sold by street vendors one paper at a time. Thus the paper was available to all and needed to appeal to all for those sales. This led to a change in the kind of news covered. Readers wanted something other than strong opinions. With the rise in reporting, news became more local.

The first penny paper was Benjamin Day's New York Sun in 1833, quickly followed in 1834 by the Evening Transcript and in 1835 by James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald. The successful format spread quickly from New York to other East Coast newspapers and a bit slower to the West. But all followed Day's formula for success, that is, expanded advertising; low price to customers; street sales; new technology in gathering news, printing, and distribution; and paid reporters. Penny papers ushered in a lively time for the United States and for its newspapers, which experienced dramatic changes in technology, distribution, and format. Technological changes during this period included a steam-powered cylindrical press, much cheaper papermaking processes, the growth of railroads, and in the 1840s the advent of the telegraph, which directly led to the establishment in 1848 of the Associated Press, an association of New York newspapers.

Alongside the penny press arose an advanced specialized press appealing to special interests, such as those advocating the abolition of slavery, labor unions, and women's issues. Amelia Bloomer started the first woman's newspaper, the Lily, in 1849 initially as a temperance then as a suffrage paper. Others quickly followed. This era also experienced a grow thin racial and ethnic newspapers. Virtually all these newspapers were published weekly, and their influence on their specialized audiences was great. Before the Civil War more than twenty black newspapers emerged, some edited by towering figures such as Frederick Douglass, who started the North Star in 1847. This paper lasted sixteen years, a long time for an abolitionist paper, during which the name was changed to Frederick Douglass' Weekly. The abolitionist papers published by both black and white advocates were among the most controversial. The abolitionist publisher Elijah Lovejoy of the Observer in Alton, Illinois, was killed by a mob in 1837. No counterpart for abolitionist newspapers existed in the South. Southern legislators had virtually banned comment on the slavery situation. The story was different in the West as the U.S. frontier expanded. Newspapers frequently were boosters of their new cities and often engaged in ideological battles, especially in "Bloody Kansas, " split by the slavery issue.

All this was a prelude to the Civil War, which not only permanently changed the United States but also permanently changed American newspapers. The media had never covered a war before, and the emotional fervor of the war coupled with the increasing competitiveness of the nation's newspapers prompted a host of changes. The Civil War was the first modern war, and newspapers became modern as well. Major newspapers sent correspondents, a first, and the reliance on the telegraph led to two major developments in the way stories were written. The telegraph was expensive, so the writing style became less florid, using fewer words. The telegraph also was unreliable, which popularized the inverted pyramid style of writing in which the most important news is first in the story, followed in succession by less important facts. Photography, especially that of Mathew Brady, brought further developments, although it was a decade before photos could be engraved. Newspapers used Brady's photos as models for staff artists. Sometimes the heated competition led to bribery and fakery. At other times news correspondents faced heavy censorship. For instance, General William T. Sherman ordered the arrest and trial of a reporter, who faced the death penalty. General A. E. Burnside ordered the Chicago Tribune closed and prohibited the New York World from circulating in the Midwest, but President Abraham Lincoln rescinded the orders.

After the Civil War newspapers faced new challenges and opportunities. The pace of urbanization sped up, creating large cities and another spurt of immigration. Mass production replaced artisan craftsmanship, giving further impetus to advertising. Along with the nation, the news became bigger, more costly to report, and reliant on commercial advertising. Newspapers reflected city life, and publishers identified strongly with local business. Frequently publishers realized that extreme partisanship drove away valuable readers, and their political tones moderated.

Despite their growing numbers, immigrants and African Americans in the North felt left out of the competitive mainstream newspapers, which focusing on attracting the largest number of readers, appealed to native-born Americans. Consequently, these groups created their own newspapers. In 1870 the United States had 315 foreign-language newspapers, a number that grew to 1,159 in 1900, two-thirds of which were German. More than one and a half million German-language newspapers were sold in 1900, followed by 986,866 Polish news papers, 827,754 Yiddish papers, and 691,353 Italian papers. More than one thousand black newspapers were founded between 1865 and 1900, but most quickly failed. Black newspapers took the lead in challenging the scaling back of Reconstruction in the South. The editor and writer Ida B. Wells, a former slave, documented lynching throughout the South.

In 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution enfranchised all men, including African Americans, but not women. This sparked a second wave of feminism, much of which was centered around newspapers edited and published by women. They were split into two factions, those concentrating on obtaining the vote for women and those seeking broad political and social reform. The latter group included the Revolution, started in 1868 by Susan B. Anthony with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as editor. As shown by its motto, "Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less, " the paper was radical. It lasted only two and a half years. On the other hand, Lucy Stone's more moderate Women's Journal, which was started in 1870, lasted until 1917 despite never having more than six thousand subscribers. These papers maintained pressure for woman suffrage until its eventual passage in 1920.

A short-lived agrarian press had more subscribers. But from its start in the 1880s it primarily served the Populist Party, and it died along with the party after the beginning of the twentieth century. A vociferously anti-urban press, it stood up for farmers' issues. The most notable paper was the National Economist with more than 100,000 readers at its peak. However, more than one thousand Populist newspapers spread throughout the nation's midsection.

By 1920 half of the people in the country lived in cities, where newspapers thrived. This was especially true at the end of the nineteenth century, when two of the most controversial figures in American newspapers took control of New York papers. They led a revolution in coverage and display that earned their style of journalism the sneering label of "yellow journalism" after a comic strip character, the "Yellow Kid." Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst arrived on the New York City scene at a time when its mainstream newspapers were segmenting the audience by focusing on news of interest mostly to one type of reader. For example, the New York Times and Chicago Tribune appealed to the business classes. Hearst and Pulitzer's sensationalized newspapers were aimed directly at the working classes, adding to audience segmentation.

From its beginnings under Henry Raymond in 1851 the New York Times had grown in substance to become the newspaper most appealing to those wanting information. Pulitzer's New York World and Hearst's New York >Journal most appealed to those wanting entertainment. Pulitzer, who had started with a German-language newspaper and had merged the St. Louis Dispatch with the Post before moving to New York in 1883, added display flair. His newspaper emphasized sports and women's news, and he attracted good reporters, including Elizabeth Cochrane. Known as "Nellie Bly," Cochrane became famous for her stunts, such as rounding the world in seventy-two days, beating the time needed in the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80Days. Pulitzer's chief rival, Hearst, had turned around his family's failing Examiner in San Francisco and purchased the struggling Journal. Aiming at sensationalism of the highest order, Hearst raided Pulitzer's staff, including Richard Outcalt, creator of the "Yellow Kid" comic strip, and introduced color printing. The war for subscribers between Hearst and Pulitzer became sensationalized, and many blamed Hearst for the U.S. involvement in a war with Cuba. The rest of the nation's press splintered into two groups, those growing more sensational and those emphasizing solid reporting of the news. However, all were affected, and following this period multicolumn headlines and photographs became the norm for American newspapers.

By the beginning of the twentieth century many editors had college degrees and came from the ranks of reporters, not from the owner class. This led to an increase in professionalism, as did the general philosophy of the newspaper business that news was a separate division, funded by but not directly affected by advertising. Reporters, often paid on a space-rate system, earned salaries comparable to skilled craftspeople, such as plumbers.

World War I was an unsettling time for the industry. Foreign-language newspapers reached their peak in 1917, but wartime restrictions and prejudices hit them hard, especially those papers printed in German. They began a steep decline. The number of all newspapers peaked in 1909, when a total of 2,600 newspapers were published in the United States. Circulation continued to rise as the country became more urban. Newspapers had another war to cover, an all-out war that brought a rise in American nationalism. As has happened frequently when the nation was engaged in war, the federal government sought to control newspapers. The Espionage and Sedition Act provided a legal basis for shutting down newspapers. The former newspaperman George Creel directed the new Committee on Public Information and worked hard to determine what newspapers printed and omitted, relying generally on cooperation but lapsing into coercion when he felt he needed it. Socialist and black newspapers were particularly hard hit by government actions. Notably Victor Berger, editor of the socialist newspaper the Milwaukee Leader, was jailed. Because it refused to support U.S. involvement in the war, the Leader lost its mailing privileges, which crippled its ability to circulate and to gather news. Lack of support for the war effort, especially attacks on racial discrimination in the armed forces, created problems for black newspaper publishers as well. Creel believed those stories hurt the war effort, and in 1919 the Justice Department claimed the papers' racial stance was caused by Russian sympathizers.

Reflecting the great migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, black newspapers achieved their greatest success in the first half of the twentieth-century. The number of black newspapers rose from about two hundred in 1900 to a peak of five hundred by the 1920s, then the number began a slow decline to slightly higher than two hundred at the start of the twenty-first century. While most of these were small-town southern papers, in the 1920s four large black newspapers in the North developed circulations of more than 200,000, Marcus Garvey's Negro World, which lasted only from 1918 to 1933, Robert L. Vann's Pittsburgh Courier, Carl Murphy's Baltimore Afro-American, and Robert Abbott's Chicago Defender. The Defender was probably the best known of them, particularly in the 1920s. Abbott, who founded the paper in 1905, was one of the leaders in urging African Americans to move north. Some historians consider his newspaper, which was circulated throughout the South, one of the most effective institutions in stimulating the migration.

Newspapers in a Modern World

The year 1920 marks the line designating when a majority of Americans lived in urban areas. The United States was changing, and news adapted to the modern urban, technological, consumer society. The years since the era of yellow journalism's sensationalism had seen an end to the massive growth in the number of newspapers, although circulation continued to grow. The industry had stabilized, advertising had become national in scope, reporters were becoming higher educated and more professional, and the ownership of newspapers by chains and groups became more common, a trend that continued into the twenty-first century. Newspapers gained new competitors in broadcast media. Newsreels in theaters provided an alternative in presenting news, with moving pictures of events. The growth of the advertising industry pushed the United States toward a consumer society and greater use of brand names, and a professional public relations industry developed.

Newspaper content continued to evolve, especially in the 1930s. Competition pushed newspapers beyond presenting only the facts. Journalists sought to put facts into context. Newspaper content and style became interrelated, and the industry moved toward interpretation, photos, political columns, weekly review of news, and faster, more efficient technology in gathering, printing, and distributing news. Full-time columnists and editorial writers became more common. It was a time of journalism of synthesis, as newspapers attempted to add to the news via such techniques as daily and weekly interpretive news summaries, like the New York Times "Week in Review" section. Consolidation of mainstream papers continued, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt attacked what he called the "monopoly press." Roosevelt's antagonism toward the press had long-term ramifications as he started regular radio chats to bypass reporters. With the Great Depression afflicting most people, the alternative and socialist press thrived, especially social action newspapers like Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker, an influential alternative voice that actively opposed U.S. involvement in World War II, costing it much of its circulation.

The war emphasized some of the weaknesses and strengths of American newspapers. Their lack of coverage overseas left Americans unprepared for the strength of the Axis forces, and they have taken some justified criticism over the years for the lack of reporting on German restrictions on Jews during this period. But the war also emphasized newspapers' strength in their ability to change as needed. During the war the number of correspondents blossomed, and they reported in a vast variety of styles, ranging from the solid hard news of the wire services; through personal journalism like that of Ernie Pyle, one of an estimated forty-nine correspondents killed in action; to cartoonists like Bill Mauldin, whose "Willie" and "Joe" debated the war; to photographers like Joe Rosenthal, whose photo of the flag raising on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima symbolized American success.

Federal authorities censored and attempted to control newspapers, especially the black press, which had more than doubled its circulation between 1933 and 1940 to 1.3 million people. J. Edgar Hoover's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had monitored the black press since World War I and was concerned because it was becoming increasingly militant on racial matters. The growth of the big three black newspapers, the Courier, the Afro-American, and the Defender, changed the black press from small, low-circulation southern newspapers to mass-circulation, highly influential northern ones. During World War II the black press was investigated by seven government agencies, and an eighth, the War Production Board, was accused of cutting newsprint supplies to black newspapers. Wildly popular among African Americans was the Courier's Double V platform, standing for "victory abroad [on the battlefield] and victory at home" over racial restrictions.

Much of the press faced a chill from government regulation and the public in the Cold War period following World War II. The Smith Act (1940), the nation's first peacetime sedition act since 1801, prohibited advocacy of the violent overthrow of the government. It was rarely used before 1949, when public opinion turned violently anticommunist. Twelve journalists were indicted. Many newspapers, now facing severe competition from television for advertising dollars, turned right along with the nation. Although a lonely few remained on the left, newspapers still attracted congressional anticommunist investigations. Though some questioned Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy from the start of his anticommunist crusade, he easily manipulated most American newspapers and wire services. McCarthy followed a pattern of launching vague charges shortly before deadlines so they could not be questioned.

The growing disenchantment with newspapers by the public during the Cold War intensified during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s as a generational divide among Americans was duplicated in newsrooms. Young reporters pushed editors to challenge authority on such controversial topics as civil rights, the counterculture, and antiwar activities. New forms of journalism included personalized and activist reporting, which led to even more public dissatisfaction with newspapers. The "new journalism" and criticism by government figures caused a steep decline in public respect for the media accompanied by circulation declines. In 1968 the pollster George Gallup reported that the media had never been as poorly regarded by the public.

Then came Watergate. The press reported events in the investigation of a break-in by Republican operatives at the Democratic Party national headquarters in Washington's Watergate Hotel that culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, and public dissatisfaction with the press grew. Nixon's popularity had reached a peak of 68 percent after a Vietnam peace treaty was signed in 1973, and many Americans felt the media was out of touch.

The growing use of computers dramatically changed how newspapers were produced, with significant savings in labor and improvement in quality. Computers added depth to coverage and increased the use of color and graphics, especially after the 1980s. Serious reporting during Watergate was notable, as was the courage of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in publishing the Pentagon Papers, a secret report detailing governmental decisions during the Vietnam War.

Continued newspaper consolidation coupled with more media companies going public resulted, in the view of many, in a thirst for high profit margins and caused continued concern in the industry, especially as the number of independent metropolitan dailies declined to fewer than the fingers on one hand by the beginning of the twenty-first century. Circulation actually was rising, but at a rate far less than that of the population. In an attempt to reverse the circulation weakness, the industry turned to consultants. A study in 1979 for the American Society of Newspaper Editors changed the kinds of news covered. It spotlighted as hot areas economic news, business news, financial news, health news, personal safety, technology, and international news. Many newspapers changed to include more of those areas, cutting coverage of more traditional areas, such as government. Other studies added to the changes in news focus, and the influence of market research reached its peak with the founding in 1982 of USA Today, a five-day-a-week national newspaper published by Gannett Corporation behind the guiding light of its chairman Allen Neuharth. Gannett's research indicated that readers wanted short stories that would not "jump" (would not continue on another page). Readers liked sports, charts, and graphs and wanted information presented in ways that could be absorbed quickly. The paper's success led many other newspapers, especially those with continued readership weakness, to copy the USA Today formula. After Neuharth's retirement, USA Today changed some of its emphasis and by the twenty-first century was garnering the journalists' praise that had eluded it earlier.

The new century found the newspaper industry in the same position as at the founding of the nation, facing uncertainty and change. New challenges to its prime product, news, came from the Internet and all-news cable television channels. Most newspapers established online publications, but as with the Internet in general, few had figured out how to make a consistent profit. Change started the newspaper story, and change ends it.


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Stephen R.Byers

See alsoNew York Times ; Press Associations ; Publishing Industry .

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Periodical Publications . The eighteenth century, Samuel Miller wrote in 1803, may be emphatically called the age of periodical publications. In 1780 there had been thirty-nine American newspapers; by the end of the century the United States, with a population of about three million, supported a total of 242 newspapers, twenty-four of them dailies, 180 weeklies, and the rest published two or three times a week. By 1820 there were more than four hundred papers published every week and forty-two published daily. With the first daily newspaper being printed in America in 1783, the rise of daily papers over the next twenty years was an astonishing fact.

Coffeehouses . Generally costing six cents or more a copy, newspapers were too expensive for the average person to buy. Instead, a merchant seeking information from another port would go to a coffeehouse, where he could talk with other businessmen and read copies of newspapers bought by the proprietor. Some coffeehouse keepers also printed their own papers, gathering information from the papers brought in by sea captains. In London Edward Lloyd opened his coffeehouse in 1730, eventually developing his own newspaper, as well as an insurance firm, based on the knowledge of trade and international conditions gleaned from his customers. In Philadelphia William Bradford opened the London Coffeehouse in 1754 as an adjunct to his print shop and newspaper, the Pennsylvania Journal. Merchants paid to join the London Coffeehouse, as Bradford would be first to receive out-of-town papers. Even the colonial governor came regularly to Bradfords coffeehouse. In New York the Ferrari family managed the Merchants Coffeehouse until 1772; in 1776 Cornelius Bradford took it over but was driven out during the Revolution. He returned in 1783 and made the Merchants Coffeehouse a center for news, collecting information from ships in port and publishing Mr. Bradfords Marine List in New Yorks papers. Bradford kept a book of all ships in port and invited all visitors to the city to record their names and addresses in the coffeehouse. The Merchants Coffeehouse became an informal gathering place for men of influence and a profitable place for men who hoped to become influential.

Gilberts Coffeehouse . These coffeehouses all functioned as news sources, and in New York and Philadelphia they were influential in establishing the first daily newspapers. In Boston, however, the successful Gilberts Coffeehouse made a daily newspaper unnecessary. Gilberts maintained the kind of news books other coffeehouses did, and provided out-of-town papers for its patrons. But Gilberts also had two men with a boat ready to row out to any incoming vessel for news, and in this way the coffeehouse provided its patrons, who paid ten dollars a year, with the latest information.

Benjamin Towne . The first daily paper in America, the Pennsylvania Evening Post, and Daily Advertiser, began as a competitor to the traditional sources of news. Benjamin Towne was one of Philadelphias most colorful characters. In 1775 Towne had launched Philadelphias first successful triweekly paper, the Pennsylvania Evening Post. Though Towne was backed by Joseph Galloway and Thomas Wharton, both Loyalists, he attacked his rival, James Humphreys, publisher of the Pennsylvania Ledger, for his Tory sympathies and successfully ran him out of the city. Towne sold his paper at the unusually low rate of two pennies an issue, or ten shillings a year. When the British occupied the city, Towne stayed; when the British left, Townes paper continued to publish, in fact giving coverage to the British evacuation.

Confession . Towne had no politics other than selling papers, although he was charged with treason by the returning Patriots. In an attempt to clear his name, Towne asked John Witherspoon, president of Princeton College, to draw up an apology for him. Witherspoon concluded the confession, Finally I do hereby recant, draw

back, eat in, and swallow down, every word that I have ever spoken, written or printed to the prejudice of the United States of America, hoping it will not only satisfy the good people in general, but also all those scatterbrained fellows, who call one another out to shoot pistols in the air, while they tremble so much they cannot hit the mark. Towne refused to sign the confession. In November 1783 he would be indicted for treason, and in 1788 would be pronounced guilty by the Pennsylvania Executive Council.

A First . Towne tried to ingratiate himself with the citizens of Philadelphia through his paper. On 17 June 1783 Towne published the first issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post, and Daily Advertiser, the first daily newspaper published in America. For the first year the paper never had more than two pages, but in its second year of publication Towne was printing four-page papers, though he did not publish every day. On 22 August 1783 Towne advertised for a news hawker to sell his papers on the street. One rival printer noted contemptuously that Towne himself could be seen walking the streets selling his papers. While most papers were sold by subscription, Townes was the first sold on the streets. Towne also priced his paper well below the prevailing price: the Pennsylvania Evening Post, and Daily Advertiser sold for one half or one third as much as his rivals. Towne introduced the first paper intended for mass circulation. Unfortunately, he could not win favor with the state government in Pennsylvania, could not sell advertising, and by the end of 1784 was out of business.

Dunlap and Claypoole . In 1784 John Dunlap and D.C. Claypoole, both veterans of the Continental Army, launched the second daily paper in America and the first successful one. The Pennylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser contained shipping news, international stories, and advertising. Dunlap and Claypoole did not aim for a mass circulation; their paper looked very much like the other coffeehouse papers of the day. Its readers were men of business, eager for prices on international markets, for news of political events that might influence trade, and for confirmation of their ships reaching distant ports. Lists of ships arriving in Philadelphia were supplemented with news from other vessels the docked ships had encountered on the high seas. In this manner the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser kept Philadelphia merchants informed, indirectly, of their fleets across the globe. In 1791 the two partners split, Dunlap beginning Dunlaps American Daily Advertiser and Claypoole starting the Mail, or Claypooles Daily Advertiser. This competition lasted until 1793 when the yellow fever epidemic forced both men to suspend publication and then to join forces once again on 9 December with Dunlap and Claypooles American Daily Advertiser. While Dunlap and Claypoole focused on business news, they also published stenographic reports on the proceedings in Congress, and on 19 September 1796 they were the first to publish President George Washingtons Farewell Address.

Gazette of the United States . The real spark for competition between newspapers came with the creation of the federal government and the establishment of political parties. The writers of the Constitution recognized the need to provide the American people with news, and as the new government was being formed, New York Federalist leaders in April 1789 hired John Fenno, a failed Boston merchant, to launch the Gazette of the United States. Fennos paper presented the views of the Washington administration. While Claypoole and Dunlap reached a small audience of businessmen, Fennos Gazette of the United States was meant to reach a national audience, bringing all Americans into a political community with the federal government at its center. To encourage the creation of this national community, the Washington administration proposed to allow the newspaper free postage throughout the country. Congress would not agree to this; instead, in 1792 Congress allowed all papers to circulate in the mails at a minimal charge.

National Gazette. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson at first supported the Washington administration (Jefferson was secretary of state, and Madison wrote many of Washingtons speeches.) But by 1791, after Alexander Hamilton had successfully proposed a national bank, both men thought the administration was creating too strong a national government and recognized the need for opposition to the doctrines of monarchy, aristocracy, & the exclusion of the people advocated by Hamilton and Fenno. Three days after Washington signed the bank bill into law, Jefferson wrote to Philip Freneau, a Princeton classmate of Madisons and editor of the New York National Advertiser. Jefferson offered Freneau a job as translator in the State Department, paying him $250 a year for part-time work, which would leave Freneau time to edit a new newspaper, the National Gazette.

Newspaper War of 1792 . Freneau published the National Gazettes first issue in October 1791. In March 1792 Freneau began a series of newspaper essays attacking Hamiltons vision for economic development. Hamiltons financial system has given rise to scenes of speculation calculated to aggrandize the few and the wealthy, by oppressing the great body of the people, to transfer the best resources of the country forever into the hands of the speculators, and to fix a burthen on the people of the United States and their posterity, which time will serve to strengthen and increase. The whole plan, Freneau wrote, had been copied from British statute books and was part of a general scheme for creating a British-style government, with Hamilton as prime minister controlling the Congress through corruption and patronage. Fenno was slow to respond, waiting until June to declare that Hamiltons opponents were persons from other countries who having lately escaped from bondage, know not how to enjoy liberty. Freneau saw an opening here, since Hamilton himself was a person from another country, and many other Americans were not native born. This made the debate on the nations economic future into a bitter personal campaign. Hear! Hear!, Freneaus National Gazette proclaimed, ye foreigners from every country. Fenno swears that you foreigners are a set of rebellious turbulent dogs, a pack of run-away slaves, who are come here to overturn the government! Hamilton responded in an anonymous article, charging that Jefferson was behind Freneaus attack, and that the secretary of state used his official position to support the National Gazette. Hamilton went on to charge Jefferson with various counts of official misconduct while he wrote a series of essays defending his own. Jefferson prided himself on never writing a line which he did not himself sign and stayed out of the debate, though he had plenty of supporters. Madison, Freneau, James Monroe, and others eagerly took up the cause.

Aftermath . Washington was thoroughly dispirited at this falling-out in his official family. He determined to retire but was persuaded not to do so by Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton, who agreed on nothing but Washingtons importance. In 1793 Washington was reelected and Jefferson retired. The National Gazette folded the same year, but the General Advertiser and Aurora (commonly known as the Aurora) carried on the campaign. In Philadelphia the dispute between Hamilton and the opposition continued with increasing vehemence during the 1790s as the Washington administration made a treaty with England and the opposition created Democratic-Republican Societies to discuss political issues. These Democratic-Republican clubs, like the businessmens coffeehouses, functioned as gathering places for leaders and interested citizens to exchange news, though their favored topic was politics, not commerce. Newspaper circulation increased, and though Washington and Hamilton despaired of the countrys fate in this bitterly divisive time, the political press actually helped forge a stronger national identity. The Gazette of the United States, National Gazette, and Aurora circulated throughout the union, and in all parts of the United States men and women identified themselves with the policies of either Hamilton or Jefferson rather than with local personalities and issues.

Sedition Act . When John Adams became president in 1797, the United States and France were practically at war. To help foster a sense of national unity, the Adams administration and the Federalist Congress in 1798 passed a series of laws aimed at enemies of the United States. One of these laws, the Sedition Act, made it a federal offense to write, publish, or utter anything which might excite the American peoples hatred of their government. This meant that any criticism of the Adams administration would be against the law. Secretary of State Timothy Pickering put one of his clerks to work studying all newspapers to find evidence of sedition. By this time the opposition papers recognized the need for concerted action, and so Pickering determined to strike at the source by moving against the most influential papers first. By 1800 seventeen individuals would be charged with sedition, including Benjamin Franklin Bache of the Aurora; James Thomson Callender; Charles Holt, editor of the New London Bee; and Congressman Matthew Lyon. The prosecutions backfired; though the papers did have a break in service, by being officially silenced their editors achieved a kind of martyrdom, and the opposition found other ways to present its case. In 1801 the Sedition Act expired, and the Adams administration died with it. What a lesson to America & the


Year Letters (Millions) Letters per capita Newspapers (millions) Newspapers per capita
Source: Richard R. John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 4.
18103.90.7n. a.n. a.

world, James Madison wrote of this demonstration of the power of public opinion when there is no army to be turned against it.

The Washington Scene . In 1800 the federal government moved to Washington, D.C. In Philadelphia and New York there had already been newspapers when the U.S. government arrived; the political papers had become additional voices in the local media. But Washington had no paper until Samuel Harrison Smith, a Jeffersonian and editor of the Universal Gazette, decided to move to the newly formed city. For Smith much depended on the election of 1800; as a committed Republican, he had plenty to gain if Thomas Jefferson became president. On the other hand, if the Federalists maintained control of Congress or the executive branch, Smith could not expect success. When he approached Federalist Speaker of the House Theodore Sedgwick in December 1800 for permission to put a stenographers desk on the House floor where he would be able to hear debates, Sedgwick refused. In Philadelphia reporters had been admitted to the House floor, Sedgwick and the Federalists said, because their meeting place had room. In the new Capitol building there was not room for reporters. When Smith argued the point, he found himself threatened with censure by the Federalists in Congress. Jeffersons election changed this, and Smith was able to secure the printing contract for both the House of Representatives and the executive branch. Can you believe it?, Smith wrote to his sister. I scarcely can. A republican, printing the Presidents speech, etc.Can it be possible? Truly these are strange times. Smiths National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser acted as the official paper of the Jefferson administration, though, unlike the official party papers of the 1790s, it did not engage in the personal attacks and heated rhetorical passions of the day.

New-York Evening Post. With Smith and the Republican press ensconced in Washington, the Federalists also abandoned Philadelphia as their capital. The Federalists had been decisively beaten in the election of 1800. The presidential election had been close, with Jefferson narrowly edging out John Adams. But the congressional races were an overwhelming Republican victory. The Sixth Congress, elected in 1798, had sixty-four Federalists and forty-two Republicans; the Seventh Congress had sixty-nine Republicans and thirty-six Federalists. Many Federalists blamed their defeat on the maneuvering of Alexander Hamilton, who had continued to guide the party after his return to private life. Hamilton had written to influential Federalists attacking John Adamss character; when the letter fell into the hands of Aaron Burr, it was republished throughout the country. Hamilton, aware of his falling political stock and concerned that the principles of Federalism might die out, decided that the Federalists needed a new vigorous voice. In the fall of 1801 he and a group of New Yorks leading businessmen quickly raised thousands of dollars to launch a new paper. The New-York Evening Post, under the editorship of William Coleman but with significant editorial assistance from Hamilton, began publication on 16 November 1801 and continues to be published today.


Year Post offices Population per post office Settled area per post office
 (thousands of square miles)  
Source: Richard R. John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 51.
17907543, 0843492.7 
18009034, 876339.3 
18102, 3002, 623180.2 
18204, 5001, 796116.3 
18308, 4501, 28975.5 
184013, 4681, 08761.4 

The newspapers mission was to diffuse among the people the correct information on all interesting subjects, to inculcate just principles in religion, morals, and politics; and to cultivate a taste for sound literature. Its real mission at its founding was to criticize the Jefferson administration, which it did with robust glee. When Jefferson proposed to cut government spending by reducing the navy to a flotilla of small gunboats which he thought better for defending rivers and harbors, the New-York Evening Post criticized and ridiculed him. An 1805 hurricane lifted Gunboat No. 1 from its berth in Savannah, Georgia, and tossed it into a field, where, the paper said, it was defending the agricultural interest. The newspaper reprinted a Boston toast, If our gunboats are of no use upon the water, may they at least be the best upon the earth, and suggested that Gunboat No. 1 was emulating Jefferson, who as governor of Virginia had fled from an advancing British force, taking refuge on a nearby mountain. Though the New-York Evening Post had no use for Jefferson or Madison, it also criticized the New England Federalists who proposed breaking the union in 1814. Unlike New Yorks other papers, which were commercial sheets, the New-York Evening Post would present both political and commercial news, reflecting the political ideas of its founders. In this way it formed the link connecting the commercial papers of the earlier years, the partisan political press of the 1790s, and the newspapers of today.


William E. Ames, A History of the National Intelligencer (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972);

Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993);

Allan Nevins, The Evening Post: A Century of Journalism (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1922);

James Morton Smith, Freedoms Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1956).

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A newspaper is a printed periodical whose purpose is to deliver news and other information in an up-to-date, factual manner. Newspapers appear most commonly in daily editions, but may also be issued twice a day or weekly. While the content of a newspaper varies, it generally consists of a predetermined combination of news, opinion, and advertising. The editorial section is written by reporters and other journalists at the direction of editors and may also be compiled from wire service reports. The advertising content of a newspaper can be divided into two parts, classified and display. Classified ads are small, text-only items obtained via telephone and set into the format by the classified advertising representative. Display ads are obtained by sales representatives employed by the newspaper who actively solicit local businesses for this larger, more visually oriented ad space.

A newspaper is printed on thin paper made from a combination of recycled matter and wood pulp, and is not intended to last very long. Large printing presses, usually located at a plant separate from the editorial and advertising headquarters, print the editions, and a network of delivery trucks bring them to the newsstands and geographical distribution centers for subscribers.


Public officials in ancient Rome posted news of the day in a public space, but it was not until the invention of the printing press in the late Middle Ages that mass-produced printed matter became possible. One hundred fifty years after the invention of printing from movable type by Johann Gutenberg in 1447, the first regular newspaper, Avisa Relation oder Zeitung, appeared in Germany in the early 17th century. The first English-language newspaper, the Weekly Newes, began publishing in England in 1622. Over the next few generations, small pamphlets and broadsheets were the primary source of printed information in both England and the colonies of North America, although they were generally geared toward business matters. One of the first newspapers in the U.S. was Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick, which began appearing in Boston in 1690.

These early prototypes of the newspaper eventually developed into publications that appeared on a more regular basis in localized geographic areas. At the time of the American Revolution, 35 newspapers were published in the 13 colonies. Many of these papers and their successors over the next few generations were concerned with political issues of the day and were rather expensive. This changed during the 1830s, however, when technology and publicity popularized "penny papers." The New York Sun was one of the first of these to gain widespread readership.

The development of quicker, more efficient printing methods led to a rapid growth of newspapers in the U.S. during the 19th century. As the country expanded and new metropolitan centers sprang up, so did newspapers that served the interests of the region. A growing literacy rate among the populace also helped make such printed matter more popular and profitable. In the latter decades of the 20th century, papers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have become esteemed sources of news in the U.S. and have wide distribution outside of the cities where they are produced.

Until the 1980s, many cities had more than one newspaper, and it was not uncommon for a large city to have three or four competing dailies. By the 1990s, many papers had disappeared or merged so that only one or two noncompeting papers coexisted in major cities. Smaller regional newspapers provide a mix of local news with national and international items. Such papers usually have correspondents in New York, Washington, D.C., and the major cities of the world. Tabloid newspapers, presenting more sensational news and features such as detailed crime stories, first appeared in the U.S. in the 1920s. The word tabloid refers to the size of the printed page, which is generally half the size of a standard newspaper.

The Editorial Process

The process of producing a daily edition of a large city newspaper begins with a meeting of the paper's editors, who determine the amount of editorial copy in an issue based on the advertising space that has already been sold. A specific number of pages is agreed upon, and the editorial assignments are made to the various departments. The section of national and international news, generally the first part of the paper, is compiled from correspondents who send in their stories electronically, usually via computer modern, to their editor's computer. There, the editor checks the stories, sometimes rewriting them or increasing or decreasing their length. Additional stories of importance are compiled from wire services such as United Press International, Associated Press, and Reuters. These are organizations that employ reporters in various cities of the globe to compile stories and items quickly for dissemination over telephone wires.

Timeliness is of the essence in the newspaper business. Even 150 years ago, New York City publishers would have messengers waiting to meet ships coming from Europe. The messengers would grab the latest dispatches, newspapers, and even novels and race to the printing office. There, rows of compositors would be poised to work all night setting type so that the next afternoon's newspaper could contain European news only two weeks old or the first chapters of a novel published months ago.

With the coming of the telegraph to the western parts of the U.S. in the mid-19th century, editors commonly kept one or two compositors late into the night ready to set stories that came in from the East by telegraph. The dots and dashes of the telegraph message, often consisting of just key words and phrases, were hastily transcribed by the telegrapher and given directly to the typesetters. Compositors were skilled enough to decipher the telegrapher's scribbles, compose full sentences while setting type (letter by letter) by hand, and complete the entire story by deadline.

The Linotype machine, developed in the 1880s, combined the processes of composing text, casting type, and redistributing the type molds. By working a keyboard, the Linotype operator assembled molds, or matrices, of letters, numbers, or punctuation marks in sequence. The matrices were then mechanically held in place while molten type metal was forced into them, creating a line of type ("lin' o' type"). The individual matrices were automatically replaced in the machine's magazine for reuse.

The Linotype increased the speed of a typesetter fourfold. This allowed editors to cut labor costs while getting all the latest news. The machine cost hundreds of compositors their jobs and added to the intensity and pace of the work.

William S. Pretzer

For a typical, newsbreaking story of local origin, the process begins with a correspondent submitting a report, either in person or via computer modern, to the "rewrite" desk person. The rewrite journalist fine-tunes the wording of the story and makes sure it answers the six important questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how. He or she then sends it over to the computer at the city desk. The city desk editor, who is responsible for the paper's local content, looks over the story, makes additional changes if necessary, and sends it over to the news desk. The news editor, who makes the final call about which stories to run in the upcoming edition based on their relevance, may make further changes before submitting the piece to the copydesk. The story arrives there with guidelines for length as well as headline instructions regarding size and type.

From this point, the story is set to be inserted on a certain page that has already been roughly laid out by both the news editor and a makeup editor. A mock-up of the page, essentially a blank form showing where the stories will run and where pictures and advertising will be inserted, is called the "dummy." The makeup editor has already met with the advertising department to determine how such pages will be laid out with ad space. The dummy has rough notes for headlines, story insertions, and graphic elements such as photos and tables of statistics. It also shows the date of the edition as well as a page and section number. After the news editor has determined the placement of the story on the page in questionas well as the other items set to run therethe dummy is sent on to a composing room.

The Manufacturing


  • 1 The composing room receives the story in an electronic format, with the computer text file already translated with typeset codes. In a typeset file, the characters are of the same "type"style, size, and widthas they appear on the pages of the newspaper. The setting of stories into the type that a reader sees went unchanged for several decades until the latter years of the 20th century. Well into the 1800s, type was set by hand, letter by letter. A typesetter dropped small metal letters into a hand-held tray called a "stick." The invention of the Linotype machine in 1884 made possible a quicker, more efficient method of typesetting. Invented by German immigrant Ottmar Mergenthaler of Baltimore, Maryland, this large, cumbersome machine worked by casting hot lead into a line of type with the assistance of an operator who typed in the copy on a keyboard. Individual lines of type were then placed by hand onto a page form. When a page was completed, it was then sent to a stereotyping room where a curved metal plate was made from the page form. The page form was then placed on the printing press.

    Modern technology has replaced the Linotype process through a method called phototypesetting. The first step in this process is the transfer of the dummy to the page layout section of the newspaper. There, an operator transfers the instructions on the dummy into a rough page prototype. A printed version may be looked over and adjusted several times by one of the reporters whose story is featured as well as by the copy editor. If another breaking story comes in, this page layout can be altered in a matter of minutes.

Image transference

  • 2 The final version of the page is then approved by the editor on dutysometimes a night editor in the case of a paper that is slated for a morning editionand sent over to a process department. There, the page is taken in its computer format and transferred via laser beams onto film in an image setter apparatus. The operator then takes the film to a processor in another section of the paper, who develops it and adjusts it for its final look. Photographs are scanned into another computer terminal and inserted into the page layout. The pages that are set to be printed together are then taped down onto a device called a "stripper," and an editor checks them over once more for errors. The strippers are then put into frames on light-sensitive film, and the image of each page is burned onto the film. The film of each page is inserted into a laser reader, a large facsimile machine that scans the page and digitally transfers the images to the printing center of the newspaper.

    At the printing center, typically a large plant separate from the newspaper's editorial offices and centrally located to facilitate citywide distribution, the pages arrive at the laser room and are put through a laser writer, another scanning device that makes a negative image of them. In the negative image of the page, the text is white while the blank spaces are black. The final images of each page are further adjusted. This last-minute adjustment may involve fine-tuning of the colored sections and retouching photographs.


  • 3 From these negatives, the forms from which the paper will be printed are composed in a platemaking room. The film of the page, usually done two pages at a time, is then placed on a lighted box. Next, an aluminum plate containing a light-sensitive coating is placed on top of the image of the pages. The light box is then switched on, and ultraviolet light develops the image of the pages onto the aluminum plate. The aluminum plate is then bent at the edges so that it will fit into a press, and is fitted onto plate cylinders.


  • 4 The aluminum plates of each page next move on to the actual printing press, an enormous machine often two stories high. When the press is running, the noise in the building is deafening and employees must wear earplugs. The most common method of printing newspapers is called web offset. The "web" refers to the large sheets of blank newsprint that are inserted in rolls, sometimes weighing over a ton, into the actual printing press. The reels of newsprint are loaded in at the bottom floor of the press. The rolls are inserted onto a reel stand, which has three components: the first reel brings a roll of paper up to the press, a second is loaded and ready to replace the first roll when it runs out, and a third reel stays empty and ready to be fed with another when the first reel is almost finished. Each roll of blank newsprint has double-sided tape at its edges, so that when one roll runs out in the press, another smoothly takes up where the other left off without interrupting the printing process.

    The plate cylinders then press the image of the page onto a blanket cylinder, leaving a version of the page's image on the cylinder's soft material. When the paper runs through the press, the blanket cylinder presses the image onto it. The chemical reaction of the ink, which contains oil, and the squirting of jets of water into the process result in the actual newspaper page of black or colored images on a white back-ground. Since oil and water do not mix, the areas where ink should adhere to the page are black or colored, and water washes away the parts where ink is not needed. This is why this printing process is referred to as "offset."

    Next, the large sheets of printed newsprint move on to another large piece of machinery called a folder. There, the pages are cut individually and folded in order. This entire printing process can move as fast as 60,000 copies per hour. Quality control technicians and supervisors take random copies and scan them for printing malfunctions in color, order, and readability. Next, a conveyer belt moves the papers into a mail room section of the plant, where they are stacked into quires, or bundles of 24. The quires then move to another section where a machine wraps them in plastic. The bundles are now ready to be loaded onto delivery trucks for distribution.

The Future

The demise of the printed word, especially in the form of a daily newspaper, is periodically predicted to be imminent by industry analysts. The growth of other news sources such as radio and 24-hour television news stationshas helped diminish the impact of newspapers, but the competition between dailies in many cities has forced many of the weaker, less financially-viable newspapers out of business. In many cities, joint-operating agreementsby which two competing papers share business, advertising, and printing departmentshas helped to keep two editorially distinct papers afloat.

Bypassing the printed newspaper altogether, on-line computer technology has enabled consumers to pick and choose news from among their own specific interests on the information superhighway. One site on the Internet, one of the most popular providers of access to on-line information, allows a person to create his or her own newspaper. A menu appears onscreen, and the user selects stories from wire services, as well as entertainment features and cartoons, and inserts them onto a template. This template can be generated on a daily basis with a few keystrokes, producing an edition of a customized newspaper almost instantly.

Where To Learn More


Miller, Margaret. Hot Off the Press! A Day at the Daily News. Crown, 1985.

Waters, Sarah. How Newspapers Are Made. Facts on File, 1989.


Booker, Ellis. "Extra! Extra! Newspapers Paperless." Computerworld, July 20, 1992, p. 30.

Kowet, Don. "Laying Out a Futuristic Newspaper." Insight on the News, May 14, 1990, p. 48.

Carol Brennan

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newspaper, publication issued periodically, usually daily or weekly, to convey information and opinion about current events.

Early Newspapers

The earliest recorded effort to inform the public of the news was the Roman Acta diurna, instituted by Julius Caesar and posted daily in public places. In China the first newspaper appeared in Beijing in the 8th cent. In several German cities manuscript newssheets were issued in the 15th cent. The invention and spread of the printing press (1430–50) was the major factor in the early development of the newspaper. The Venetian government posted the Notizie scritte in 1556, for which readers paid a small coin, the (gazetta).


In England in the 17th cent., journalism consisted chiefly of newsletters printed principally by Thomas Archer (1554–1630?), Nathaniel Butter (d. 1664), and Nicholas Bourne (fl. 1622). The London Gazette, founded (1665) in Oxford, is still published as a court journal. The first daily paper in England was the Daily Courant (1702). Thereafter many journals of opinion set a high standard of literary achievement in journalism—the Review (1704–13) of Daniel Defoe; the Examiner (1710–11) edited by Jonathan Swift; and the high society periodicals, Tatler (1709–11) and the Spectator (1711–12) of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele.

The first English periodical essay was published in the Tatler. John Wilkes, the 18th-century outspoken journalist, challenged Parliament's efforts to punish the press for the reporting of Parliamentary debates. After Wilkes's successful battle for greater freedom of the press, British newspapers began to reach the masses in the 19th cent. Of several present-day London papers born in the 18th cent., The Times, founded in 1785 by John Walter, the Manchester Guardian, now printed in London, and the Financial Times are internationally known. Other prominent London newspapers include the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail.

The Continent

The continental newspaper also developed in the 17th cent. in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Censorship was common throughout Europe, and Sweden was the first country to pass a freedom of the press law in 1766. One of the oldest papers, Avisa Relation oder Zeitung, appeared in Germany in 1609; the Nieuwe Tijdingen was published in Antwerp in 1616; the first French newspaper, the Gazette, was founded in 1631.

Major French newspapers today include Le Figaro,France-Soir,Libération, and Le Monde. Among newspapers of contemporary Germany are Tagesspiegel (Berlin), Die Welt (Hamburg), Rheinische Merkur (Coblenz), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich), Frankfurter Allgemeine, and Frankfurter Rundschau. Other well-known European newspapers include the Irish Independent (Dublin), Corriere della Sera (Milan), Osservatore romano (Vatican), and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zürich).

Newspapers have played an important historical role as the organs of revolutionary propaganda. The most notable of such revolutionary newspapers was Iskra, founded by Lenin in Leipzig in 1900. In the USSR, Izvestia and Pravda were the largest-circulation official newspapers. After the Soviet Union's disintegration, Izvestia became an independent newspaper involved in joint ventures with the New York Times and the Financial Times.Pravda, which the new government briefly banned (1993), remained aligned with the former Communists. In 1994 an editorial faction at Pravda opened a rival paper with the same name, and in 1998 the original Pravda changed its name to Slovo ( "the word" ).


In Asia the leading newspapers include Renmin Ribao (Beijing), Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo), the Straits Times (Singapore), the Times of India (Delhi), and the Manila Times. Japan's first daily newspaper, Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun, appeared in 1870, although printing from movable type was introduced in Japan in the late 16th cent. Today, Japan has a very high newspaper readership.

The United States

The existence in the United States of an independent press, protected by law from government authority and responsible to the public can be traced back to the libel trial (1735) in the colony of New York of John Peter Zenger. A single number of a newssheet, Publick Occurrences, was issued in Boston in 1690 and was then suppressed by royal authority. John Campbell's Boston News-Letter endured from 1704 to 1776. James Franklin launched the New England Courant in 1721, and seven years later his younger brother, Benjamin Franklin, founded the Pennsylvania Gazette. Other colonial papers include the American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), the New York Gazette, and the Maryland Gazette.

The first American daily, the Pennsylvania Packet and General Advertiser, appeared in Philadelphia in 1784. The Independent Journal (New York) carried the famous Federalist essays. Two rival political organs were Alexander Hamilton's Gazette of the United States and Thomas Jefferson's National Gazette, edited by Philip Freneau. The first New York daily newspaper was the Minerva (1793), edited by Noah Webster. Under other names it survived into the 20th cent.

Alexander Hamilton was among the founders (1801) of the New York Evening Post, for many years edited by William Cullen Bryant. As the New York Post, it is the oldest newspaper in the United States with a continuous daily publication. William Lloyd Garrison made the Liberator a powerful organ for the abolitionists. The New York Sun (1833) achieved national fame under Charles A. Dana. The New York Herald, launched (1835) by James Gordon Bennett, was famous for its foreign news coverage and later established a Paris edition.

Horace Greeley, one of the best-known figures in American journalism, was proprietor and editor of the New York Tribune from its inception in 1841 until 1872. The Tribune was influential in the Civil War period. The New York Times was founded (1851) by Henry J. Raymond, and under the supervision of Adolph S. Ochs it achieved worldwide coverage and circulation, which it has retained. The rotary press, a huge automated roll-fed printing press made high production rates possible to increase circulation. Newspaper circulation increased to keep up with growing population.

The New York World became enormously influential after its purchase by Joseph Pulitzer. When it issued the first colored supplement in the United States in 1893, the paper's critics dubbed it "yellow journalism." The term stuck and it came to represent a more sensational handling of the news, for which Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst are considered by many to be main instigators.

Other major U.S. newspapers include the New York Daily News, the Providence Journal, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, the Nashville Tennessean, the Kansas City Star, the Atlanta Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor (Boston), the Dallas News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post, the Miami Herald and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

A number of American newspapers are published in languages other than English. An example of a foreign-language paper published in an urban area is El Diário in New York. Several other newspapers are oriented toward professional interests: Variety, for example, deals with show business. Although the Wall Street Journal is primarily concerned with commerce and finance, it now has the largest daily circulation of any U.S. newspaper.

Newspapers Today

As the U.S. population in the latter half of the 20th cent. shifted from cities to suburbs and as competition from other media grew, many large city newspapers were forced to cease publication, merged with their competitors, or were taken over by newspaper chains such as the Gannett Company or Knight Ridder. (In 2006 the latter was itself taken over by the McClatchy Company chain.) In England large newspaper-publishing empires were built up by Lords Rothermere, Northcliffe, and Beaverbrook. More recent media empires with major operations on both sides of the Atlantic have been created by Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell. The great American chains were founded by Joseph Pulitzer, J. G. Bennett, William Randolph Hearst, F. A. Munsey, E. W. Scripps, the McCormick-Pattersons, Frank E. Gannett, Charles L. and John S. Knight, and Hermann Ridder.

In 1982, using satellite transmission and color presses, the Gannett chain established a new national newspaper, USA Today, published and circulated throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today are read all over the country; small towns and rural districts usually have daily or weekly local papers made up largely of syndicated matter, with a page or two of local news and editorials. These local papers are frequently influential political organs.

Since the invention of the telegraph, which enormously facilitated the rapid gathering of news, the great news agencies, such as Reuters in England, Agence France-Presse in France, and Associated Press and United Press International in the United States, have sold their services to newspapers and to their associate members. Improvements in photocomposition and in printing (especially the web offset press) have enhanced the quality of print and made possible the publication of huge editions at great speed. Modern newspapers are supported primarily by the sale of advertising space.

Computer technology also has had an enormous impact on the production of news and newspapers, and by the 1990s when the first independent on-line daily appeared on the the Internet, it also had begun to affect the nature of newspapers. By the decade's end some 700 papers had web sites, some of which carried news gathered by their own staffs, and papers regularly scooped themselves by publishing electronically before the print edition appeared. Meanwhile, independent Internet-based news sources proliferated. The growth of on-line editions of established newspapers, other on-line news sources, and on-line venues offering free classified ad space also affected newspapers' sale of advertising space and the production of vital advertising revenue. In the early 21st cent., as newspaper owners devoted more and more attention to their Web editions, print advertising was typically declining while sales of advertising for increasingly popular on-line and other digital editions was growing but not enough to offset print adversitising losses. Concurrently, as print readership and advertising declined, many newspapers were experiencing cuts in their budgets, buyouts, staff layoffs, and reductions in physical size, and some daily newspapers moved to publishing several days a week instead of every day.

The extent to which the editorial policy of a paper is affected by the interests of its advertisers has been a subject of frequent controversy. More broadly controversial is the entire question of corporate ownership wielding vast influence through controlling interests in newspapers, radio, and television.

For discussion of newspaper censorship, see press, freedom of the. See also journalism and periodical.


See F. L. Mott, American Journalism (3d ed. 1962); J. C. Merrill, The Elite Press (1968); A. K. MacDougall, The Press (1972); A. M. Lee, The Daily Newspaper in America (1937, repr. 1972); E. Case, The Press (1989); P. Meyer, The Vanishing Newspaper (2004); A. S. Jones, Losing the News (2009); D. Kindred, Morning Miracle: Inside The Washington Post (2010); J. O'Shea, The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers (2011); D. Folkenflik, ed., Page One: Inside the New York Times and the Future of Journalism (2011).

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newspapers. It was well over 100 years from the invention of printing to the appearance of the first newspapers. A number of corantos, based on German and Dutch models, were published in the 1620s, but they were confined to London, carried very little English news, appeared erratically, and had print-runs of only a few hundreds. The Civil War stimulated the demand for news and in the 1640s the royalist Mercurius Aulicus waged ideological warfare from Oxford against the parliamentary Mercurius Britannicus in London. The authorities, republican or royalist, mistrusted news-sheets and in 1663 Sir Roger l'Estrange was given wide licensing powers as surveyor of the press. Two years later, the London Gazette was started to provide official news. This thin government diet proved unpalatable and the broadsheets which continued to appear were devoted more to mayhem and bawdy than to political information. The excitement of the Popish plot in the 1670s persuaded many printers to risk prosecution by producing unlicensed papers, and there were also several manuscript news-letters, expensive to produce, and distributed to a limited number of subscribers.

The growth of a newspaper press in a modern form dates from the failure to renew the Licensing Act in 1695. Several newspapers were quickly off the mark, including the tri-weekly Post Boy, Post Man, and Flying Post, all of which survived until well into the 18th cent. In April 1702 they were joined by the first daily paper, the Daily Courant, and though its circulation was modest, it stayed until 1735. At the same time the provincial press made its appearance with the Norwich Post (1701), followed by the Bristol Post Boy (1702), Exeter Post-Man (1704), and the Worcester Post-Man (1709). Though casualties among newspapers were heavy, the general progress through the 18th cent. was remarkable. By 1760 there were four London dailies and by 1790 fourteen. Provincial papers multiplied even quicker: by 1760 there were 35 in existence, 50 by 1780, and 150 by 1821. Stamp duty, introduced in 1715 to curb papers, brought in £911 in its first year but by 1781 was yielding more than £40,000 p.a. to the revenue. Circulation was much larger, comment less restrained. Mist's Weekly Journal pursued Walpole in the 1730s, the Middlesex Journal attacked North in the 1770s, and Cobbett's Political Register, claiming a staggering 60,000 copies in the 1800s, sustained a long campaign for reform of Parliament. From cautious beginnings, the press had become a major political force. Parliament was obliged in the 1770s to abandon its attempt to suppress publication of its debates, and though prosecution of editors continued and the stamp duty was raised during the Napoleonic wars, public appetite grew. The stamped papers were expensive, but an unstamped press flourished, and papers could be read by the less wealthy in coffee-houses, pubs, and barbers' shops.

Sunday newspapers, at first much opposed, began in 1779 with the launch of the Sunday Monitor, joined in 1791 by the Observer, whose great days were well ahead in the 1920s. By mid-century the Sunday papers were outselling the dailies and had already acquired a reputation for sensational journalism. The News of the World began its career in 1843. Among the dailies, the prodigious success was that of The Times, started in 1785 as the Daily Universal Register, changing its name in 1788, and forging ahead in the 19th cent. with the introduction of steam printing and a news service so good that government ministers begged to know what was taking place. By 1850 it was selling four times the number of the Morning Chronicle, Morning Herald, and Morning Post combined, and claiming (1852) that it stood ‘upon the breach between the present and the future, extending its survey to the horizons of the world’. Three years later, the abolition of the stamp duty enabled the Daily Telegraph to launch itself as a rival to The Times and by 1880 it was claiming 250,000 copies.

The ‘newspaper revolution’ of the late 19th and early 20th cents., which ushered in the ‘popular press’, was progression rather than a sudden change. Ever since newspapers began, the authorities had been anxious about their effect on the masses. The broadsheets of the 1640s had revelled in sex, violence, and the bizarre. George Reynolds in the 1840s mined a rich seam with Reynolds Magazine, offering articles and stories which sounded more lurid than they were—‘Wagner, the were-wolf’, ‘Varney the Vampire’, and ‘Maniac of the Deep’. W. T. Stead's campaign in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885 against the prostitution of young girls (for which he went to well-publicized gaol for two months) anticipated later crusades, not least in its ambiguity. What was changing was the growth of a vast new reading public, benefiting from the introduction of compulsory elementary education in 1880, able to afford a paper, yet unprepared for long and strenuous reading. First to exploit the new market was George Newnes, whose Tit-Bits (1881) rocketed to success, with odd news items, tips and hints, and competitions. T. P. O'Connor followed with the Star, a London evening paper, in January 1888, and was selling 125,000 within the month, mainly to rail commuters. Next came Alfred Harmsworth, literally the first of the newspaper barons, with Answers (1888), Comic Cuts (1890), and Home Chat (1895), before launching the Daily Mail in 1896, selling at a halfpenny, and reaching 989,000 copies by 1900. Earnest citizens could not decide whether it was splendid that the masses were now reading, or shocking that they were reading trash.

In the post-1918 period, the national dailies increased their market share, largely at the expense of the provincial papers. The competition, even with an expanding readership, was fierce. The Mail was followed by the Daily Express (1900), the Daily Mirror (1903) which was selling more than a million copies daily by 1914, and the Daily Herald (1919), organ of the new Labour Party. Reliance on advertising revenue meant that circulation figures were of crucial importance and give-away offers—pens, insurance, books, holidays—became common. Though the Herald peaked in the 1930s, it was handicapped because its readership had poor purchasing power and was unattractive to advertisers: when it closed in 1964 it still had nearly 5 million readers, but of the wrong mix. After the customary wartime boom from 1939 to 1945, the press faced new problems—sharply rising labour costs, and in the 1970s competition for advertisements from television. Ownership of the press passed from proprietors or families to large consortia with the resources to re-equip and compete. After a series of damaging confrontations with the unions in the 1970s (The Times was out of production for eleven months 1978/9), the papers began moving out of Fleet Street, with which they had been associated since the 17th cent., into purpose-built premises well away from the city of London. The quality papers continued to do well and at the bottom end of the market the competition in vulgarity would have won the approval of their 1640s predecessors. Over the past decades, the largest fall in circulation has been among the Sunday papers, reflecting the change to a day of shopping and vigorous leisure. In December 2000 the circulation of the Sun was 3.6 million, followed by the Mail (2.3), the Mirror (2.3), the Express (1.0), the Telegraph (1.0), The Times (0.72), the Star (0.5), the Financial Times (0.41), the Guardian (0.39), and the Independent (0.22). Among the Sundays, the News of the World, with its rather monotonous diet of which TV personality is cheating on whom, still outsells its rivals with 3.8 million copies, followed by the Mail on Sunday (2.3), Sunday Mirror (1.7), People (1.4), Sunday Times (1.3), Sunday Express (0.9), Sunday Telegraph (0.8), Observer (0.4), and Independent on Sunday (0.23).

J. A. Cannon


Black, J. , The English Press in the Eighteenth Century (1987);
Boyce, G., Curran, J., and Wingate, P. (eds.), Newspaper History from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day (1978);
Brown, L. , Victorian News and Newspapers (Oxford, 1985);
Cranfield, G. A. , The Development of the Provincial Newspaper 1700–1800 (Oxford, 1962);
—— The Press and Society (1978).

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The State of the Industry. In 1850 about 10 percent of the adult population in the United States subscribed to one of the 254 daily newspapers, which usually cost a penny per issue, though in New York a paper cost three cents by the time of the Civil War. Newspapers could be distributed by mail without charge in the county of publication until 1856, and in cities newsboys hawked papers on street corners. The rural population was poorly served, especially before the Civil War. Before the war most news was local because reports from distant locations were hard to gather. Papers were filled with opinion, and much, if not most, of the space in the paper was devoted to prose other than reportage. The average paper was six columns wide and eight pages or fewer. There were few illustrations, though different sizes and fonts of type introduced some variety to the newspaper page. As many as three pages of an eight-page paper were typically devoted to classified advertising, and local merchants took advantage of newspaper advertising space with increasing frequency. As circulation of newspapers grew, especially in large cities, publishers were faced with limits on the capacity of their presses. The introduction of Richard Hoes revolving press in the late 1840s alleviated the problem. By the time of the Civil War, James Gordon Bennetts New York Herald was able to print 20,000 newspapers per hour using a Hoe press. On the Sunday after the fall of Fort Sumter in 1861 Bennett printed 135,000 papers, the most ever produced in a single run. The fast web-perfecting press, which printed both sides of a paper at the same time from a continuous roll of paper, was patented in 1863 and became a standard piece of equipment after the Civil War.

Telegraphic Reporting. In the decade before the Civil War the telegraph had already begun to transform the daily newspaper. The Associated Press, formed in 1848 by a group of New York newspaper editors to share news sources, had spread to other cities, and journalism became more uniform from city to city as many newspapers printed the same reporters account of an event. The most successful papers responded to reader interest in national news by sending out their own news correspondents. By 1860 there were twenty-three Washington correspondents assigned to the U.S. Senate and fifty-one correspondents in the House of Representatives. As the telegraph became a central part of a reporters work, it affected the content of reports. Opinion was less common in telegraphed reports because the cost was so expensive that only the facts could be transmitted. Objectivity became a practical matter.

Politics of the News. On the pressing issues of the time, however, editors spoke their minds. Papers were typically associated with political positions, and the editors vigorously used their clout to promote their parties causes. Abolitionist papers such as Horace Greeleys weekly New York Tribune (which had a circulation of two hundred thousand copies and was distributed in the West) and Joseph Medills Chicago Tribune were important voices in both supporting Abraham Lincolns election to the presidency and promoting the war effort. The urgency of events during the Civil War increased readers reliance on daily newspapers. At the outset of the war,

Gen. George McClellan called a press conference, at which he made editors promise in writing not to publish information of military value to the enemy in return for his promise to provide them reports on matters of public interest. In February 1862 Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued an order requiring journalists to submit their reports to provost marshals for censorship on matters related to military actions.

Confederate Newspapers. When the Civil War began, eight hundred newspapers, of which about eight were dailies, were published in the eleven Confederate states. Most Southern papers had a small circulation and were printed on hand presses. When the war began, a consortium of editors formed the Press Association of the Confederate States of America to report the war, and most Southern battle reports came from the PA, as it was called. The chaos of the war played havoc with the newspapers. By 1863 many Southern newspapers were no more than a single sheet because of paper shortages. Publication was irregular, and extras printed on one side only were common. By the wars end papers were printed on whatever material was available, including wallpaper. By 1865 only twenty Southern newspapers survived.


In 1850 all writing was done with pencil or pen and ink. Offices employed scribes to keep records, and the only practical way to make a copy of a document was to rewrite it longhand. For individuals, this practice was rarely a hardship. For business, state and federal governments, and the courts, copy work was tedious and time-consuming.

As early as 1829 there were working models of awkward typing machines developed by inventors in the printing business, but they were more significant as curiosities than as working tools. The modern typewriter was not introduced until 1867, when Christopher Latham Sholes, a printer, Carlos Glidden, a lawyer, and Samuel Soule, a draftsman and engineer, introduced a refinement of a machine that Sholes had been using in his print shop to print page numbers. Their typewriter, which featured a keyboard with the familiar qwerty arrangement of letters used today, was patented in 1868.

In 1873 the Remington Arms Company, seeking to replace revenues lost from the sale of guns after the war ended, bought the typewriter patent for $12,000, and began producing what were called kitchen-table typewritersthat is, machines small enough to set on a kitchen tablein 1876. Despite being displayed at the Centennial Exposition of 1876, the new machine failed to capture the attention of potential buyers. Only about four thousand typewriters were sold in the first four years, including one unit to Mark Twain in 1874. It was not until the turn of the century that the typewriter had its enormous impact on the American workplace.

Source: Richard N. Curent, The Typewriter and the Men Who Made It (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1954).

Postwar Developments. In the decade after the war the Northern press flourished, and the foundations of national reporting were firmly laid. The number of newspapers in the United States doubled during that time, and the quality of the best newspapers, which is to say, for the most part, those published in large cities, increased accordingly as journalistic standards were established. The breadth of reportage was a particularly notable improvement. An increase in telegraph cable allowed easier access to remote news sources, and the development of railroads allowed the most prosperous papers to send correspondents to distant locations for on-the-spot coverage. By the end of Reconstruction, the circulation of daily newspapers was more than 3.5 million.


Michael Emery and Edwin Emery, The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media, seventh edition (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1992).

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The first news sheet issued with some regularity in Russia was Sankt Peterburgskie vedemosti (St. Petersburg Herald ), a biweekly published by the Imperial Academy of Sciences, beginning in 1727. Until the Great Reforms of 18611874, nearly all newspapers in Russia were official bulletins issued by various government institutions. To the extent that there was a print-based public sphere in pre-Reform Russia, it was dominated by the "thick journals" that published literary criticism and philosophical speculation.

The relaxing of censorship and limits on private publications during the Great Reforms, advances in printing technology, and the spread of literacy in Russian cities led to the development of a mass-market, commercial press by the 1880s. Daily papers targeting various markets covered stock-market news and foreign affairs, as well as the more sensational topics of crime, sex scandals, and natural disasters. As Louise McReynolds has demonstrated, Russian commercial mass newspapers resembled their counterparts in North America and Western Europe in appealing to and fostering nationalist sentiment.

By World War I "copeck" (penny) newspapers in Moscow and St. Petersburg achieved circulations comparable to those of mass circulation organs in the United States and Western Europe. The most popular newspaper in the Russian Empire in 1914 was Russkoe slovo (Russian Word ), with a circulation of 619,500.

After the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917, they created an entirely new kind of mass press. By the summer of 1918 the Soviet government had shut down all non-Bolshevik newspapers on their territory. Bolshevik newspapers during the years of revolution and civil war (19171921) aimed to mobilize the populace in general and Party members in particular for war. Resources were scarce, and typical civil war newspaper editions were only two pages long. The state funded the press throughout the Soviet era.

The Bolsheviks shared with most Russian intellectuals of the revolutionary era a profound contempt for the sensationalistic urban copeck newspapers that aimed to entertain a mass audience. They created a mass press that was supposed to educate, guide, and mobilize readers, not entertain them. Other important functions of Soviet newspapers were the gathering of intelligence on popular moods and the monitoring of corruption in the Party or state apparatus. To fulfill these tasks, the newspapers solicited and received literally millions of readers' letters, some of which were published. The editorial staff also forwarded letters denouncing crime and corruption to the appropriate police or prosecutorial organs. They used letters to compose reports on popular attitudes that were sent to all levels of party officialdom.

The role of direct censorship in Soviet newspaper production has been overemphasized. Agenda-setting by party and state organs was more important. The role of official censors in controlling press content was negligible. Soviet journalists were generally self-censoring, and they followed agendas set by the Communist Party's Central Committee and other official institutions.

Illegal newspapers were central to Bolshevik Party organization in the prerevolutionary years. This heritage of underground political culture contributed to a Soviet fetishization of newspapers as the mass medium par excellance. As a result of this fetishization, Communist propaganda officials and journalists were slow to understand and effectively use the media of radio and television. By the 1970s, Soviet means and methods of mass persuasion and mobilization were far inferior to those developed by advertising agencies and governments in the wealthy liberal democracies.

See also: censorship; izvestiya; journalism; pravda; thick journals


Brooks, Jeffrey. (2000). Thank You, Comrade Stalin! Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hopkins, Mark. (1970). Mass Media in the Soviet Union. New York: Pegasus Books.

Kenez, Peter. (1985). The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 19171929. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McReynolds, Louise. (1991). The News Under Russia's Old Regime. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Matthew E. Lenoe

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newspaper Periodical publication, usually daily or weekly, conveying news and comment on current events. Handwritten news-sheets were posted in public places in ancient Rome under such titles as Acta Diurna (Daily Events). In Europe, the invention and spread of printing in the 15th century facilitated the growth of newspapers. The earliest examples were printed in German cities, soon followed by Venice, the Low Countries and other states in the 16th century. The first daily newspaper in England was the Daily Courant (1702).

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news·pa·per / ˈn(y)oōzˌpāpər/ • n. a printed publication (usually issued daily or weekly) consisting of folded unstapled sheets and containing news, feature articles, advertisements, and correspondence. ∎  the organization responsible for producing a particular newspaper. ∎ another term for newsprint.

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newspaperclapper, crapper, dapper, flapper, grappa, kappa, knapper, mapper, nappa, napper, rapper, sapper, scrapper, snapper, strapper, tapper, trapper, wrapper, yapper, Zappa •catalpa, scalper •camper, damper, hamper, pamper, scamper, stamper, Tampa, tamper, tramper •Caspar, jasper •handicapper • kidnapper •whippersnapper •carper, harper, scarper, sharper •clasper, gasper, grasper, rasper •leper, pepper, salt-and-pepper •helper, yelper •temper •Vespa, vesper •Culpeper • sidestepper •caper, draper, escaper, gaper, paper, raper, scraper, shaper, taper, vapour (US vapor) •sandpaper • endpaper • flypaper •wallpaper • notepaper • newspaper •skyscraper •Arequipa, beeper, bleeper, creeper, Dnieper, keeper, leaper, peeper, reaper, sleeper, sweeper, weeper •gamekeeper • gatekeeper •greenkeeper (US greenskeeper) •peacekeeper • innkeeper •wicketkeeper • timekeeper •shopkeeper • storekeeper •housekeeper • goalkeeper •zookeeper • bookkeeper • treecreeper •minesweeper

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