Penny press

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  • Publicado : 3 de marzo de 2011
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It is in the American penny press that economics first meets political rhetoric and expresses it in a vernacular form, confirming the accuracy of the comment that The Herald was remembered not so much for what it said as for how it said it (Conboy, p.50) How far is the above statement reflected in the style of coverage of the 1836 Robinson – Jewett murder case?

In the early nineteenth centurya key reason for the huge increase in circulation of American newspapers was that printing technology brought together the new rotary press and the steam engine, which made it possible to print thousands of papers inexpensively. Also key was the fact that under Jefferson’s administration, a public education system was established and opened up literacy for the masses. By 1830 a generation ofAmerican had been educated and the massive numbers of immigrants had brought a large populace to Americans cities. The economy in America was good and it had political stability so the press did not aim to challenge the system. The industrial revolution, as it transformed all aspects of American life and society, dramatically affected newspapers. All that was needed for newspapers to become a massmedium was present. Considering newspapers as a source of business and commercialism started very early in North America. This business orientation originated with Benjamin Franklin. He was the first to produce a newspaper which was not only meant for information or educational purposes. Franklin developed journalism commercially, as he saw he could get money from newspapers and he started tradingwith information. In 1830 with the introduction of the Penny Press, information reached the “common people” and it was written in their language. In this essay I will analyse how economics meets political rhetoric expressing it in a vernacular way. To do this I will refer to the style of coverage of the 1836 Robinson–Jewett murder case in The Herald.

The introduction of the Penny Press in Americarepresented the beginning of journalism seen in a capitalist framework. It was a key moment for journalism that was higlighted in the early nineteenth century. For the first time journalism was linked to commercialism and this led to a growth of mass circulation. “One component in the development of a press which was both broadly popular and commercially successful was the identification of anappropriate strategy to reach a large urban readership” (Conboy, 2002, p44) On the other hand, the relationship between journalism and political power could be explained in the roots of journalism itself. Journalism was born, grew and survived because of politics. History shows us the important role played by newspapers for example in the American Revolution or in the French Revolution to spreadpolitical ideas.

The first Penny Press appeared in 1833 under the guidance of Benjamin Day with his New York Sun. Newspapers of the day cost about 10 cents each, too expensive for the masses, specially for the working class. With the educational system and the great increase in the American population as a result of immigrants, there was a large literate audience hungry for papers which were“spokesmen for egalitarian ideals in politics, economic life and social life through their organization of sales, their solicitation of advertising, their emphasis on news and their catering to large audiences.”(Schudson, 1978, p60) Day took advantage of the fact that mechanical advancements provided him with cheaper printing methods producing larger quantities to sell the papers for a penny each. Hisstrategy was to reach a wider readership throughout the social classes claiming that the newspaper was popular and non-partisan. Stories and articles were written in the language of the “common people”. “The success of New York Sun came in addressing the people in a familiar language.” (Conboy, 2002, p.44)

Until what he called the “London Plan”, Americans bought their newspapers through an...
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