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CookBook-1 - THE DECLINE OF THE SPONSORED PRESS AMERICAN...

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Unformatted text preview: THE DECLINE OF THE SPONSORED PRESS: AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS [N THE EIGHTEENTH END NINETEENTH CENTURIES F tom the infancy' of the newspaper in North America in early eighteenth- century Boston all the way through tlte L'ivil War, politics infused and informed the production of news, in direct, conscious, and unsubtlc ways. Support tended to consist of individual sponsorship. News 3. *rs tnost often were launched witlt the help of olit' ‘all owetful s in ors—of- ficials, factions, or, by t e rst years of the republic, parties. flErations were supported by govemln addition, reward “'35 reinforced by punishment. Legal action policed newspapers' criticism initially by arrests for seditious libel and for violating parliamentary privi- less; as these waned, they were replaced by attempts to deny access to governmental processes to offending reporters. Sometimes eJttralegal ef- forts arose, ranging from canceling subscriptions and advertising to vios lence ant] vigilantisl'n against individual presses. By contrast, fewer policies or practices existed as virtual governmen- tal entitlements to newspapers or those who produced them, with one key exception: generous postal regulations that favored the rapid devel— opment of newsfl‘TTWWWW with one another without charge prior to the Revolution. and by charging newspapers much lower rates for delivery than letters thereafter, public policy was 5;; “Eh: national news I '- stem. ' u the next chapter, i will outline how such subsidies—entitlemtms given either to anytltiug that qualified as a news outlet or to specially targeted news media such as small local weekly papers—grew in impor- tance, as individual sponsorship waned in the late nineteenth century. These subsidies toolt two forms: in explicit olicies toward a rat e of news media, and in the practices of governmental and political figures laistin and 'WI “liona fide” iourna I nil-Teri? the early years of the republic, jo s. Most important, in contrast wlr when necess was viewed as a trivile -e to be ' mud or ta tn Elwa Els__ .._..s-e———-. “Lasers-- . l we 10 laced behind the growth and interde cadence of a ___F Decline or “LP hi-onsoititn l‘srss .' 2.I. reward or punishment for ' I ulpr coverage... practice it‘ll-tintiresl 3’23“ eter was to recognize universalistic ctiflafii lrthEEtJut Emil reporters were timid—ed to that acpessor not. By the—late 'lilffihEE—ntlrfifiryfih'en,_tlte press was officially recognized as an institu- TlU" Whose members had rights and privileges appertaining thttfitlh “THU than a disparate collection of individual newspapers, reporte I'm-l L‘Elitors, to be dealt with one at a time. Political sponsorship of the news media is pretty I I ' ~ - ‘ ' to Past if one were to focus on its decline alone. it would lend credence government for t'trnerican l'hi, much a thing of the 11 notion of ever—growing independence from I I News ntedia. This, however, is only half of the story. Starting with the [Just-'1' subsidies for newspapers, government has always subsidised the news ntudia but now does so in several ways: in part by titEU-lilllflll U” their own terms, in part by decisions to exempt news organisations from I'I-‘Eulzltions under which they would otherwise have to operate: 51ml ll" P311 by a governmental public relations infrastructure that aims to satisfy lOUrflfllists’ needs and to help thent fill up the news. But before WI: gift I“ ' ' ' ' ' - ‘- e arliel' Tllt: details of subsldtes, sketched in Lhaptel 3. let s turn to tilt E Talc UP the rise and fall of a sponsored press. THE CUN'I'HAIJILI'I'UIEY Leonor tie CULUNIAL anu Revomi'iowasv Amenitra r iIt the in 1W3 issue of the first regularly prpducgdflewsgeff Noith A merican colonitem's—EEEEZSEyELEIer—appeared. its most- htad Pruclaiming, “Published-by i'iutltority.“1 ifs only predecessor lthe 11590 Boston newspaper, Pgbficfe Dt:t:trrrencesi__had last-ed lip-1t (“is '55”: b‘iffil‘fi the authorities sltut ii'do'wni Th—e governor and his Counfills “Ull' cluding Ell-Tamas printed—:‘fw-lirl—iout the least Privity or Cullnlflnflfll'fl: sh to print ‘llflurhurityf suppressed it, addinga tcntindet that all who Wt must receive a license."- Licensing was allowed by Parliament to expire in :6in all I _ I never aga in be exploited so effectively.: Hut laws forbidding ‘ seditious libel” and protecting “parliamentary privilege” ttteant that authorities Cuuld arrest and prosecute, and occasionally convict, writers and prll‘ltt'rh fflf disseminating sentiments that the powers deemed defalt'ialflrl’ ll: lhfims'filVE‘s and thereby [So they claimed] damaging to the pllbllc FEES“- Tl‘ufi. seditious libel fell out of favor after the famous LTSEEl‘fl “l JMEELZQQEL, whose attorney convinced the jury filling!!! .1111: Firinter bee-cause he S5: ' ' - Harold Emit-"l1 Ull— parltamentar s: was still available, tltouglh 11" '1' ad would 21 .I' Citar'rsa'l'wo Nelsonls words, “Printers were forever being called before the bars of the legislative bodies to al'is'iver for ‘affronts,’ ‘hteach of privilege,’ "impu- dence,’ ‘indignities’ upon authority, and 'lihels.’ "‘5 Yet, there too convic- tions were rare, and charges were often dropped} Nevertheless, both pro- vided official avenues to harass and jail printers. Zenger himself was jailed for over a year prior to his acquittal; little wonder that sometime after having been freed he would happin become the official printer for New York}t Suhtler ties of newspapers with government also existed, not surpris- ingly, given their small elite circulation." The Boston News-Letter‘s puh- lisher,lohn Campbell, was not first and foremost a newspaper publisher; his newspaper work was an extension of his position as Boston postmas- ter.ILI The norm by the middle of the eighterfltji century flaming-fla- M——”'_‘—‘-__'._"'_'—' —" . per ' ers to be rintets, But the production of newspapers, as well a . a "'"_'—I-— _'_'-__—_'_-"'."‘""_'—-_- as the income obtained in t at capacity, was on_ly onepat of theienter- prises, w ieli eom rise printing on s, relirious tracts, olitical bro -, ‘ eme ts a 51' e iobs, such as serving as auetioneers isometirnes for slaves}, and selling books, lottery tickets, and other goods. " This diversity provided some independence from governmental and political patrons in the largest cities. Elsewhere, printers relied on obv taining the public business.11 All benefited economically by printing on commission; newspapers were simply part of this overall business logic of diversification.13 Such market logic provoked most printers to portray themselves as impartial intermediaries passing along what was provided a“ Printers would simply play a part comparable to today's cable public accmfifgies an rest; ' r or individuals to reach l ienccs, as long as they dEl not cross the line between it —‘-“—‘— I erty" and “ ' ' rise. 1th newspapers only one part of printers’ output, and with the often precarious financial survival of their shop,” government could and did assist as well as punish. Government provided much news content via off'ieial notices, announcements, proe ama Ions, an rie items. e. sec- ond support was mtlrmf_tfi.filnfl:S-TEEELH provided a to al salary to Campgrle he was there-by well-placed to ather news, used the office’s frankin an petitioned for funds from the u ic treasury—a otte 1m several d laws, in addition to manyh" .- - -—~'—‘—-—-—...___'___,_....--' - .- rlvile e to send his newspapers gratis t roug ,a'f'le mall, DJLtIJJNt' oi: 'l'llJ-. Si'tJNsukett Passs r :5 times in his first years of business.” Other printers received patronage: postmasterships, printing contracts from governors and assemblies, ap- pointments as clerks or secretaries. Such iohs rarely provided the bulk of printers‘ income, but they provided more stable cash flow than was re- ceived from subscriptions, and they also provided entrée into political circles to parlay into more news and more profit.” With such official connections, mp_s_t__newspapers in the early ryoos were bland and meek. 'l'hey focased'on dfft'ahf'Efifo'pean i'tfiirsfi'ih'é'r rh-anlrpglpohricscThe job of reporter, as we know it today, wa‘anEeifi's-I Ell"; MostrllfflLflifllEEflLEEL 3, it'lbeit wifiacknowlcggtfieE'—friim london papers. The rgflpflfl'flllflsTEt-l pfofhcial proclamations,letters _ [[1111 Epnfitaotsm_ml]g_c_it_i_e;shihcnce the-origin of the term, “correspon- dent”], wotd-of—mouth accounts from captains of recently docked rigs- itrls, 11:;th fife} goodsip other ports, aiiduafifew items from local grapes-mes.” Evcnms'histtir'iaii—CErles {Tlarlt has concluded, these newspapefs‘ “support of the successive ad- ministrations . . . was usually implicit rather than explicit, characterized in the main by a simple refusal to recognise opposition voices and enter into local political disputes?” officiaL cunteol. uLingentives apparently helped to cultivate a resgfl generallypilthyi; side. I The colonial period does provide precursors of adversarial journal- ism. But since such newspapers arose in politically divisive times, their appearance supports rather than questions the thesis of a sponsored press. Take lanies Franklin‘s denunciation of the political forces urging inocula— tion against smallpox in his New-England [Summit in the early iyzos, which is commonly noted as the first example of a journalistic political crusade. But this episode occurred amidst an elite divided along religious lines, with the lone medical doctor in the colonies writing for the Counter.“ likewise, chger emerged as a legend only because of a feud between the governor and the New York chief justice who thought he was owed the governor‘s ioh. Zengcr was hauled into court for printing diatrihes against the fornter in a newspaper written and funded by the latter. Such ci'usadipgjtflfllism was not then independent of politics; tom.mdcflpossihlehijpot "in I Elites,” Once those splits healed, printeth found more beneficial to work with all sides, as the later, est:thishment-mindetl careers of these two printers make clear. Nevertheless, these-erasading examples gave anew twist to the no~. ,, titan oij‘fipgdom of _;he_press”.by offering exemplars ready to criticize “commenced up to,_aud1otities who would squelch then-L“.J 1.1. .I' CiiarTEa'l'I-vo Yet such printers did not abandon the doctrine of impartiality.“ "Free- dom of the press" before the Revolution had different definitions, either of which eould be mobilized depending on circumstances. i i i 3.. .F “film-H EH“!- .| I H 1‘ L he first historian of the American Revolution was to write in tarts, "lt was fortunate for the liberties of America, that newspapers were the subieci; of a heavy stamp duty. Print- ers, when urtinflueneed lay government, have generally ranged themselves on the side of liberty,I nor are they less remarkable for attention to the profits of their profession. A. stamp duty, which openly invades the first, and threatened a great diminution of the last, provoked their united zeal- ous opposition."” .- 't-. -._._. .- u . I aim-.f Ipuyy‘fit I. - .-.a..... ___.,._. Newspipers trying to bri ge t c divide etween oya rats and patriots fie suspeeted, fairly or not, to he Tory sympathiaers. Historian Stephen Botein has recounted one 1374 example: “Foliowin the neutral logic of preWWs, the New-Hampme oEposing views of ‘Nflaflus’mfiafifim‘fiéflgfl- .—u——u—n--.—- --" Limos—along with advice frufifihe‘fififi'én that people “read—horn Hides with an on initial him .' anie ow e 1e gazette's printer] was subse- __l'___ quently reprimanded—by the New Hampshire legislature for his willitip; mess to publish an argument against Emerican inde end r.‘ 3‘ Other dd__ RARE... .n—r "EEG with Eamst‘fimtarfi'hesmmhua simply by announcing plans to put out a loyalist pamphlet.” Mobs smashed the presses of the most openlyr loyalist printers Uohn Meiil in Boston and james Riyington in New York! and pushed them into at least temporary exile.“ In addition, the Committees on Observation and Inspection. which the Continental Congress in rpm urged eaeh town to establish, were not only means to publicise "infamy" but also to monitor and to denounce criticism of the eause.” In effect, the old concern Iwith ulitteri- tionsness" had been extended to publications opposed to the revolution~ ary cause. As the crisis grew, the Tories’ aeeess to the press contracted: in .Ftrrhur Schlesinger SL's famous phrase, patriots “simply contended that liberty of speech belonged to those who spoke the speech of lib- erty.”‘” The American Revolution thus tightened rather than loosened the ties of newspapers to politics and government. After lass, newspapers were published with the assistance and sufferance of the rebellious limeri- DECLINE or tile SIItJNsunI-Ji I’Itljss .t 2.; cans, who were directly involved in putting together the paper. For in- stance, in tyne, john Adams wrote in his diary of an evening, spent with fellow patriots james lthis and Samuel Adams and printer john Gill, among others, “preparing for the next day‘snewspaper,—a eu__rioti_s em- ployment, et_n:-"lg_ip‘yi1 aftieles, political enginy!” If Ftp: revolutionary press was opt entirely under the _,__._-——I- _ .I I _ ..._ ,._ .. -- —-I— _- .—_ thumb of politicians, it was only because factions within and_ begged z ._. __ .———u legislatures tool: potshots at eaE‘lfiiiheruitfpi-ipgfi The end.— of thRemlu. ‘ ti.“ 'iitor 1e :yjon one hand, tre'ssm ' _ _ __ ' 2 minieivspapusfiggnaigoiffip'flldom, _. Fmpendem crusade—sagaflihstpoirfljautltorit-y on- he- _ Wmti—ehf sponsorship_was eri __ QMJhaspapefiafim coloniahfanH—reifolh‘ofona ryi' Wis-“litmusnrflfiofisaEhifihfilfii‘fiesgéflihi paroeipatiois'm—the-assemblyfifilfihfispaper. If the first hun re years o American newspapers sa_w"p,iiveriiinent‘s punitive au- thority against newspapers wane somewhat, the press was far from inde- pendent: their_abi|itv to criticise powerinnent _depelid_ed 1m powerful fac- tions to provide copy, support, and political cover. THE Hernav or 'rns l‘as'risan l’sess: Jhl-‘l-‘EHSUN TtJ JarassoN Legend has it that the founders of the American republic were a different breed of politician—favoring, reasoned, principled, and disinterested de- liberation in the manner of the debates in the Constitutional I{lent-vention and the Federalist papers thereafter. Such a legend is, to put it mildly, flawed. The Constitutional Convention came up with their Fiolomonie compromises only because it met in secret and Philadelphia newspapers stayed aloof from eoyering its meetings.“ When Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and john Jay engaged in politieal theorising by publish- ing newspaper essays under the pen name of “Publius” to win ratification, this was inst one level of the game; other l'_"_ederalists were busyl‘myeotting and pulling advertising from ans-Filtering: newspapers to make them” go limbo—pf?“ Find afilifiiiifititnnon—was ratified, scholars agree that newspapers set new standards for vitnperation and senrrility: even the sainted George Washington was a target for iournaiistic anibuscades. When President 1|l-i'i’asl'iington's administration split into factions lie- hind 'l"hornas left-erson, seeretary of state, alid Alexander Hamilton, see- tetary of the treasury, so too did the Altiei'ican press. in [pl-lo, Federalists had helped john Felino to launch a semiweekly newspaper in the capital of Philadelphia ealled The Gazette tJlf-tfflt.’ lititterf Slates. initially, with no 2.6 I (Jr-tartan Two advertising and few subscribers, the Gazette was kept afloat by public patronage: Fenno received printing orders from the Treasury, commis- sions to publish the federal laws from the State Department, and other jobs from the Senate.” But as Feuno increasingly cast his lot with Hamil- ton, jefferson became disquieted and, through Madison, urged Philip Fre- neau to come to Philadelphia to start a rival semiweelrly. jefferson lacked Hamilton’s deep official pockets but arranged Freneau’s appointment as clerk for foreign languages. jefferson apologized for the minuscule annual salary of $2513, but he added that “it gives so little to do, as not to inter— fere with any other calling the person may choose, which would not ab- sent him from the seat of government." ‘“ jefferson and Madison acted as subscription agents compiling names of supporters and urging like- minded friends to take the paper.” The appearance of Freneau's National Gazette in ryot aggravated the divide with Hamilton. The split went public the nexr year when l lain- ilton wrote pseudonym-ions letters to Fenno’s Gazette, revealing Freneau’s State Department employment and charging that jefferson was “institu- tor and patron” of the new paper. l" Freneau dryly noted in print that his compensation was paltry next to Fenno’s, but he felt obliged to swear in an affidavit that “the Editor has consulted his own judgment alone in the conducting of it—frec—tittfettered-and uninfluenced.“3” Jefferson responded to President Washington‘s dismay, asserting {technically cor- rectly] that he had never written or provided any direction to Freneau. Nevertheless, when jcfferson resigned as secretary of state in typg, Fre- neau lost his clerkship, and the paper e'rcpiredI‘"1 From this beginning, the party press would E1“EI’HEW£E_ ~1- - -- E.'. . and .. . After Hamiltonians and e ersomans sp it into tworiva parties {the Federalists and the ltepublicansl, party organizing included founding newspapers both to reach sympathetic electors and to mobilise them to support the party slate. (Itilonial printers first and foremost had started a journal as the best way to economic success; now politicians became editors to fur— ther their political ambition, sometimes holding simultaneous party, newspaper, and government positions. are. Culver Smith expressed it, “it is indeed probable that many of the editoriyierg interest was primarily journalism or politics. But it is certain that those wfiO—Cfim liticia Extremes newspa‘pfisgn‘W-ilI-ll'fighis mud—'— DecLIns or- ‘rrie Elliossoueu l'aess .I' 1y dismojmnmefiflmaieuangthe truth_._a_s_._begi_sgygd__ -—.a_,_d_ 'awimpoeeialveoverageaof-bothsidesfihosjjvho mWes saw WWW much as competing .fttorneys do today in trials.+3 Mdflion—and the tools of theirT-cTaFL' anemia-enduring the Regaining dtus augmng .a _ We.“ Since most o'f't'he population lived outside c'il'IfiS t at were large an prosperous enough to support a press without patronage, sponsorship was essential to get_ mpst newspapers off the Suchmfid begun to shift front printers to ems, as print- shops became more specialized and larger.45 Those proposing a new :rtitnal would circulate a prospectus declaring their guiding principles, which, by the typos, enwwty and philosophy,” 't iiJ‘tEI'flll'lflfll printinglcbrnbined suhsgri poops, analgesia the—rive r-l Heidi” the income derived from-flfiflsententsfurnished the p_rrofit_"_T Hue- sides printing contracts,I politicians could and did give loans inot always :epaidj to printers, hyipp_flfls_rs_rltar they would distribute free of rnargeLurge Sytt‘ilrfll'lc’tlt: partisanslpvgdyerflsgtheir warps, volunteer le-I gal assistance, and submit information and essays as copy._” Printers as- sumed that effoth the party would bib-rewarded by the party. One wrote the Republican leader Albert lClallatin in typh: “Now that my friends and the friends of the principles we have professed have returned i look up to them for their friendly aid—not doubting. that [shall receive min” To be sure, after 1}”;32, all newspapers could and did take advantage of favorable postal rates [discussed in tibapter 3}. But this subsidy on an equal basis to all newspapers contrasted with governmental support in the forms of appointments and government printing, meted out for past political performance and future political expectations. The criterion for desert was summed up early by Postmaster li'icncral Timothy Pickering, who wrote one applicant in typo: “i should nor think i...
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