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Archive for April, 2010

Despite the high-tech world of media coverage in today’s day and age, the roots of the dissemination of national news began in the heart of the newspaper industry. News can be defined as any current event or report that is presented to the public via media broadcasting. The media is a network of communication that investigates, records, and reports information for the benefit of society and public knowledge. However, the term news can be defined in a number of different ways:

The dictionary’s first definition reads: “new information about anything; information previously unknown.” The second definition brings the press closer to mind: “reports, collectively, of recent happenings, especially those broadcast over radio or TV, printed in a newspaper, etc.” (Barton 12).

News reporting is much like detective work, in this respect. The journalist must go to extreme lengths in order to get their story. Part of the writer’s duty is to sort through every possible nook and cranny of their subject in order to uncover the truth. However, despite the preconceived notion of the perfect and sturdy vessel, the newspaper industry has struggled to stay afloat since the beginning. Newspapers have faced such hardships as: unwavering competition, union strike, depression, and technological innovation. These roadblocks not only created stress for the business, but they have also served as learning experiences for future generations. The road has been muddy, but American newspapers have learned from their pitfalls and have completed the incredible feat of maintaining newspaper readership/sales for well over two centuries.

Before the technological age, news was distributed primarily through print journalism and newspapers. Patrons of the paper, also known as “subscribers,” were thirsty for eye-catching stories and unexpected occurrences (Postol 156). Any story that could distract readers from the mundaneness of everyday life was attractive. During the late 19th century in New York City, two accomplished publishers dominated the newspaper scene. The first entrepreneur, Joseph Pulitzer, sought to reinvent news.

Pulitzer entered the New York newspaper market in 1883 when he purchased the New York World. In his first issue, published on 11 May, Pulitzer promised to print interesting news for everyone. He stated that the paper would “from this day be under different management – different in men, measures, and methods, – different in purpose, policy and principle – different in objects and interests – different in sympathies and convictions – different in head and heart… There is room in this great and growing city for a journal that is not only cheap but bright… the new World is hereby enlisted and committed to the attention of the intelligent public.” (Collins and Palmegiano 193)

The second magnate was none other than William Randolph Hearst. Hearst began his career working for his family’s paper, the San Francisco Examiner.

After triumphing at home, he looked around for new challenges. He bought the unprofitable New York Journal in 1895 and then proceeded to dominate the New York newspaper scene. In many ways, Hearst sought to out-Pulitzer Pulitzer. The Journal engaged in more activism and more stunts and aggressively pursued news and stories…In the 13 October 1897 issue of the Journal, Hearst declared that it was the “journalism of action,” which represented “the final state in the evolution of the modern newspaper.”

With great fortune and know-how, these two moguls battled for the top ranking in sales. The newspaper tycoons Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst would fill their respective papers, The New York Evening World and The New York Evening Journal, with yellow journalism in an effort to win over readers. The objective of yellow journalism is to sensationalize information with misleading headlines and images in an effort to attract multitudes of readers. This process is “intended to shock, startle, thrill, excite, etc.” (YourDictionary). The name of the newspaper game is to sell as many papers as possible. Yellow journalism is an effective tool in this cutthroat business because it draws customers in through crafty semantics and creative writing. Shocking headlines spark gossip which, in turn, leads to an increase in newspaper sales. However, selling papers is not always so cut and dry. Pulitzer and Hearst were fierce adversaries.

For years before the Spanish/American War, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer had been fighting a battle for readership in the streets of New York City. By 1896, when Hearst arrived in New York to run his newspaper, the New York Journal, Pulitzer was enjoying great financial success by employing sensational reporting techniques that provided mass appeal. Hearst, not to be outdone, adopted similar tactics of yellow journalism to increase the circulation of his newspaper in an attempt to beat Pulitzer at his own game. (The Big Type War)

Like battling chess pieces on a checkered field, the moguls would use strategy and cunning to plan their next move in an effort to defeat their adversary in the war that is journalism. Unfortunately for Pulitzer and Hearst, the men’s unquestionable business drive led to the Newsie Strike of 1899. The newboys, sometimes referred to as “newsies,” were a team of adolescent boys who would work the city streets in terrible conditions, in order to sell newspapers. Working from the wee hours of the morning until after sunset, adolescents ranging from 6 to 14 years of age would line every corner of the city in order to sell the latest news editions “for a penny a pape” (Newsies). The circulation team was outraged when the tycoons raised the price of newspapers, and in so doing, cut newsie profit. Because of this change in price, the boys revolted and began a strike so massive that the entire city of New York could hear the uproar. Together the children formed a labor union and refused to distribute papers until their needs were met.

Their strike was a response to a decision by The Evening World and The Evening Journal, parts of the national Pulitzer and Hearst newspaper empires, to raise the wholesale price they charged street vendors. The “Newsies” organized and demanded that the original price be restored. When Pulitzer and Hearst refused, 300 boys went on strike.

During the age of the strike, the New York Daily Tribune interviewed and recorded testimonies from actual newsboys:

There was a called meeting of the striking newsboys in Frankfort Street yesterday morning for the purpose of repeating their defiance of the boycotted newspapers and to            arrange further means for carrying the strike to a successful issue. Grand Master Workman “Kid” Blink, alias “Mug Magee,” called the meeting to order, and, amid cheers spoke in past as follows: “Fr’en’s, Brudders and Feller Citerzens: We is united in a patriotic cause. The time has cum when we mus’ eder make a stan’ or be downtridden by the decypils of acrice and greed’ness. Dey wants it all, and when we cums to ‘em dey sez we must take the papes at der own price or leave ‘em. Dis ain’t no time to temporize. Is ye all still wid us in de cause?” (Delia 18)

The strike was so memorable that Disney Studio Productions decided to give the world a history lesson in musical form. The 1992 film was entitled, Newsies. Lyricist, Jack Feldman, captured the feeling behind the newsie strike with the song “The World Will Know.”

♫ We’ll do what we gotta do/ Until we break the will of mighty Bill and Joe
And the World will know/ And the Journal too/ Mister Hearst and Pulitzer
Have we got news for you/ Now the world will hear/ What we got to say
We been hawkin’ headlines/ But we’re makin’ ’em today/ And our ranks will grow
And we’ll kick their rear/ And the world will know/ That we been here (Newsies) ♪

Their message reached Pulitzer and Hearst loud and clear. However, the publishers refused to lower sales prices. Instead of directly bending to the will of the children, the publishers compromised by ‘buying back unsold editions’ from the newsies (Nasaw 65-67). This strike is just one example of the pitfalls of the newspaper industry. Though the newsies had triumphed over the newspaper tycoons and order was restored, rocky waters were on the horizon. A competition of a different nature would once again chip away at the businesses’ stability, a few decades later.

The roaring twenties were dead. A time of lush living, late-night partying, and pure optimism was nothing more than a distant memory. At least 30 years after the turn of the century, the American stock market crashed, leaving the country in a state of total chaos. This economic catastrophe was known as the Great Depression. Wall Street licked its wounds while families struggled to maintain basic life necessities such as: food, water, clothing, and a paying occupation. Without money in the bank, people could no longer afford luxuries. Consequently, the paper industry suffered the loss of several valuable costumers and, once again, struggled to stay alive. But through the ash rose a mighty media beast. At this point, newspapers became even more wary than before.

While the general population endured economic hardship from the Depression, scientific innovators, like Nikola Tesla, were busy creating a new medium of mass communication; the radio. Radio can be defined as “communication of audible signals encoded in electromagnetic waves” (Websters).

At the turn of the twentieth century, Nikola Tesla devoted his extraordinary abilities to pioneering research on radio-frequency electromagnetism, with the ultimate goal of perfecting a system for delivering electric power wirelessly over continental distances. Although Tesla’s dream was not fully realized, this work led directly to the development of the radio. (Kurs 1)

Tesla used ingenuity and creative thinking to harness electricity in a safe and controlled environment, which enabled him to study and produce the unique device that is the radio.

Radio proved to be a successful invention and spread like wildfire in the world of consumerism.

The city dweller saw radio as a medium for entertainment; the farmer used it as an aid to better farming, for by radio he could get the latest price of cattle, wheat, market news, and other practical farming advice. For the homemaker there was information on cooking, cloths, diet, and even child psychology. Education by radio would also be important. Because of their growing numbers the rural audience was attractive to radio broadcasters, and every conceivable subject was offered over the airwaves. Even typing was successfully taught by radio. (Harris, B.)

This new form of broadcasting quickly caught the attention of the newspaper industry and threatened the livelihood of print journalism. Unlike printed newspapers, radio broadcasters had the ability to disseminate news updates in a matter of minutes versus day-by-day newspaper editions. These dual forms of mass communication caused conflict amongst the news distributors.

An ongoing “press/radio war” was being waged to prevent radio from broadcasting news, which was direct competition to the newspapers, and the radio sales staffs went after the same advertisers as did newspaper salespeople. (Absher)

To preserve the solidarity of the newspaper, business moguls strongly rejected the concept of broadcasting news via radio.

Economic depression in the early 1930s brought the simmering conflict to a boil. Following the crash of Wall Street, advertising revenue declined sooner and more radically for newspapers than for radio…During the 1932 presidential election, CBS [Columbia Broadcasting System] had gotten a jump on the nation’s publishers by airing live election returns throughout the night. By the time readers received their papers the next morning, the news that Roosevelt had won was hardly news at all. With more and more stations broadcasting coverage, newspapers were losing their exclusive control of reporting the day’s events. (Harris, M. 160)

Once again, newspapers were beaten down by competition, but this time crafty headliners were not the problem. Matching the speed at which radio stations broadcasted information proved to be impossible. “Responding to the radio was a difficult assignment, for managers had no way to match the speed with which it brought the news into people’s homes” (Harris, M. 161). However, newspapers are not the type of businesses that give up without a fight. They are trained to dig deeper, work harder, and survive at any cost. These principles have been the backbone of the industry from the very beginning of American Journalism and continue to apply throughout time:

Large, well-capitalized publishers moved to check the advance of broadcasting by purchasing or establishing stations of their own. If radio did not flourish, their newspapers would continue to function as before. If radio grew, their operations would grow along with it. In any case, they stood to gain. The real losers in the contest between print and broadcasting were independent publishers who relied upon newspaper advertising to survive, and circulation managers, who were expected to keep newspaper sales high without exercising much power to affect the outcome of events. The best that circulation men could expect was a return to the status quo, where newspapers vied among themselves for a community’s attention. (Harris, M. 160)

Survival of the fittest is the name of the game, and the newspapers that have survived the longest are the ones that are willing to take chances and overcome hardship and struggle.

Though print journalism has projected an image of unadulterated grandeur, it is evident that this idea is nothing more than a false façade. Newspapers are not pristine. Newspapers are not simple. Newspapers are not sturdy entities, as most people would like to believe. Newspapers are complicated. Newspapers are sometimes devious. But, above all, newspapers fight day-in and day-out in order to survive another sunrise. True, newspapers have been successful for over two centuries, but this did not come without struggle and the business has faced many roadblocks along the way. Newspapers achieve greatness by overcoming said roadblocks. The newspaper has survived adolescent revolt. It has battled vigorously in the arms of industry tycoons. Newspapers have risen up from the ashes, in times of economic failure and depression. Finally, the publisher’s creation has survived its greatest threat; technology. Determination and the will to carry on have contributed to newspaper survival through: internal competition, strike, depression, and technological innovation. And because history is bound to repeat itself, conflict and adversity are bound to follow the majestic creature called the newspaper. In the words of the late, great William Randolph Hearst, “the force of the newspaper is the greatest force in civilization” because the paper has the power to influence change and inform the world (Collins and Palmegiano 194).

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(And because I don’t care what it looks like on wordpress… here’s the work cited.)

Work Cited

Absher, Frank. “Radio, Newspaper War.” St. Louis Journalism Review. November 2006: 36,

291: 10. Print.

Barton, Gina. “What is a Journalist?” Quill Magazine. May 2002. 12-13. Print.

“The Big Type War of the Yellow Kids.” Turner Network Television. 2001.20 April

2010. Online. < http://alt.tnt.tv/movies/tntoriginals/roughriders/jour.publishwar.html&gt;

Collins, Ross F., and E.M. Palmegiano, eds. The Rise of Western Journalism, 1815-1914.

Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2007. 193-194. Print.

Delia, Sarofsky, Robin and Jaimee Kahn. “New York City “Newsies” Strike Against the World

and Journal, 1899.”  Social Science Docket. Long Island, New York: Hofstra University, 2008: 18. Web. [PDF File].

Kurs, André. 2010. “Midrange Wireless Power Transfer.” Access Science. University of Nevada.

Web. <http://www.accessscience.com.ezproxy.library.unlv.edu/content.aspx?id=YB090110&gt;

Harris, Bill. “Radios Reach Rural America.” March 1994. Web.

<http://www.radioremembered.org/rural.htm&gt;

Harris, Michael and Tom O’Malley, eds. Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History 1995          Annual. Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, 1997. Print.

Nasaw, David. Children of the City: At Work & At Play. Garden City, New York: Oxford

University Press, Inc., 1985. Print.

Newsies. Dir. Kenny Ortega. Perfs. Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, David Moscow, Bill Pullman.

1992. DVD. Touchwood Pacific Partners 1, 2002. Film.

Postol, Alexander. “Subscription Marketing Before the Advent of Radio.” Studies in Newspaper

and Periodical History 1995 Annual. Ed. Michael Harris and Tom O’Malley. Westport, 1997. 156-158. Print.

“Radio.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 22 April 2010.

Web. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/radio&gt;

“Sensationalism.” YourDictionary. Online Dictionary. 1996-2010. YourDictionary Online.

16 April 2010. Web. < http://www.yourdictionary.com/sensationalism&gt;

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In order to illustrate the hardships of newspaper journalism, I have found a few quotes that will serve as the guiding light to my thesis.

First Quote:

For years before the Spanish/American War, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer had been fighting a battle for readership in the streets of New York City. By 1896, when Hearst arrived in New York to run his newspaper, the New York Journal, Pulitzer was enjoying great financial success by employing sensational reporting techniques that provided mass appeal. Hearst, not to be outdone, adopted similar tactics of yellow journalism to increase the circulation of his newspaper in an attempt to beat Pulitzer at his own game.Hearst,Lied Library UNLV Joseph Pulitzer Prize Children At Work Child Labor Publisher New York Tycoon Biography Newspaper Circulation Newsies,Hearst,Lied Library UNLV Joseph Pulitzer Prize Children At Work Child Labor Publisher New York Tycoon Biography Newspaper Circulation Newsies,

One of the pressures within the newspaper industry is competition. The newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer would utilize the tool of yellow journalism in order to win over New York readers of the early 20th century. Yellow journalism is the process of sensationalizing news headlines in order to attract audiences. With a clear goal to sell papers in mind, the business men would go to extremes in effort to come out on top.

Second Quote:

Well before lean times ended, newspapers won back all the readers lost during the dark, early years of the Depression. This remarkable achievement was accomplished, in substantial measure, by newspaper circulation managers, who were more deeply involved in the day-to-day struggle to preserve readership and subscription revenues than either publishers or journalists.

During the Great Depression of 1930’s America, newspapers also suffered a great lost in sales. Americans could no longer afford luxuries like the Sunday morning paper. After the stock market crash, families even struggled to maintain the necessities. Also, with the innovation of radio technology, newspapers began to suffer sales numbers. Wealthy families had purchased radios prior to the Depression, and were able to receive news updates in seconds, versus the day delay of print journalism.

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Topic Introduction/Brief History/Definitions:

News can be defined as any current event or report that is presented to the public via media broadcasting. The media is a network of communication that investigates, records, and reports information for the benefit of society and public knowledge. News reporting is much like detective work, in this respect. Before the technological age, news was disseminated primarily through print journalism and newspapers. Patrons of the paper, also known as “subscribers”, were thirsty for eye-catching stories and unexpected occurences.. It is with this characteristic of human nature (gossip) that led to yellow journalism. The objective of yellow journalism is to sensationalize information with misleading headlines and images in an effort to attract multitudes of readers.

Broad Focus: Newspaper Industry is not as sturdy/clean as the public believes. Success has been achieved through large amounts of struggle and hardship.

Focus:

Yellow journalism segues into my focus. In the late 19th century, esteemed newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (owner of the New York Journal) utilized this practice in an attempt to win readers. The publisher’s main competition was Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the New York World. Because profit was the name of the game, these two figureheads would go to extreme measures to come out on top.

For years before the Spanish/American War, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer had been fighting a battle for readership in the streets of New York City. By 1896, when Hearst arrived in New York to run his newspaper, the New York Journal, Pulitzer was enjoying great financial success by employing sensational reporting techniques that provided mass appeal. Hearst, not to be outdone, adopted similar tactics of yellow journalism to increase the circulation of his newspaper in an attempt to beat Pulitzer at his own game.

http://alt.tnt.tv/movies/tntoriginals/roughriders/jour.publishwar.html

This unquestionable drive led to the ‘Newsie Strike of 1899.’ The newsies were a team of adolescent boys who would work the city streets in terrible conditions, in order to sell newspapers. The circulation team was outraged when the tycoons raised the price of newspapers, and in so doing, cutting newsie profit. Because of this change in price, the boys revolted and began a strike so massive, that the entire city of New York could hear their voices. Their message reached Pulitzer and Hearst. However, instead of directly bending to the will of the children, the publishers compromised by ‘buying back unsold editions’ from the newsies. This strike is just one example of the pitfalls of the newspaper industry.

Thirty years down the road and America fell into a state of total economic Depression. When the stock market crashed in 1929 and the banks faced closing, people could no longer afford basic luxuries, including the purchase of newspapers. During this same time period, the innovation of broadcast radio came about. This new technology created a massive loss in readership due to public distraction. Radios were the best new thing since sliced bread. Because buying a radio was a single payment (versus the purchase of daily newspaper editions) the public was more inclined to use their tight budget on something more intriguing than paper and ink. . Also, radios outlawed the need for “late-breaking events” paper editions. Radio broadcasts were immediate, and free to listen too. This appealed to the masses. However, the newspaper industry could not remain subservient forever. Printers began advertising in support of radios, and vise versa. This cooperation led to success with both mediums of communication and readership soon picked up.

Well before lean times ended, newspapers won back all the readers lost during the dark, early years of the Depression. This remarkable achievement was accomplished, in substantial measure, by newspaper circulation managers, who were more deeply involved in the day-to-day struggle to preserve readership and subscription revenues than either publishers or journalists.

(Note: Those are just two examples of hardship within American history. More to come in the final draft!!)

Thesis: Despite the preconceived notion of ‘the perfect/clean/sturdy’ business, the newspaper industry has struggled to stay on their feet since the beginning. Newspapers have faced such hardships as: strike, unwavering competition, depression, and technological innovation. These roadblocks not only created stress for the business, but they have also served as learning experiences for future generations. The road has been muddy, but American newspapers have learned from their pitfalls and have completed the incredible feat of maintaining newspaper readership/sales for well over two centuries.

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Defining Terms

My research topic, being centralized around the newspaper industry, constantly revolves around words and their meanings. Here, I will attempt to define important terms, the way I see them.

News: News is a series of information (usually current) that is investigated, gathered, analyzed/interpreted, and reported in an effort to maintain public knowledge and awareness. The goal of the news industry is to “find the truth and report it.” With this in mind, reports/journalists/writers use their detective skills in every way imaginable to get a story. The reliability of a story may not always be so finite, but it is then the reader’s job to decipher the truth from the lies.

Newspaper: A newspaper is a printed publication. This publication is designed as a platform for the dispersal and print of ‘news.’ Without the innovation of the newspaper, information would have remained as an oral/spoken word interpretation,

Media: The media is a complex unit of publishers that work together to inform the public.

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In pursuit of defining the hardships that accompany the newspaper industry, I have turned to the book The Vanishing Newspaper (Saving Journalism in the Information Age.) Found in the Media Studies section of Lied Library, I would consider this source to be extremely reliable. It was published at the University of Missouri in 2009, which presents information that is current and in an academic setting. This book allows me to examine the inner workings of a newspaper. My focus highlights the falsehood that is “the perfect newspaper.”

For more than a century, patrons of the business viewed newspapers as sturdy, omniscient entities that hear, see, and tell all. However, this could not be farther from the truth. The aforementioned “newsie strikes” in my research is only one small example of the hardship endured by newspapers. When digging deeper, I have found that this business is not as simple as it sounds. True, newspapers portray a facade of pristine power, but the inner workings of the business tell a different story. The hidden turmoil begins within the network itself. With this in mind, my focus was drawn to Chapter 8, entitled: The Last Line of Defense. This section examines the importance copy editors and their respect duties, in relation to the trustworthiness of an article. [A copy editor’s job is to proofread a piece of writing in areas of grammar, spelling, usage, style, etc. before the work is sent to print.]

Copy editors were the last line of defense in protecting newspapers from error. They had more control over spelling and grammar than they did over factual error. Beyond verifying names and addresses, newspapers did not routinely fact-check their writers. A copy editor who lived in the community and knew it well might question a reporter’s less intuitive assertions, verify a fact in the newspaper’s archives, or even call a source to check the spelling of a name. But the main concern was with form.

It is certain that factual mistakes can deplete the public’s trust, but errors in spelling and grammar can also effect a newspaper’s credibility. “Spelling and grammar are important in literate societies because consistency makes the task of reading easier.” Considering readability is a crucial part of the product, copy editors must strive for flawlessness. The more credible  and reputable a source is, the more likely it is to sell. (At least, before the days of celebrity tabloids and gossip columns…)

My second source is the book, The Rise of Western Journalism 1815-191s. This book, published in 2007 at McFarland & Company, Inc. is also reliable because it is one of the University’s academic sources, found at Lied Library. Though a large portion of the book is dedicated to journalism outside of the United States and is useless to a degree, the latter half of the source depicts the history of the nation’s newspapers. Because my topic is a metamorphosis of sorts from the late 1800’s to present day, background information is essential to my research. The chapter at hand, Coming of Age (The Growth of the American Media in the 19th Century,) illustrates the evolution of the American newspaper. This chapter reviews the past successes of publicized information. The paper was used to inform the general public of the country’s triumphs and failures in regards to politics, economics, and social well-fare.

When comparing the sources, it is clear that the sources contrast one another. The first examines the importance of creating flow and rhythm with correct grammar and spelling, whereas the other delves into the history of the paper. Each holds merit, but the topics are unrelated. However, this contrast is necessary. It is important to build up the potential power of the newspaper before I can “rip it to shreds,” so to speak.

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