Rise of Western Journalism.


This pioneering study focuses on the transformation of print journalism in its golden age, from emergence as an effective though not popular medium of public communication in 1815 to recognition as the major medium in the Western world in 1914. Although print currently has competition from other media genres, the format created in the nineteenth century still dominates. Now when we debate “the news,” we mean news measured in content and presentation by Western guidelines. When we buy a magazine, we expect and accept a Western version notwithstanding the word’s Arabic etymology. The “makhazin,” or storehouse, as Robert L. Patten suggested in his 2000 essay in Nineteenth-Century Media and the Construction of Identities, is an apt linguistic root for the contemporary miscellany.

The following pages offer a cross-cultural record of the journalism that is the basis of the “Western” style. The collection covers Great Britain, France, the United States, Canada, Australia and Germany, countries that developed models for the modern press or adapted those models. These states played roles on the international stage by virtue of empire, cultural sway, natural resources, population and/or military prowess.

No other work treats the journalism of all these areas as they relate to each other. As a further example of neglect, even in a disciplinary approach, no book in English considers the nineteenth-century media in France or Germany. Yet as press theorist William Hachten noted, in The World News Prism (sixth edition), the paradigms of the journalistic planet are those that this text outlines. As the press of these countries evolved, journalists interacted. The nature and scope of their interaction explain how a Western standard became an international standard, one that grew to be important and ubiquitous by 1914.

Since today’s journalism forms so large a part of everyone’s daily media bread, its origins would naturally interest historians. What is so intriguing about nineteenth-century press innovations is that they occurred concurrently with one of the most pivotal revolutions in Earth’s history, industrialization. As nations industrialized, the press changed. The metamorphosis in journalism, like that in the societies where it thrived, was both conceptual and technical. Publications originally aimed at an elite able to read and able to pay. By the First World War, the press was a product that reached millions and cost almost nothing.

In order to understand this shift, the authors examined a variety of primary and secondary sources throughout the world. Owners, editors, reporters, magazine scribes, people who crossed between journalism and politics or other careers are relevant but so too are the cartoons and other illustrations that demonstrate the characteristics of the press. As the bibliographies for each essay indicate, the range of evidence is wide.
These materials confirm cross-pollination in journalism. This sharing was significant, yet scholars have tended to isolate press experiences. By integrating them, this volume reveals how nineteenth-century publishers and their staffs remapped journalism in several and similar ways. In so doing, they pieced together a mosaic that became the prototype for a global press.

Journalists slowly reshaped journalism by expanding its definition, identifying new revenue streams, and embracing technology. Their redefinition is pivotal to the modern idea of the press, but their notions of its funding are hardly collateral. The consequence, which the contributors detail, is a press that prioritizes news but enjoys influence because of its views and depends largely on advertising.The investigation of the nineteenth-century press raised many questions. Was it an objective bystander recording events? Was it a tool for ideologues and Machiavellians? Was it a voice for otherwise voiceless people? Was it a triumph for capitalism irrespective of intellectual cost? Was it a signal of the blessings or the dangers of machines, perhaps the most telling question in the twenty-first century? The answers to these queries are the essence of this work.