Tomorrow’s newspaper in New York is a very different beast! With the increasing availability of instant news and information 24/7, the ‘news’ part of newspapers is rapidly morphing. If I want to know who did what when or what today’s big issue is, whether that be globally, nationally or locally, I have a seemingly unlimited choice of instant news services from which to choose. Even my old mobile phone grants me immediate internet access, meaning keeping up with the Jones’s has never been easier.
So why do we still have newspapers in New York ? Everyone knows that circulation is plummeting, but a few of us die-hards believe there will always be print. Why? Because it is comfortable. The Y-Gens are still buying their magazines and books because they also enjoy that relaxing slump on the couch with a drink, snacks and an engaging read. The operative word here of course is engaging!
It's hard to imagine a time before television news and radio news, not to mention news on the Internet, but during the Civil War, citizens had to rely on two major sources of news - word of mouth and newspapers.
Although word of mouth was the most expedient source of news about the war, newspapers provided citizens and soldiers alike with the most detailed accounts of war that that had ever been published in America or in any other country for that matter. New printing technologies allowed newspapers and magazines alike to publish another new technology - photographs. The advent of the telegraph made news from the front lines of the war available to the press room in minutes rather than days or weeks. Newspapers provided a tangible account of a war that developed by the day.
By the time the Civil War began in 1860, newspapers had expanded from the large cities in the northeast to almost all major cities throughout the United States, and even into some smaller towns, where an enterprising publisher could set up a press.
However, at the outset of the war, most newspapers were still yet unequipped to cover the war. Not only was the Civil War one of the most geographically large wars fought to the time, but the sheer numbers of those involved made the task mind-boggling. Although most of the larger papers, such as The New York Herald, The New York Times and Harper's Weekly had Washington correspondents, few had ever employed correspondents for the wide expanse of country the war encompassed. Thus a new position in the American newspaper office was born - the war correspondent.
War correspondents were sent out to the front lines, along with special artists, who until photographs became widely used toward the end of the war, sketched the action. These brave writers and artists experienced the same harsh conditions of life in a military camp as the soldiers did.
The ability of newspapers to get information from the front lines was often troubling for officers and others in positions of authority during the war. At various times, newspapers were censored for fear that the news they reported would be used by the enemy to advance their cause. This was more a problem in the North than in the South for obvious reasons - the South had had fewer major newspapers before the war, and blockades had resulted in such a shortage of paper, ink, and other supplies necessary that many papers shut down, never to reopen. But in the North, the threat of the press was taken in hand; Lincoln himself feared the repercussions of newspapers that were either opposed to the war or sympathetic to the Confederate cause, and suppressed many of these papers.
But Lincoln's courting of editors that supported his cause sometimes came back to haunt him, as is the case of his supporter Horace Greeley, of the New York Tribune, whom, in an effort to stir up support for the Union, undoubtedly contributed to the battles at Bull Run, which were both notorious losses for the Federal Army.
By far the most popular newspaper during the Civil War era was Harper's Weekly. Harper's was one of the more even-handed newspapers, due mostly to its popularity in the South. Although the paper supported Lincoln and the Union, it still reported with disinterest, and remained a mainstay of the Southern household during the war.
Aside from its impartiality, Harper's circulation of more than 200,000 during the Civil War era is attributable to the fact that the paper employed some of the most distinguished writers and artists of the time. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast was a mainstay of Harper's, as was artist Winslow Homer. Other notable artists who contributed to Harper's during the Civil War era include Theodore R. Davis, Henry Mosler, and the brothers Alfred Waud and William Waud.
Newspapers were the most reliable source of news during Civil War America. While newspapers served the citizens of the time well, they are also an invaluable resource for historians who study the war, providing insight not only into the actions of the war, but into the popular opinion of the war, as well.
Influence of Newspapers
The invention of printing is an epoch making achievement in the history of human civilization. The modern age owes three fourths of its progress to printing. It has brought many blessings in its train and one of these is the newspaper which has deeply and widely influenced modern life in many ways.
A newspaper at first was nothing more than a paper which gave news. In its infancy, it had no other aim. But as it developed, it began to be used for various other purposes and served several ends. Today, it has become a tremendous force for good and evil in the world. It not only continues, as before, to give news but also comments on them, criticizes the people and the government, deals with social, political, industrial and religious questions, reviews books and periodicals, ventilates grievances and does many other things, In fact there is hardly any public activity of man which does not come within the purview of the modern newspaper. The press, of course, has now become an organ of public opinion.
But unfortunately, sometimes the press is stifled. It is prevented from carrying out its legitimate work either by the unfitness of those who manage it or by the unnecessary interference of the powers that be. It is sometimes seen that passion and not reason guides its action. A wrong cause is championed, truth is suppressed and morbid tastes are pandered by it. Dangerous as these evils are, a greater danger comes from the attempt of some irresponsible government to gag or subsidies newspapers. Often, without sufficient cause, newspapers are gagged simply because they had the guts of criticizing plainly the unjust action of government.
But when it runs or is allowed to run in a normal and rational course, a newspaper is a great public educator. More than what can be done in schools and colleges is done by it. It supplies necessary information on the burning topics of the day, tackles the principal social and political problem of a country, criticizes books and brings to light the epoch making discoveries and inventions. It benefits every class of people. But it is not only a public educator and fearless critic of a government, it is also a great social reformer. It is in the columns of the newspapers that social abuse, are ruthlessly exposed and criticized and attention of the public is drawn to the inherent evils of some customs and practices.
The press is also an effective check on the vagaries of men in power. So it is a great mentor and stands against the misuse of power and the miscarriage of justice. It brings all the questions of the day before the bar of public opinion to be approved or condemned by it, in this way it serves the nation. The press is also a very great force in the field of politics. It teaches citizens their rights and responsibilities and make them fit for citizenship. It educates public opinion and teaches people how to vote, what taxes to pay and for what purposes, it explains the significance' of the municipal laws and bylaws comments on the proceeding of the legislative council and other public' bodies and helps men to develop their civic sense.
The press is a public organ, the voice of the people and therefore the freedom of the press means the freedom of the people. In a country where there is no free press the people may be independent, but they are not free in the true sense of the word. The press in self defense, if not for any higher motive has ever the champion of political freedom. Whenever a newspaper lights for the freedom of the press, it indirectly fights for the freedom of the people. The test of a country's freedom is determined by the amount of freedom its press enjoys. To stifle the press is to stifle the nation. Milton said "as good almost kill a man as kill a good book", and the remark is also applicable to the newspapers.
Newspapers also wield a tremendous influence to break down barriers between nations and help in forming themselves into a great brotherhood of nations. It knits up the different parts of a vast continent and teaches them to feel for one another. But it not only fosters international feelings, it teaches us to embrace the whole world as out kith and kin. A sense of fraternity is fostered by the spread of knowledge through the columns of the newspaper.
As a cheap and public educator, holding up the torch in the midst of darkness, as a trenchant and impartial critic of public administration of law and justice, as a social reformer patiently reforming the abuses of a society, as the champion of freedom in a country, as the destroyer of the barriers which separate man from man, nations from nations, and lastly as a pointer to the prospect of universal liberty, equality and fraternity, the newspaper in modern times has come to exercise a tremendous influence on the public and private life of man. There is no end to its potentiality for good if it can steer clear of greed, partiality, meanness and arrogance.
That is why, it is appropriately called the 'Forth Estate'.
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