Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/203

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DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER. 191

found his subscribers among the members of his own party, and often looked to the organization or the candidate for financial sup- port. Papers were established and editors hired by parties, fac- tions, and individual leaders to advocate some particular plan of finance or tariff, or some general policy for the nation or State. During this stage of American journalism the influence of a paper depended largely upon the reputation, individuality, and force of character of the editor. He needed not to possess any particular qualification for the work, except a general knowledge of the affairs on which he was to write and a command of vigorous lan- guage to compel attention to his utterances. For many years the majority of the periodicals of the country, daily and weekly, were critical reviews of the events of the time, rather than mediums for the spread of general information. News of important hap- penings at home spread through all the States ahead of the circu- lation of the papers, and the people looked to the latter for re- view and comment upon events, rather than for detailed accounts of the occurrences. Foreign affairs, as reported in the English publications received in this country, took precedence in the classi- fication of nevv's in the journals of the first half of the century, and local events, often matters that were subsequently recognized as of great historical value, were briefly and too often imperfectly recorded. It is a matter to be regretted that in the days when American statesmen and orators were making history for the world, when the new republic, having passed beyond the stage of ex- periment, was advancing with prodigious strides toward glorious achievements in material development, the journals of the coun- try kept but an imperfect and often inaccurate record of events that should have been reported in full.

During the first forty years of the present century there was no system of collecting the news for publication, and the capital invested in the newspaper business was insufficient to permit of any extra outlay to obtain reports of events occurring at a dis- tance in advance of the regular mails. Such reports as were ob- tained were usually voluntary contributions written by a friend of the editor, and often colored or distorted according to the preju- dice of the w^riter. These letters were, almost Avithout exception, semi-editorial in character, the writers indulging freely in comment and expression of opinion upon the event they attempted to record, so that no political or public matter was reported entirely free from partisan coloring. The drivers of mail coaches, the captains of coastwise or river vessels, strolling peddlers, lawyers, surveyors, and wandering missionaries, who made long journeys into the in- terior and from town to. town, were the news reporters of early

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