Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/341

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323
The Civil War

position on the question of slavery and made unmistakable the relative positions of President and editor. There is a resemblance between this encounter and an earlier and less public one between Lincoln and Seward, and the two events are not incomparable in importance. After that exchange of ideas the newspapers of the North supported the President more completely than before. As the war progressed, however, the editorial gradually came to occupy a less important place than news, and by the close of the conflict the authority and influence of the great personalities of journalism had appreciably declined.

The war produced one immediate economic change which proved the beginning of a revolution still going on. The great demand for news brought a tremendous increase in circulation to those papers able to furnish the fullest accounts of the war, and contributed to the prosperity of the larger papers at the expense of the smaller ones. Although great numbers of papers were set up to meet the demand for war news, still more suffered extinction, with the result that in many states there were fewer in 1865 than in 1861. In Illinois, for instance, 144 papers were begun, and 155 were discontinued in the four years. Part of the decrease was due to lack of labour, a condition which led to the invention of the "patent insides." Contrived as a means of economy, this device led to important developments in country journalism in later decades by reducing the cost of printing.

Reconstruction was accompanied by still further mechanical improvements in stereotyping and in presses which made possible great growth in the industry. The extension of co-operative news-gathering was rapid after 1865, when the Western Associated Press was formed, largely through the initiative of Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune. This association, co-ordinated with that of New York, greatly broadened the news resources of both Western and Eastern papers. The rapid growth to the West and in the great Central valleys continued, accelerated by a decrease in the price of paper towards the end of the period, as well as by the increase in population. In the South, where the business had suffered most, the dozen years following the war were a time of restoration, as well as of extension. Many of the leading papers had survived—in Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Richmond, Atlanta, New Orleans—and