Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/353

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335
The World War


property." In somewhat this spirit, laws have been enacted within the present century requiring the publication of ownership and circulation of newspapers, stipulating that all advertisements shall be labelled, and in various states curtailing the right of papers to emphasize the evil exposed in divorce and other trials.

These manifestations of a desire to make the newspapers as clean and useful as possible are in part a development of, in part a reaction from, the era of sensationalism. The excesses of that era, together with the growing wealth of the larger papers, and a clarifying realization of the vital need for honest newspapers with more than a commercial purpose, are beginning to show secondary consequences.

The principal journalistic result of the World War was the elimination of the war correspondent, in the character displayed in previous wars. Scores of correspondents went to Europe, and the burden of expense laid upon the newspapers by the enormous conflict and the excessive cable tolls was unprecedented. But the correspondents were rigorously restricted in their movements and their reports censored so thoroughly that, although a vast quantity of matter was transmitted, for the first time the news of a great war was under practically complete governmental control. In addition to being subject to the trans-Atlantic official censorship of European news, our newspapers united in a voluntary censorship of domestic news, suggested by the Committee on Public Information. Restrictions were laid on the press by the Espionage and other laws which led to considerable suppression, principally through denial of mailing privileges, and brought up for consideration the perennial question of the freedom of the press.

The great advance during and since the World War accelerated an already considerable decrease in the number of week lies and smaller dailies and led to the disappearance of many larger papers, including some of the oldest and best known in the country. War-time conditions served also to diminish greatly the number of papers printed in the German language, and brought sharply to public notice the great number and influence of the foreign-language papers.

American newspapers surpass in number the papers of all other countries; they have steadily for many decades led in the