Chapter 22
New Realities, New Journalism

Chapter 22 - New Realities, New Journalism

During the latter half of the 19th century, news organizations completed their journey from being politically dependent and oriented organizations to independent economic entities of great power and wealth. That journey had begun in the 1820s and 1830s with the development of the penny press (see chapter 21). By the end of the century, news organizations might still be identified with political parties, but they were far from dependent on them.

Technological developments continued to have a profound effect on journalism. Newspaper printing presses could run faster and faster, increasing the number of copies of the paper that could be sold. Innovations such as electric lights and power and the telephone brought changes in the way news and information were gathered. Advertising popularized products and created national markets for them.

Despite the rise of advertising and the increasing amount of income that it produced for newspapers, many papers engaged in circulation wars that grew in intensity during the 1890s. Those wars culminated in the fight between the New York World and the New York Herald that produced the Yellow Journalism era.

Study questions

  • The chapter starts with a continuation of the story about the man who lived through the 19th century. What lessons about what happened in journalism can we draw from the man's life?

  • Why are William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer significant to the journalism of this era?

  • Photography and the telegraph were discussed in the previous chapter. What are the most important technological changes that changed journalism during this period?

  • Why did many newspapers become such large and profitable businesses?

  • The idea of the press as the "watchdog" for society developed during this time. What factors went into that development?

  • Read the sidebar on page 404 about the "most famous" editorial in history. What is so appealing about that editorial?

  • How did reporting and reporters change during this period?

  • What is yellow journalism? How did it develop?

  • What is stunt journalism?

Chapter notes

Beyond stunt journalism.
Nellie Bly is featured in a sidebar on pages 412-413 of the book. She made important contributions to journalism and for women's journalism in the 19th century, but there were other female journalists who took a different route in their careers. One was Jane Cunningham Croly, known to most of America by her pen name "Jennie June." Croley was probably the nation's first female syndicated columnist (a person whose regular writings appeared in newspapers across the country). She began her writing career in New York in the 1850s and for about 10 years was the women's editor for the New York World. She was associated with many other publications. She was instrumental in establishing women's clubs around the nation. Many of these groups started local libraries in their towns. She also fought consistently for a greater role for women in public life. In 1892 she was named a journalism professor at Rutgers University. Find out more about her life at the following links:
Encyclopedia Britannica (
Loretta Cody's Women's Rights Page

Newspaper humorists. The humorists featured on page 415 of the book were all made famous by their writing for newspapers. Some achieved great fame and are now counted among the greats of American literature. While most people have read some of the works of Mark Twain, the other writers may not be as familiar to modern readers. Their works are still worth some attention, however. Here are a few links to some of their biographies and writings:
Petroleum V. Nasby (David Ross Locke) (
Finley Peter Dunn (
Ambrose Bierce (
George Peck (
Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye (

Advertising in the 19th century. Advertising products nationally was one of the great developments associated with 19th century journalism. National advertising enabled newspapers to grow, and it also provided products to people who had never known about them or had access to them. The advertising was unregulated, however, and claims were made about many products that were simply untrue. The era was one of caveat emptor, or "let the buyer beware." The American Memory section of the Library of Congress has an excellent online exhibit of late 19th century advertising. You can get a good idea of the kinds of products that were sold and the claims made about them.

Key concepts and terms

• The Civil War began the consolidation of America into one nation – a consolidation that continued with the industrialization that followed in the decades after the war. Journalism played a vital role in this consolidation and changed because of it.

• During this period, the major mass medium, newspapers, grew into corporate giants with high profitability.

Joseph Pulitzer – owner of the New York World, a newspaper known for its crusades and lively writing.

William Randolph Hearst – owner of the New York Herald; Hearst was a flamboyant personality who used the news columns of his newspapers to push his own issues, including war with Spain over Cuba.

Frank Leslie – published Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, which during the Civil War printed thousands of illustrations and drawings about news events of the day; when Frank Leslie died in 1880, his wife took over the publication (and changed her name to “Frank Leslie”) and ran it successfully for more than 20 years.

Mergenthaler  -- a typesetting machine that greatly speeded up the process of producing newspapers and magazines; named for Ottmar Mergenthaler, its developer.

Brand names – names given to products that were distributed nationally; newspapers offered an advertising venue that helped vault products from local to national sales and distribution.

Yellow journalism – a type of journalism that emphasizes sensationalism and distorts the accuracy and meaning of subjects and events that are covered; the major period of yellow journalism was the late 1890s and its chief practitioners were Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. (A Public Broadcasting American Experience program titled "Murder of the Century" shows how this kind of journalism worked.)

Watchdog press – the concept that journalism should be an independent observer of society, particularly government, and should point out its ills.

Related web
sites for
Chapter 22

Library of Congress American Memory archives


Media History Project


American Women's History Project

Media History Monographs

New York Times History

Yellow Journalism

Media History Monographs

Section I | 1: News and Society  |  2: Culture of Journalism  |  3: Becoming a Journalist
Section II  |  4: Newspapers  |  5: Magazines  |  6: Television and Radio  |  7: News Web Sites
Section III  |  8: Reporters  |  9: Reporting  |  10: Writing news and features  |  11: Style  | 
12: Editors13: Editing and headline writing  |  14: Visual Journalists  |
  15: Graphics Journalism  |  16: Photojournalism  |  17: Publication Design  |
  18: Broadcasters  |  19: Writing for Broadcast
Section IV  |  20: Beginnings of Journalism  |  21: Journalism Comes of Age  | 
22: New Realities, New Journalism  |   23: 20th Century and Beyond
Section V  |  24: Law and the Journalist  |  25: Ethical Practices  |   26: Present and Future
Author | Instructors | Contact us
| Home |