The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century traces the major transformation of newspapers from a politically based press to a commercially based press in the nineteenth century. Gerald J. Baldasty argues that broad changes in American society, the national economy, and the newspaper industry brought about this dramatic shift. Increasingly in the nineteenth century, news became a commodity valued more for its profitablility than for its role in informing or persuading the public on political issues. Newspapers started out as highly partisan adjuncts of political parties. As advertisers replaced political parties as the chief financial support of the press, they influenced newspapers in directing their content toward consumers, especially women. The results were recipes, fiction, contests, and features on everything from sports to fashion alongside more standard news about politics. Baldasty makes use of nineteenth-century materials—newspapers from throughout the era, manuscript letters from journalists and politicians, journalism and advertising trade publications, government reports—to document the changing role of the press during the period. He identifies three important phases: the partisan newspapers of the Jacksonian era (1825-1835), the transition of the press in the middle of the century, and the influence of commercialization of the news in the last two decades of the century.
For Free Press and Equal Rights is an exhaustive study of the newspapers published in the Reconstruction South that had ties to the pro-Union, northern-based Republican party. Until now, no book has been devoted entirely to this subject. Richard H. Abbott's research draws on his readings from some 430 southern Republican papers. This figure accounts for literally hundreds more papers than are cited in the handful of previously published related studies--none of which makes more than passing reference to any of the topics that Abbott covers in detail. Abbott first traces the origins of the southern Republican press from its lone stronghold in antebellum northwest Virginia to its wartime expansion in the wake of the Union Army's occupation of such far-flung places as Key West, Florida, and Port Royal, South Carolina. Abbott then discusses the challenges of establishing and sustaining a Republican press where the most likely readership--freed slaves--was usually illiterate and too poor to subscribe, much less to contribute advertising revenue. Looking at the different ways white and black editors faced common problems from ostracism and libel to vandalism and physical assault, Abbott also discusses the mixed blessings of patronage, by which Republican officials steered printing business to their party organs. Abbott's state-by-state, year-by-year analyses look at the fluctuating number of southern Republican papers in terms of their distribution in rural/urban and anti/pro-Republican areas. For Free Press and Equal Rights reveals a wealth of information about papers ranging from the Visitor of Hot Springs, Arkansas, which lasted less than a year, to the Union Flag of Jonesborough, Tennessee, which ran from 1865 to 1873. It makes a number of new and important points about political patronage and the publishing process, race and print culture, Republican ideology and rhetoric, and our first amendment rights.