Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

All the Propaganda That’s Fit to Print

Political endorsements. They put the lie to journalistic integrity. They rear their subjective heads at every primary and general election. Newspapers were once much more honest than they are today. As a body, they never pretended to be the defenders of the people’s trust and so forth. Among one another, as competitors, they vied for that claim. But no one took it seriously.

According to the website, The History of Newspapers:

America’s first newspaper, Public Occurrences, appeared in Boston in 1690. Published without authority, it was immediately suppressed, its publisher arrested, and all copies were destroyed. America's first continuously-published newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, published its first issue on April 24, 1704. In the early years of its publication, the News-Letter was filled mostly with news from London journals detailing the intrigues of English politics, and a variety of events concerning the European wars. Still, although it was heavily subsidized by the colonial government, the experiment was a near-failure, with very limited circulation.

Two more papers made their appearance in the 1720's, in Philadelphia and New York. By the eve of the Revolutionary War, some two dozen papers were issued at all the colonies, although Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania were the centers of American printing. Articles in colonial papers were a major force that influenced public opinion in America.


Newspapers were the province of the wealthy, literate minority. The price of a year's subscription, usually over a full week's pay for a laborer, had to be paid in full and often in advance. At war's end in 1783 there were 43 newspapers. The press played a vital role in the affairs of the new nation; many more newspapers were started, representing all shades of political opinion. The no-holds barred style of early journalism, much of it libelous by modern standards, reflected the rough and tumble political life of the republic as rival factions jostled for power.


The ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791 at last guaranteed freedom of the press, and America's newspapers began to take on a central role in national affairs. Growth continued in every state. By 1814, there were 346 newspapers. In the 1830's, advances in printing and papermaking technology led to an explosion of newspaper growth. The Penny Press arose; it was now possible to produce a newspaper that could be sold for just a cent a copy. This sudden availability of cheap reading material stimulated the achievement of the nearly universal literacy now taken for granted in America.

The industrial revolution dramatically affected newspapers. Both the numbers of papers and their paid circulations continued to rise. The 1850 census recorded 2,526 newspapers. In the 1850's powerful, giant presses appeared, able to print ten thousand complete papers per hour. At this time the first “pictorial” weekly newspapers emerged; featuring illustrations of events in the news, either from correspondents' sketches or taken from that new invention, the camera.


During the Civil War the unprecedented demand for timely, accurate news reporting brought about a new profession: reporting. Reporters, called “specials,” turned in accounts of battles, supplying a definitive history of the events they witnessed. Newspaper growth continued unabated in the postwar years. An astounding 11,314 different papers were recorded in the 1880 census.


By the 1890's the first circulation figures of a million copies per issue were recorded. New features of the modern newspaper included “banner” headlines, extensive use of illustrations, “funny pages,” plus expanded coverage of organized sporting events.


This was also the age of media consolidation, as many independent newspapers were swallowed up into powerful conglomerates, reducing them to vehicles for the distribution of the particular views of their owners, without competing papers to challenge their viewpoints. Although newspapers had always reflected the views of their publishers, now competitors could drive their adversaries out of business or swallow the rival paper up. By the 1910's, all the essential features of the recognizably modern newspaper had emerged.

Then, along came the automobile and radio.

Once such newspaper magnate was Frank Ernest Gannett. Born in South Bristol, N.Y., in 1876, at age 30, he purchased his first newspaper, the Elmira Gazette (now the Star-Gazette). Six years later, in 1912, he purchased the Ithaca Journal. In March 1918, he and his partners moved their headquarters to Rochester, N.Y., where they acquired the Evening Times, the Herald, and the Union and Advertiser and combined them as the Times-Union (the former evening paper of Rochester).

The Democrat and Chronicle is now Rochester's only daily newspaper and traces its roots back to 1833, to a paper called The Balance. Its name later changed to the Daily Democrat around 1840. That paper then merged with another local paper, The Chronicle in 1879, and was renamed the Democrat and Chronicle.

The paper was closely identified with the Whigs and then the Republican Party. That changed for a time as Gannett bought the paper as a morning alternative to his own Rochester Times-Union in 1928 and soon thereafter threw its support to FDR.

The editorial slant returned to the Republican point of view soon afterward and remained there until Gannett's death in 1957, at which time it moved to what they now claim was a “non-partisan” stance.

Meanwhile, the D&C’s afternoon counterpart, the Times-Union, was a widely circulated daily for 79 years, beginning publication in 1918, and ceased operations in 1997 when the paper merged with the Democrat and Chronicle, with which it had shared a staff since 1992.

Gannet was active in state politics, taking a neutral stand to the New Deal in 1936 before joining the opposition against President Franklin D. Roosevelt's court-packing scheme. He helped the Republicans retake control of Rochester's City Council a year later. In 1939–1940, he ran briefly for the 1940 Republican presidential nomination. He was a founding member of the National Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government.

It was for the Democrat and Chronicle that my father worked as a reporter just after World War II. We found it hard to believe our staunchly conservative father would deign to work for such a newspaper but our mother assured us that at the time, at least, it was Republican-oriented.

With such a family background in the newspaper industry, it’s such a laugh when any media puppet proclaims that they’re mainstream or objective. Oh, puh-leeze! The problem for the conservative public is that the Liberal newspapers – media outlets, in this day and age – are so numerous and well-aligned that it’s hard to convince an ignorant public that they’re not all on the same page.

Let’s take the example of President Obama’s birth certificate, just to be a nuisance. Say that one newspaper claims that he’s not a citizen of the United States. Well, it’s only one paper, after all. But if all the papers print that same declaration, then it must be true, right? They couldn’t all be lying. There must be something to it. Right?

A humorous example, but do you get the picture? The sheer numbers will carry the weight of their argument, even if it’s the most stupendous lie ever perpetrated, such as global warming. All a paper with counter evidence can do is keep pounding away at the American brain until the truth gets in.

Right now, the American public is skeptical of the conservative media. They’re that lone voice in the media wilderness. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity (some of my favorites) and of course, Fox News. Fox is one only network against a vast array of well-funded media outlets. A million Liberal newspapers can’t all be wrong, goes their specious argument.

The Liberal media considers the Conservative “stars” fair game, but no one bothers to take a look at the backgrounds of the “talent” on the Liberal side of the field, political hacks one and all. Speechwriters for politicians, propagandists.

Nor are the corporations for which they work public charities. They’re for-profit companies with a bottom line and shareholders they must satisfy. The Washington Post is my favorite. Warren Buffett is the chairman of the board of The Washington Post. Take a look at the boards of directors of some other big newspapers and media chains.

So when you read this morning’s paper to see who the editor of your favorite scandal sheet thinks you should vote for in the primaries (chances are, it's a Democrat), take their recommendation with a grain of salt.

If they advocate a candidate who wants to trade your freedom for their power, place the editorial page at the bottom of the birdcage, where it belongs.

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