Editors and Publishers; Back in the Heyday: The Way We Were

Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 08:38 am
Back in the Heyday: The Way We Were
Editors and Publishers
February 23, 2009

A look back at some headlines of yesteryear, as E&P turns 125 years young. So much has changed since "going on-line" meant catching the next streetcar.

We haven't made a fuss about it yet (the year is still young), but E&P is turning 125 next month. We date our history to March 22, 1884, and the founding of a magazine titled The Journalist, which morphed into The Editor and Publisher/The Journalist in 1901 and then became Editor & Publisher in 1927. So happy birthday to us.

We're still going strong, both in print and on the Web " but enough of that for now. Let's go back two centuries to take a peek at what we were reporting in these pages from 1884 to 1893:

There were no longer profits in the "penny press" " and two cents was "cheap enough. ... Publishing is too expensive a business to be conducted on pennies."

"The New York Times has bolted from the Republican Party. General impression is the Times will lose heavily by the decision; others interpret it as the first step toward absolute independence."

Pressmen in Philadelphia had more "good fellowship" among them than anywhere else, with the opposite true in Baltimore, where employees of the Republican paper "dare not be seen speaking to" anyone from the Democratic daily.

We advised that new taxi stands should be placed near newspaper offices because street cars were too slow for when reporters simply must rush to that next big story &hellip and this was predicted in our pages: The "Sunday press is bound to go," because Sunday editions "cannot reduce their price to the level of dailies."

The era of exposing "the private life" of candidates for president had begun with the Cleveland-Blaine election of 1884. Both candidates, we predicted, would be "raked fore and aft" and the lies will "raise a stench no previous campaign ever thought of equaling."

"The colored people of the U.S. are represented by about 130 newspapers."

Samuel L. Clemens is the "leading funny cuss" of American journalism. Nellie Bly is one of New York's "most wide-awake of practical and energetic women."

Advertising has become the chief source of revenue for many papers, but "most rates are set too low." Meanwhile: "Morality in advertising is abating." One example: a semi-nude female getting into a bathtub in a soap ad.

Anna Ballard was the only "lady member" of the New York Press Club.

"The 'syndicate' idea, newspapers buying at nominal prices original stories to fill up their pages, is causing growling among newspapermen."

"The Sun says a prime newspaper duty is to hunt down and expose falsehoods. Politicians and government officials are chief stumbling blocks."

There are 13,494 newspapers in the U.S., an increase in 25 years of 8,241.

In June 1892 we noted, "Among the most recent uses to which electricity has been applied is that of transmitting photographs and drawings by wire."

The following September, we carried a piece probing male opposition to female compositors: "The latter are condemned by the majority of the men, who say that a girl as a compositor is entirely out of her sphere." But the writer, James P. Nolan " after several years of observing women in the composing room " suggested that this was not only the wrong view, but that women should get the same pay as men!

And dig this, from an October 1893 issue, making fun of Reporters' Stock Phrases:

"When a gentleman gives a bank note, it must always be 'crisp.'"

"In rescuing a drowning man, it must be always when they are going down for the third time. No case is on record of a rescue when the sufferer was going down for the first time."

"Thuds are of two descriptions only, the 'dull' and the 'sickening.'"

An opinion piece was titled "Shall Truth Prevail?" and closed: "When the public becomes sufficiently disgusted with partisan journalism to make its resentment felt, some editors may come to the conclusion that truth is too sacred to be tampered with."

But one of my favorites shows some E&P prescience. In December 1892 we peered into "The Newspaper of the Future" and saw heavily formatted editions of only eight pages with six columns per page, and no story more than one column long. Now that day may soon arrive. We'll call that "2020" vision.
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