Bennett's New York Herald and the Rise of the Popular Press (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS285 Bennett's New York Herald and the Rise of the Popular Press. By James L. Crouthamel. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1989. Pp. 202. $27.95.) James Crouthamel, in Bennett's New York Herald and the Rise of the Popular Press, has proven with great detail what most journalism historians have been saying for years. Bennett's and his newspaper's places in journalism history are secure. He took the new formula for the inexpensive, mass circulation, news-oriented, sensationalistic urban daily that proliferated in America in the 183Os and experimented and fine tuned it until his Herald was the leading penny paper in the country. Whether praised or damned for this role in newspaper and newsgathering developments, historians from Frederic Hudson, Bennett's managing editor (Journalism in the United States, 1690-1872), through Sidney Kobre (Development ofAmerican Journalism) and Calder Pickett (Voices of the Past) to Emery and Emery (The Press and America) have granted Bennett his due. Crouthamel, stating that "many historians. . .preoccupied with mining the Herald's editorials," has ignored the value of his news coverage and overstates his argument, at least as far as media historians are concerned. He has not written a biography of Bennett, nor did he intend to. Rather, he attempted to provide, through a close examination of thirty years' worth of Bennett's Herald, a documented account of how Bennett covered the news, refined (revolutionized?) techniques in newsgathering and technology, and opined on the people and events of his time. There also is an attempt, fairly unsuccessful, at placing Bennett in his time, at establishing his place in journalism history. In its effort to show how the Herald covered the news, however, the book is successful. This is not an anecdotal history. Crouthamel, also the author of James Watson Webb: A Biography, quotes profusely from the paper, including news articles and editorials. He demonstrates how Bennett's success bred imitation. He provides a clearer picture than most other historians of Bennett's prejudices and inconsistencies, both in philosophy and in news and editorial columns. However, other than more and better evidence, not much else new is presented. When the author tries to place Bennett in some historical context, the argument is incomplete and largely unconvincing. Bennett, the author argues, was an "example of the paradox of the Jacksonian era," a "stereotype of the political culture of the period." Crouthamel likens him to Pessen's "new men of politics." That argument, advanced at the beginning and end of the book, is never fully developed or supported in the intervening pages. Further, Crouthamel devotes considerable space to the enigmatic Bennett 's dual role as Jacksonian editor and provider of information for 286CIVIL WAR HISTORY Jackson's antagonist, Nicholas Biddle. Yet, there is no discussion of the inherent ethical conflict of interest, either from a modern or contemporary point of view. The book also tries to establish and evaluate the Herald's popularity among the people. However, it discards interpretations by such writers as Dan Schiller and Michael Schudson and lamely concludes that the Herald had a large circulation and that its contents "had a wide and diverse appeal." The author is critical of Bennett on a number of occasions (for his sensationalism, his hysteria, his bigotry) but, on the whole, offers a sympathetic portrait. Crouthamel is at his best in providing primary evidence to support Bennett's role as a creative and controversial newspaper editor. He is far less convincing when he attempts analysis of Bennett the man, his place in his society, or the role of the Herald in shaping public opinion. Fred F. Endres Kent State University Bloody Roads South: The Wilderness to Cold Harbor May-June 1864. By Noah Andre Trudeau. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989. Pp. viii, 354. $19.95.) Bloody Roads South begins with the rather dubious claim that the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, May to June 1864, make up a largely forgotten campaign which needs remembering throughout this book (viii). No campaign in Virginia during the Civil War has failed to receive extensive treatment, either in the records of participants or later histories and monographs. The one thing that Trudeau can claim...


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