Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Two professors at New York University inspired and transformed this project. One day, in the late 1980s, Mitchell Stephens challenged his journalism history class to find the first examples of the “inverted pyramid” news form, a form that contains the most important facts in the first paragraphs. I was in that class, and the project led to a quest for the ...

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Introduction: Objectivity

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pp. 1-14

If American journalism were a religion, as it has been called from time to time, its supreme deity would be “objectivity.” The high priests of journalism worship “objectivity”; one leading editor called it the “highest original moral concept ever developed in America and given to the world.”1 The iconoclasts—purveying advocacy journalism, “new” ...

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1. Detachment: The Caning of James Gordon Bennett, the Penny Press, and Objectivity’s Primordial Soup

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pp. 15-39

On a sunny spring day in 1836, James Gordon Bennett left his newspaper office to begin his morning perambulations around Wall Street, seeking information for the financial column of his new one-cent paper, the New York Herald. That morning, as he roamed the narrow, tortuous streets of the financial district, Bennett might very well have been counting ...

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2. Nonpartisanship: Three Shades of Political Journalism

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pp. 40-63

In 1836 James Gordon Bennett supported Martin Van Buren, a Democrat, for president. In 1840 he endorsed Van Buren’s opponent, William Henry Harrison. Bennett then supported a Democrat, James K. Polk, in 1844, a Whig, Zachary Taylor, in 1848, a Democrat, Franklin Pierce, in 1852, and a Republican, John C. Fremont, in 1856. Three things distinguish ...

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3. The Inverted Pyramid: Edwin M. Stanton and Information Control

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pp. 64-94

Until the end of the nineteenth century the telling of news nearly always took the form used in classical storytelling: first, an announcement of the utility or importance of the story, as in the start of the Iliad, “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus and its devastation, which puts pains thousandfold upon the Achaians”1 or the penny papers’ “By ...

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4. Facticity: Science, Culture, Cholera, and the Rise of Journalism’s “Naive Empiricism,” 1832–66

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pp. 95-112

Between 1832 and 1866 the cultural landscape of the United States had transformed itself. Medicine, art, literature, the social sciences, and journalism rejected a religious paradigm in favor of a scientific one. “The world has grown tired of preachers and sermons,” wrote one late nineteenth-century observer, “to-day it asks for facts.” The scientist and ...

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5. Balance: A “Slanderous and Nasty-Minded Mulattress,” Ida B. Wells, Confronts “Objectivity” in the 1890s

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pp. 113-137

Each chapter of this study covered an aspect of “objectivity”: detachment, nonpartisanship, the inverted pyramid writing style, and a reverence for facts and empiricism all evolved over the course of the nineteenth century. By the 1890s, the period of this final chapter, all the elements covered so far came together; journalists and journalism were what ...

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Conclusion: Thoughts on a Post-“Objective” Profession

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pp. 138-144

Dan Rather’s claim that his CBS Evening News program was “real” implied that his show was “objective” and others were not. This study has discussed similar protestations. Bennett and Webb battled over whose brand of journalism would prevail; both men claimed the “truth” and each smeared his opponent. Later, as we have seen in the final chapter, ...

Notes

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pp. 145-176

Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 177-180

Works Cited

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pp. 181-194

Index

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pp. 195-200

About the Author

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pp. 201-201