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Technology and Control: the Interactive Dimensions of Journalism

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Technology and Control: the interactive dimensions of journalism
Anthony Smith

The newspaper and the novel were the first cultural forms to emerge

directly from printing; they were both essentially publishing phenomena and developed in England in the aftermath of the expiration in 1695 of the Licensing Act when printers, no longer limited in numbers by statute, were free to flourish - or perish - according to the behaviour of the

market. 1 Journalism has thus a similar relationship to printing as pop

music to the phonograph or the film to photography: it depends upon an industrial activity, it involves the creative individual as a worker

within a fairly complex process of manufacturing and distribution. The journalism is, as it were, the 'software' supplied to fill the 'hardware' of the newspaper system, and it thus serves as a pioneer example of the working of modern mechanical media. Unfortunately the newspaper is

only now beginning to be studied historically as a media system;2 most of those interested in the history of the press have been hitherto concerned with the newspaper either as a component of 'Whig' history, concentrating on those elements which illustrate the great tide of public freedom

swelling from the eighteenth century onwards,3 or else as a component of a kind of 'Whiggism-in-reverse', bringing out those elements which illustrate the increasing amiseration or exploitation of the new mass


Part of the interest in journalism in Britain lies in the sheer unbroken continuity of its tradition. From the 1620s onwards one may be certain that each generation of journalists has consciously acquired its professional
1 Watt, I. The Rise of the Novel, p. 214, Chatto and Windus (1957).

2 McLuhan, M. The Gutenberg Galaxy: the making of typographic man,
Routledge (1962).

3 Typical are Alexander Andrewes: HistofY of British Journalism (1859) F. Knight Hunt: The Fourth Estate (1850) Fox Bourne: English Newspapers (1887), T. H. S. Escott: Masters of English Journalism (1911) and, more recently, Harold Herd: The March ofJournalism, Alien & Unwin, (1952) and Francis Williams: Dangerous Estate, Longmans (1958). 4 Webb, R. K. The British Working Class Reader 1790-1848, Alien and Unwin (1955); WilIiams, R. The Long Revolution, Chatto and Windus (1961).



skills from the previous one; the tradition can be traced even beyond Archer, Bourne and Butter who were the first to assemble items of

European news into a single periodical publication in running form in the

printers of Amsterdam.s Their typographical devices, journalistic

English language; they borrowed this clever publishing idea from the

expedients and tone of voice, even, can be traced through the vigorous partisan journalism of the English Civil War and even into the period after the Restoration when the newspaper was placed under the most stringent monarchical scrutiny. Until then the publication of all news was con­ sidered to be part of the royal prerogative, an unimpeachable aspect of

the Divine Right of the King, but this doctrine began to fade when William

Ill, no longer a biological heir, ascended the throne.6 With the ending of

the traditional system of licensing which limited the legal number of working master printers - as a means of controlling the whole medium of

print - the publishing industry began to develop very rapidly; nonetheless, the actual techniques of printing remained relatively static, and Caxton

would have recognized his converted wine press in any newspaper office until the end of the eighteenth century. The government developed a method of controlling news despite the ending of licensing by placing an ever-growing series of taxes on the press: there were taxes on the paper used in publishing news, on each advertise­ ment, on every newspaper copy. Many forms of journalism developed out of attempts to evade the taxes (like the essay form of the Tatler and the Spectator, which, by being regular publications but not containing hard news, could avoid paying the tax) and all news publications altered in format as a result of the tax. The newspaper still developed rapidly in the era of Queen Anne and her successors because of the growth of mercantile and trading life, because small towns all over the country were developing complex local economies of their own which depended on advertisement, and because of the growth of a political class profoundly involved in the activities of Parliament and government. The government used the revenue

from taxation as a slush fund to bribe newspapers and journalists to work in the official interest. Power in Britain, in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, rested upon opinion not upon Divine Right, and the news­ paper, corrupt, vindictive, biased but in essence uncontrollable by the Crown, was the vehicle for creating and reflecting opinion, and sustaining the wide spectrum of factions into which the political class was subdivided. The battle for the freedom of the press which was fought out during the

century was a battle for the right to report the affairs of Parliament, and
5 Frank, J. The Beginnings of the English Newspaper 1621-1660, University of Harvard Press (1971); Williams, J. B. History of English Journalism to the Founda­ tions of the Gazette. (908).

6 Plumb, J. H. The Growth of Political Stability in England 1675-1725, Macmillan



to mitigate the battery of legal constraints and inhibitions to which the press was shackled.

Throughout this period the number and diversity of social groups with physical, financial and educational access to the press was growing. The arrival of Frederick Koenig in London during the Napoleonic War led to the first of a series of revolutionary developments in printing and news­ paper production which were to continue throughout the nineteenth century. The advanced stage coach, improved roads and the train helped to expand the lines of distribution of the press and release it from the dependence on the coffee-house which had been the chief means of

circulation since Cromwellian days (and highly consistent with the role of the newspaper as a facilitator of factional rather than party politics). The

nineteenth century saw at first a major bifurcation within the readership of newspapers between, on one hand, a middle-class press, fully taxed, expensive and legal, which concentrated on developing contact with major demographic groups which were nationally spread and were developing an increasing political consciousness, and on the other, a cheaper working­ class press which secured extremely large circulations but little advertising and worked under the particularly irksome constraint of being illegal because unstamped and untaxed. With the ending of the stamp tax, how­ ever, in 1855, it was the middle-class newspapers (the Daily Telegraph in particular) which were the first to grasp the opportunity of circulating among the growing group of newspaper-reading skilled workers. Thereafter, every major development in the formation of press publics involved the amalgamation of groups previously differentiated according to class or political predilection, into broader, more heterogeneous audiences. The newspaper sought out more variegated material. The newspaper enterprise changed from the joint stock system of the late eighteenth century, in which the shareholders included the printer and the principal advertisers,

into the large family firm of the nineteenth century with access to larger blocks of capital to buy equipment for printing and reproducing illustra­

tions, to pay the high costs of the telegraph, transport and squads of reporters and correspondents.
The end of the nineteenth century saw the perfection of technical and distribution methods to the point at which a truly mass newspaper

could develop, encompassing a wide enough range of content, styles and

audience-attracting material to hold together the first regular national

audiences of a million at a cover cost of!d (the Daily Mail by 1912).
Until then only the Sunday newspapers, traditionally concentrating more

on scandal and crime than the daily papers, had reached out into that vast hardly tapped waiting audience. There had been several 'New Journalisms' in the later nineteenth century, clustered around the styles pioneered by the Daily News (1846), the Daily Telegraph (1855) and especially the Pall Mall Gazette 1865) and they had been concerned with



puncturing the hidebound traditionalism of the longer established papers such as The Times and the Morning Post. Each thrust forwards had involved devising ways of making the content more palatable to an The enormous leaps in circulation which took place between the World Wars turned the daily newspaper into a universal medium which henceforth was concerned with penetrating not a non-newspaper public but the public of rival papers. Newspapers devised forms and political positions which would help them each make inroads into the readership of other papers. The family firm gave way to multi-ownership in large corporations, although many papers continued to have single owners; with the demise of the News Chronicle and Daily Herald in the 1960s no newspaper remained which avowedly belonged to a single class. Sometimes the traditional tones of radicalism remained but only transmitted by the homogenizing voice of modern circulation management. The twentieth century has seen the solidification of a dichotomy between the 'quality'

additional group of the population.?

and the 'popular' in journalism, competition taking place mainly, though by no means entirely, between newspapers within one group rather than between the two.

I have merely hinted at some of the major 'formations' through which the newspaper and journalism has passed, although a comprehensive list would be extremely long. Each new system involves a shift in one or more of five partly separable dimensions. First of all, each of them has been characterized by a different grouping of the audience and a different way of grouping towards a larger or different intended audience. Then, in each, the journalist has been coping with different levels and arrangements of material which has necessitated his developing lines of contact with different kinds of news sources. Third, the journalist has been obliged to devise or acquire new techniques for actually performing his work (such as shorthand, typing, translating). Fourth, the state of the available printing technology has itself developed in ways which have helped to change the fundamental stance of journalists towards their readers. Finally, perhaps most importantly, each new formation of the newspaper as a media system has brought about a new structure of editorial control, leaving the

journalist, in his various forms, working within a line of management stretching up towards a board of shareholders or perhaps an eccentric single owner or (in earlier days) the king himself. These five dimensions are in part determinants of the nature of journalism as the 'software' to

their 'hardware'; but they are themselves, of course, the results of many other strands of social, technological and political history, and have developed along lines of mutual interaction as well as being influenced by

7 Morrison, S. The English Newspaper, Cambridge University Press (1932) Chapters
13 and 14; Greenwood, F. The Newspaper Press, Nineteenth Century, May 1890.



the journalism which they encase. Examination of each of these five dimensions throws a certain light on the ways in which the profession of journalism has developed through its three and a half century tradition and might, as we shall see, help to show how journalism is evolving in the period immediately ahead.

Even in the earliest versions or predecessors of the newspaper one can discern these five elements. The Mercurius Gallo-Belgicus was a Latin news

periodical which started in 1594 and circulated throughout the Holy

Roman Empire.8 The printers of Cologne, always a prudent and far­

sighted body of men, had perceived a method for distributing information concerning military, political and other events via the six-monthly trade fairs at which merchants and other groups of influential people would gather. The fact of regularity of publicatioh was the prerequisite for creating a constant public whose needs and interests the publishers would then attempt to satisfy. The Gallo-Belgicus was the first publication in history to have a regular title and cohsistency of printing, which meant that its audience would learn to expect it. The sources of the Gallo­

Belgicus's information lay in the network of postmasters which existed throughout the Empire, efficiently passing along their routes all important news about the movements of armies and important personalities. The available technology for producing Gallo-Belgicus was a press essentially constructed for the making of books and so this earliest news publication appeared as a book and its writers thought of themselves as book-writers specialiZing in the compiling in a single publication of a quantity of neWs stories which might otherwise have been publisheda.s a series of separate broadsheets. Their professional techniques consisted in recognizing news of importance when it arrived and translating it into Latin. Although we know little about the week to week workings of these early newsmen we do know that their work was publicly supervised and criticized; their operation grew within a cra'ft hierarchy which sprang from the traditions of printing, with political pressures feeding back and tending towards a form of control. The Mercurius Gallo-Belgicus was well known in England and John Donne took it to task in an epigram:
.... change thy name: thou art like

Mercury in stealing, but lyest like a Greeke.9
Our five dimensions are thus delineable in this very ancient though sophisticated neWs service and between them they constitute a set of determining .constraints which provided the journalists (if we may call them that) with the basis of their professional and trade outlook. The .8 Shaaber, M. A. Some Forerunners of the Newspaper in England, 1416-1622, University of Pennsy!vahia I'ress (1929). 9 Crierson, Sir Herbert (Ed.) The Poems ofJohn Donne, Oxford University Pl'ess,
(1933) p. 69.



picture of the world which the compilers of the Gallo-Belgicus serviced and sustained passed through the mesh of conceptual and physical equip­

ment which constituted its media system. I shall try to provide an historical sketch of ea!=h of the five dimensions, taking a specific, almost

random, case study as' demonstration of each of them.

One is easily sometimes tempted to assume that the audience for news­

papers has simply expanded generation by generation until reaching total social saturation in the present century. Statistically that is perhaps true, although not all new newspapers have tried merely to maximize their sales; there have often been specialist papers which increase their profits by con­

centrating on a single wealthy market, narrowing their editorial focus to exploit a smaller market more expertly both for sales and advertising. The journalist on a given publication rapidly learns to recognize, conceptuali1:e and internalize the supposed needs of the particular target audience of his paper. He speaks as if through a proscenium arch of his newspaper office to a public which has been gathered through the tradition and the promo­ tion system of the newspaper concerned. It is the distribution system and the advertising sales system which feed back into a media institution and

its employees the picture of the audience for which they are writing.


There are, and have often been, papers which are purely ideologically,

tightly delineated from the start; the provincil papers of the late

motivated - journals of opinion - and with the the audience is more nineteenth century, for example, struggled to acquire and maintain special

local audiences sharing a liberal, radical or conservaive outlook, which their journalists recognized and indeed identified wi th. W. T. Stead,

Wickh;lm Steed, Alfred Spender all learned the business of journalism as young men on provincial Liberal papers, where their experience as com­

municators within a particular political constituency provided them with the qualifications necessary for their first London posts. Spender spent

SOflle years at his uncle's paper the Eastern Morning News before PJoceding, in the early nineties, to work on the Pall Mall Gazette and then transferring when the former was sold into the hands of a Tory, to a

new Liberal paper the Westminster Gazette. 10 The reader's loyalty was

acquired through political identificatioQ; the journalist's credentials, which

remained with him throughout his career, were founded on his ability to devlopment of newspaper readerships as confsional communities was possible only when me.thods of distribution and sales had developed in a

grasp and internalize th,e outlook of a single political community. Yet, the

manner conducive to the paper reaching its target community on the right day and at the right price.
10 Harris, W.]. A. Spender, Cassell (1946).



Until well into the last century it was impossible to separate postal

systems from newspaper delivery systems. The Post Office undertook both tasks. The character of most newspapers emanating from London was designed for the London audience, since only a small proportion of total sales could reach the non-metropolitan public despite the steady improve­ ment of postal services ever since the 1620s. Provincial papers, which

started up in the first decade of the eighteenth century, tended to cover very wide areas geographically around their city of origination, too wide

in fact to make the papers themselves at all reflective of the interests and problems of any single community. The particular case study I shall use in considering the impact of audience identification upon the styles of journalism consists in an account of how that necessary transition took

place within the provincial press between a generation of papers which were non-London but not rooted in a particular locality to a new generation which were non-metropolitan and profoundly rooted in the affairs of a neighbourhood. The London papers of the eighteenth century were mainly distributed

through the hundreds of coffee houses which had first been established during the political terror of the late 1650s as safe locations for political discussion. By the time of Queen Anne, London also had a highly organized distribution system through its many booksellers, street hawkers, coach­ men, carriers and watermen. Wealthier readers outside London could have

price, in addition to a!d surcharge if the paper were brought from the posthouse to a private residence. Simultaneously, however, printers were moving out of London and setting up in rapidly expanding country towns. In fact in the early eighteenth century newspapers began to spread through­ out the English provinces; their content consisted mainly of summaries of the London papers which were delivered twice weekly by stagecoach and private transport - 'a faithfull abstract of all the Newspapers of Note' was how one provincial paper advertised itself and another used to refer

their papers sent by post, which would cost an extra 2d on the cover

proudly to its success in providing 'the quintessence of every Print' .11
What hampered for some decades the development of a real provincial

journalism based on events occurring within each town of publication was

the small size of the available readership. In order to maintain sufficient readers to cover his production costs a printer would sometimes employ a roundsman who would walk through the countryside delivering the paper to known subscribers within a very wide radius. The Northampton Mercury

said its 'newsmen' would cover 40 miles on foot once a week. The Manchester Magazine said that one of its roundsmen walked 100 miles
11 Cranfield, G. A. The Development of the pTOfIincial Newspaper, 1700-1760,

Clarendon Press (1962); Belcher, W. F. 'The Sale and Distribution of the British Apollo', in Bond, R. P. Studies in the Early English Periodical, University of North Carolina Press (1957) pp. 73-101.



every week on a circuit which took three days to complete. If the weather was bad and the men were unable to set out, publication would occasionally be delayed. There were also street hawkers and specialized delivery systems in the larger towns, but so long as a given edition had to be sold in towns

as far apart as Oxford, Northampton and Lincoln, there was little chance of a vigorous local journalism developing. By the 1750s, however, it was becoming possible for printers to engage in intensive distribution within a single town; population had increased and with it the kinds of business activity which depends on advertising. Shops would consider it worth advertising in a paper which could be guaranteed to reach a significant proportion of the buying population in its catchment area, and the growth

of advertising made it possible for the printer to concentrate his efforts more within a given area.

With the growth of distribution it was difficult for the printer to add the cost of delivery to the cost of the paper, as had always been the practice with newspapers in London and the provinces. In the 1740s, for example, the newsmen employed by the Birmingham Gazette started to be paid a

proportion of the cover price of copies sold and this increased the pressures on the printer to provide the kind of material which the newsmen could

easily sell. If the paper had little to appeal to readers the newsmen would threaten resignation because this endangered their livelihood. The distribu­ tion system acted thus as a constraining pressure on the editor and his tiny

staff. The provincial press accordingly began to recognize its target audience more clearly as these and similar pressures accumulated. From

the mid-eighteenth century onwards the content of English provincial papers begins to reveal a certain liveliness and originality: the occasional cartoon appears and there is a vigorous growth of political comment when the great Parliamentary schisms of the mid-century began to work up partisan loyalties among the emerging country readership. Above all,

however, the provincial press found itself training editors who saw news in the affairs of a small town, which until then had appeared merely

irrelevant to the concerns of a newspaper. The first indigenous country journalism sprang from the conceptualization of the new urban audiences of the north and west and midlands from the 1760s onwards.

It might seem merely obvious to say that journalism depends upon the available sources of news. Much of the literature of the press, however, takes it for granted that to journalists within the English tradition, the

same range of matters have always been of equal relevance. In fact, journalism in any given period has functioned mainly as the processor of certain available kinds of material. The demand for a particular kind of information (say, news of the Thirty Year War) is generated through a



society which has a particular interest in the events concerned. (In this case, Londoners disapproving of their king's failure to support King
Ferdinand.) The flow of information from event to news medium becomes

organized when a suitable medium is set up to circulate it (in our example, the printers of Amsterdam and their counterparts in London creating the first weekly books of news). At the newsroom or printing shop end of the process the journalist seeks out the flow of information from ambassadors,

spies, mercenaries, imperial postmasters, merchants and continental news­ sheets. The journalist had never merely stared out of his window at a total reality; he is only given his desk and chair when an input system already exists. The newspaper is not a mirror of reality, but the realization of the potential of its sources. It may build great influence out of its eloquent advocacy of a cause; it may stimulate new interests and realizations within its audience; it may cause new kinds of information to reach its audience and new sources of information to be organized; but its chief characteristic lies in the selection, arrangement and reformulation of information passing to it through regular channels. The wire services of the nineteenth century emerged as collectors and

pre-processors of information; their customers were newspapers and editors of vastly differing political persuasions and they therefore helped to generate the idea that at the root of all news there lay 'hard facts' which

could be discovered and disseminated in a value-free manner. 12 A successful newspaper like The Times rejected Paul Julius Reuter's service as long as it could: it seemed that to rely on people outside immediate editorial control to supply news would endanger the intellectual and ideological integrity of the paper; the growth of a fiercer competition between London papers and the enormous expense involved in maintaining coverage of all the events on which British readers now wanted to be informed, brought

about after a time the capitulation of The Times. The paper aeed to

print the news offered by Reuters and later of other agencies. 3 The wire in its competition with London-based papers which were constantly trying to take over the lucrative newspaper market in the growing Victorian cities. By means of the telegraph a provincial paper could receive a complete flow of foreign news and also publish in full the speeches of

service and the agency were of cO\rse indispensable to the provincial press

local politicians in Parliament, two elements with which they were able to hold their own against metropolitan newspapers. The telegraph, there­

fore, both threatened the security of the provincial press and gave it the opportunity of developing its own special services. One episode which aptly illustrates the way in which an alignment of news services helps to determine the character of a particular form of
12 Kieve, J. L. A History of the Electric Telegraph, David and Charles (1974). 13 History of the Times Vo!. 2 p. 272-3.



journalism is that of the London press of the early Restoration when, for

dominated the world of London journalism. 14 His career and the special system of news flow which he perfected and partly devised aptly illustrates the way in which the character of journalism is heavily influenced by the nature of its sources. If you look at a typical English or continental newspaper of the late seventeenth century you cannot fail to be struck by the enormous geo­ graphical scope of the news. The paper covers but a single sheet but it contains carefully filed material from a score of European cities, arranged in brief, bleak paragraphs each with its clearly marked provenance, the city of origin and the date on which the information was first sent out. Domestic news leads the paper but is very scanty; it consists of news from

about a decade,. the figure of Henry Muddiman, the 'King's Journalist',

Court, royal proclamations and other official material, plus a good deal of shipping and commercial news. The flow of material around England was clearly (or apparently) inferior to the network which produced up-to-date intelligence on places as far afield as Muscovy and Naples, Istanbul and
Berlin. The dominant news publication in England in the 1660s and 1670s

was the London Gazette and its methods of operation had been developed

tion period. 5 Under Cromwell, Secretary Thurloe had built up a system of European intelligence which had kept the English government among the best informed in Europe ('Cromwell kept the secrets of all the princes of Europe at his girdle'), and Charles 11 was determined to maintain the

from the paeers of the late Commonwealth and the immediate Restora-

system, though with different men. In addition Charles and his Court brought back with them from Breda an acquaintance with the new generation of
European Gazettes: Paris had its Gazette and the Nouvelles Ordinaires,

Brussels the. Relations Veritables, and Amsterdam, for decades the central entrepot of European news, produced the Gazette D'Amsterdam and the Oprecbte Haerlemse Dinqsdaege C ourant. They were stylish publications, bearing with them a sense of modernity and efficiency. When the Court

retired briefly to Oxford to avoid the plague raging in London in 1665,
Charles seized the opportunity to start an Oxford Gazette which later became the London Gazette; in charge of it was the most experienced news collector and editor of the day, Henry Muddiman. What concerns us here, however, is simply the means by which Muddiman and his rivals and

immediate successors procured their information. The prerogative of the king over the publication of news applied only to printed material. The Stationers' Company was obliged by law to
14 Lane, J.J. G. Muddiman: The Kings' Journalist 1659-1689, Bodley Head (1923): Fraser, P. The Intelligence of the Secretaries of State and their monopoly of Printed News 1660-1688, Cambridge University Press (1956). 15 Handover, P. M. A History of the London Gazette 1665-1965, HMSO (1965).



supervise the whole trade of printing and publishing and ensure that only duly licensed material was handled by the booksellers (who were also members of the Company). The Stationers, however, could not be trusted to perform this task wholeheartedly since it tended to restrict their own trade and therefore, in 1663, a special Surveyor of the Press was appointed, the notorious Sir Roger L'Estrange, an old Cavalier who had served the king faithfully throughout his period of exile. L'Estrange's men guaranteed that the illegal rivals to the official news publications were rooted out.

L'Estrange's reward for his labours was an exclusive privilege to publish news, 'All Narratives of relacons not exceeding two sheets of paper and all advertisements, Mercuries, Diurnals and Books of Pub lick Intelligence', as the official proclamation put it. L'Estrange was an odd choice for exercising this privilege since he was a strong opponent of general publica­

tion of political news, thinking that it gave the people 'not only an itch but a colourable right and licence to be meddling with the Government'. He proved, however, to be most efficient in destroying the network of anti-Caroline propaganda, but was confronted with the more long-term problem of how to set about the dissemination of necessary intelligence around the governing groups in society.

There was at that period a secondary system by which news travelled around the country, a system of written newsletters, copied ou.! by a small army of scriveners and composed by a single man who enjoyed access to

the full flow of political information entering and leaving Whitehall. 16

Henry Muddiman, originally chosen to take charge of publishing news by General Monck in the months between the death of Richard Cromwell and the return of Charles, sat at the centre of a web of contacts through­

out England and Europe. At the heart of the Restoration system of government there were the offices of the two Secretaries of State, one of whom handled relations with the Northern (i.e. Protestant) countries, the other with the Southern (i.e. Catholic) countries. Muddiman worked for the Under-Secretary at the Southern Department and his job was to

monitor the governmental intelligence network, making certain that the agents were kept working efficiently. He enjoyed a privilege of free postage in order to perform his task and the Letter Office was at certain periods kept under the general supervision of one of the Secretaries of State; Muddiman was allowed to exploit the free postage privilege to send out his own handwritten newsletters to a string of correspondents throughout the country, who paid £,S a year directly to Muddiman as a subscription: the newsletter could be supplied free to members of the intelligence network, so that a kind of collective European news agency

existed, creating an international coterie of well-informed men. The printed Gazette and the handwritten newsletters developed a

symbiotic relationship. Muddiman would send out newsletters of domestic
16 Fraser op. cit.



news to subscribers in Britain and receive from his counterparts on the

continent their domestic newsletters which provided material for his printed London Gazette. The continental editors in their turn incorporated the material from the English written newsletters in their printed news

publications. There were therefore two kinds of audience, one which paid for a relatively inexpensive but authoritative printed medium of inter­ national news and another, wealthier or more privileged, group who

received the handwritten news o'n affairs at home, some of whom helped to supply that news as well. At the centre of this apparatus sat Muddiman, his wealth growing with the years, as trade in and with Europe increased and created an expanding demand for both of his news services. He was not left to enjoy his position unhampered for long, however. There were constant rivalries between the two Secretaries of State, their subordinates and the men at the Letter Office upon whose good (and free) postal

services the whole machinery of intelligence depended. At one point Muddiman was forced to resign his office and transfer himself to the department of the other Secretary starting a rival paper to the London

Gazette; the people at the Southern Department, anxious to steal

Muddiman's remunerative list of correspondents, had started opening his mail in order to filch the addresses. The 'mercury' women who hawked the printed papers around the streets had to be bribed and fed in order to keep the paper before the public. It was not a stable system but it was a

very effective one in collecting and disseminating news; it made a small supplementary income by providing space for half a dozen or so advertisements in each weekly or bi-weekly edition; tea, coffee, books, lost servants and stray animals were the mainstays of the advertising sec­ tion, although they also played a part in the business of maintaining law

and order by helping the tracing of criminals, pickpockets and stolen goods. Muddiman's professionalism and political position arose from his particular technique for organizing his sources. His outlook was as inter­

national as that of the European news agencies of the last century. The typographical layout in which he published his material was the arche­ typical Gazette which acquired an aura of authority and reliability which other news publications had never achieved, whether emanating from a government department or not. Muddiman's predecessors had operated in the greyer area between pamphleteering and intelligence. He made a profession of unadorned intelligence, as pure and devoid of comment as the politics and standards of the time allowed. The journalistic revolution over which he presided consisted in the novel organization of an input system of information.

The profession of journalism has been marked by a seemingly endless process of re-demarcation of special isms and sub-professions. Every new



mechanical device (telegraph, typewriter, wireless) has tended to summon

into existence a new schism within the business of journalism, or rather, act as the defining catalyst for the emergence of a new brand of journalism. But the devices need not be mechanical, they can relate to a special skill not directly related to a piece of machinery.

One important qualification of a journalist in the early seventeenth century, for instance, was an ability to understand Dutch, because that was the language in which most of the information arrived, via the weekly pack-boat from the Hague. Several of the writers of the newsbooks of the period (until the Gazette news was published in the form of a book) were referred to as 'Dutch captains' because the main source of Dutch-speaking Englishmen were soldiers who had enlisted as mercenaries in Holland and been invalided out. Leader writers of a much later date would be more likely to have to understand ancient Greek than Dutch! The growth of reporters as the most important sub-division within journalism in the nineteenth century demanded a whole range of new skills, involving powers

of observation, of validation of statements and of rapid accurate recording of information acquired - which had come to be desired. One of these was shorthand, which did more than any other single phenomenon to establish the stereotype of the journalist as provider of hard facts. With the help of a training in this new skill a reporter in the nineteenth century could at last hold a mirror up to nature, and provide not merely an elegant paraphrase of a speech bu t also the ipsissima verba of a politician or agitator, a judge, prisoner in court or minister of the Crown. Shorthand created an aura of high prestige around the journalist. In the

last decades of the eighteenth century, Parliament had been reported by great feats of memory. William Woodfall of the Morning Chronicle and William Radcliffe of the Morning Herald could carry the substance of an important debate direct from Parliament to the printing room, dictating

copy to two compositors at once. 17 When James Perry took over the editorship of the former paper he transformed Parliamentary reporting by employing a team of young barristers, who would attend the House in relays, returning to the printing house in time to produce their report in sections for the morning edition. In the days of 'memory' Woodfall, the reports would have to await his convenience and would continue for some weeks after the end of the Parliamentary session, so that readers would have to wait for the final votes and debates of the Parliament until long after it had finished sitting. 18 Several journalists had perfected forms of shorthand of their own invention. John Tyas, for instance, the great reporter of The Times, who

hand which enabled him to produce paraphrase of a high order. In the
18 Andrews op. cit. voI. 1 p. 196.

was present at the Peterloo massacre, acquired a form of contracted long­
17 MacDonagh, M. The Reporters' Gallery, Hodder and Stoughton (1912) p. 269.



popularized byWilliam Brodie Gurney;19 it was Gurney's system of dots and dashes which Dickens satirizes in David Copperfield. 'I have tamed the savage stenographic mystery', exclaims Copperfield. Parliamentary reporters who learned the Gurney system, however, were able to acquire for themselves an aura of a kind of infallibility, which became important in the development of the profession. In the 1830s O'Connell charged some of the reporters in the Parliamentary Gallery with deliberate mis­

1820s a new system was brought out, known as brachygraphy, and

representation of his speeches; they responded by announcing a boycott of O'Connell, collectively refusing to publicize him until he had

apologized, which he duly did, to the proprietors of The Times.2o 'There is scarcely a gentleman on our establishment who is not by education and habits the equal of any Member whose opinions he is engaged to record',

replied The Times in its editorial columns.21 The fight between O'Connell and the reporters broke out again the following year but skirmishes of this

kind only served to emphasize the growing status of the journalist, which had been considerably aided by the acquisition of the shorthand skill. With the coming of Pitman and the first easily acquired and transferable shorthand system, a new era in reporting was brought about. The free­

lance journalist was conjured into being, who could ply his trade from home without belonging to the staff of a particular paper; the demand for

the reports of public speeches and lectures was insatiable among Victorian newspaper readers or, at least, among newspaper editors. A journalist would find out where interesting speeches were being made, and armed with a shorthand notebook, make his report and walk late at night through the newspaper offices of Fleet Street until he found an editor interested in

buying the article. Shorthand was the lingua franca of the freelance, it democratized the profession, in a sense. It provided it with a 'mystery'.


As far as the production of newspapers is concerned the nineteenth century was the era of great advance between the start of the news­ paper as a form and the present day, when we are on the brink of another series of major changes in the method of production. Between the Galla­
Belgicus and The Times of Thomas Barnes, nothing fundamental changed

in the method of producing news periodicals. It was extremely heavy work

and each sheet of paper required an immense muscular effort on the part of several men; the formes had to be inked with messy inking balls; circulations were limited by the sheer limitations of human physique. The Victorians saw a dramatic switch to mechanical systems of production,
19 MacDonagh op. cit. p. 348.

20 History of the Times voI. 1 (1935) p. 311-15.
21 23 June 1832.



the rotary press arrived and multiplied production per hour tenfold; steam

engines were attached to printing presses and brought about a further exponential increase in the productivity of printing labour. Every few years fresh development enabled circulations to grow faster, definition of print to improve, and illustrations to become easier to reproduce. But each major improvement helped wholly new forms of publication to be brought

into being, and with them new branches of the profession of journalism.
Punch (1841) and the Illustrated London News (1842) were the first

successful and lasting pioneers of illustrated journalism, the former bringing the draughtsman-journalist into being and the latter the artist-reporter. A new method of production often dovetailed into a newly emerging audience or a new grouping of existing audiences and the fusion could result in a publication proclaiming yet another 'New Journalism'. The technical advances of the last century seldom resulted from a random serendipity on the part of the inventors. On the contrary, each development tended to occur after a long period of thwarted endeavour to bring about the required change. In the years of the Napoleonic Wars,

for example, the presses could not cope with the increasing demand for copies. The Times, already the largest circulating paper of London, had

been looking for a mechanical improvement in the existing Stanhope press which would enable it to increase its daily edition without having to bring an extra machine into use. In the first decade of the century it had some­

times had to place three machines together producing the same material from three separate settings of the copy. Frederick Koenig arrived in London from a printing office in Leipzig in 1808 and within three years brought about the most important revolution in the industry since

Caxton. He had already wasted several years trying in vain to persuade printers in Germany and Russia to adopt his scheme for power printing before he met Thomas Rewsley, a London printer who commissioned him to build a machine, which was perfected in 1811. The proprietors of the Morning Chronicle examined the contraption and rejected it; John
Walter 11 of The Times saw it and ordered two more to be made. In

November 1814 he succeeded in producing an edition of The Times with the Koenig machine and his paper rapidly thereafter climbed to a position pre-eminent in the newspaper world of London, its circulation unbeaten until after the mid-century. It reached production figures of 8,000 copies per hour and was able to build up a circulation equal to that of all other the aspirations of the burgeoning middle class, made the term 'public

London papers combined.22 It was this pre-eminence which, anchored to opinion' almost synonymous with Liberalism for half a century. Charles Pebody, writing of the press in 1882, says 'public opinion, during the

past forty or fifty years has been in the main what the Newspaper Press
22 Pebody, C. English Journalism and the Men who have made it, Cassell, Petter, Galpin and Co. (1882) p. 107.



has made it, and the Press has been so overwhelmingly Liberal that, until

ment has been practically impossible.'23 Pebody was exaggerating, but without doubt the basic values of journalism between the Napoleonic

a few years ago when all the press suddenly turned Tory, a Tory Govern­

Wars and the Crimean were heavily influenced by the fact of The Times's unassailable supremacy in circulation. The journalist found himself with a dominant professional doctrine of confrontation with government rather than subservience or cooperation with it; the journalist increasingly spoke of himself as part of a 'Fourth Estate' which exercised social power as a legitimate by-product of the circulating of information. Journalism had most conspicuously acted out this role during the

battle for the Reform Bill, in the course of which the London press emerged as an independent political power. Until that moment newspapers had tended to hitch themselves to one politician or faction or another but in the struggle of 1831 the press in general, led by The Times, set up shop for itself, joining forces with Grey, Brougham and Russell. The press moved

in again during the Corn Law Repeal agitation to enable Peel successfully to defy his own party. Pebody later concluded: 'Parliamentary minority plus the press is more powerful than Parliamentary majority without the

press'. For the rest of the century the press behaved as if it shared power with the Government during the Parliamentary sessions, but exercised the prerogative of Parliament during the recess. There were many social and political trends which reflect themselves in the 'Fourth Estate' self-image of the press; indeed it was an exaggerated notion which totally failed to take account of the enormous readership of the unstamped working-class press circulating among a larger social group which was, however, unenfranchised and played no part in the formal activities of the Parliamentary system. All the same, it is apt to point out the relationship between such evolutions in the ideology of

the press and the development of appropriate production technologies.

The arrival of the steam press released a series of social forces and made possible a newspaper public which could aspire to a political power synchronous with the broader lines along which political information was enabled to circulate.

Another example of the sudden impact of a long retarded techno­ logical development upon journalism is the appearance of the first cheap wood-pulp paper in the 1880s. There had been a frantic search for new ways of making paper since the peace of 1815, a search which became ever more intense in the 1850s when the newspaper started to become

a major world industry. France, Prussia and Rome actually prohibited the export of rags in 1857 when American provincial newspapers started to generate so great a demand for paper that the price on the world market rocketed upwards. America was obliged to obtain rags from India, China
23 lbid p. 91.



and Japan and even then, during the Civil War, American newspapers were obliged to more than double their prices. There were periods when the
London press thought it would be impossible to hold their prices (even

after the abolition of the newspaper tax in 1855) and maintain the existing circulation structure of the newspaper. The newspaper as a commodity is extremely sensitive to minor fluctuations in price and operated on extremely small profit margins per copy. In 1867 the first plant making paper from wood pulp was installed and within four years the price began to fall again, from 30 cents per pound in 1865 to 3 cents in 1870 to one

cent in 1880.24 It was the abolition of the newspaper tax, added to the extremely low price of paper which enabled Newnes in the 1880s and Northcliffe in the 1890s to work towards the modern mass newspaper. In reading the new popular journalism of the Daily Telegraph, then the Pall Mall and Westminster Gazettes, then the new evening papers of the end of the century (the Echo, theStar, and the Evening News), then hard upon

their trail, the Daily Mail the Daily Express of Northcliffe, one can feel the hot breath of owners and editors scrambling after readers as,they had never done before. Throughout the provinces little chains of half­

penny daily newspapers had sprung up, forerunners of the Mail's first effort as a national halfpenny daily. The whole accent of journalism had changed from that of the schoolmaster to that of the huckster. Decreasing

costs of production as a result of a series of technological breakthroughs, long awaited, turned the newspaper into a source of enormous profit; the

journalist became entertainer first and teacher second. He had to grab his reader before he could address him, because his typical purchaser was no longer a man who had leisure to wait. The subject matter of news was

transformed, not merely because the market had changed and enlarged to include social groups interested only in trivia, but because the nature of the newspaper as a marketed industrial commodity had altered. Henceforth the newspaper was sold as it was written; its copy was its packaging. It would be bought for its front page layout, or for its publicity stunts, or its free offers or competitions. Gradually over the century to come the whole output of the newspaper press was to be brought within this system,

including the provincial and 'quality' dailies which sought to survive by joining in the fray, the skills of journalism at all levels cnanging to encompass the new task. v The fifth and last of my five 'dimensions' emphasizes the importance of the lines of management within a newspaper enterprise and between a
24 Coleman, D. C. The British Paper Industry 1494-1860: A study in industrial growth, Oxford University Press (1958); Smith, D. C. 'Wood pulp and News­

papers, 1867-1900' in The Business History Review 38 No. 3, 1964 pp. 328-45.



newspaper enterprise and the society it serves. In the seventeenth century

the central tension lay between the royal prerogative and the Stationers' Company whose members, controlled, checked, searched, limited in numbers, were the only people allowed to indulge in the business of news

publication. In the next century the government exercised its controls through the taxation system and through the highly restrictive libel laws; the 'editor' emerged as the respon_sible pfficial of a newspaper, a duty

previously pertaining to the figure of the printer.25 The Editor was a new demarcation within the printing fraternity but made increasingly powerful within his particular enterprise because of his responsibilities in law. The owner at that time was a shadowy figure, anxious to shift the risks of the libel system to other shoulders, normally consisting of a cooperative of

of importance in Barries and Oelane of The Times, where a financiarry

small businesses.26 The ninet

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