QOTD (2010-02-20)

Journalist Edwin Balmer writing in October 1904 about the media coverage of the Chicago meatpacking strike of that year:

A newspaper is merely a dealer in news. It buys the special styles, sizes and qualities of news which it thinks it can sell to its patrons. It is business, and as with all other business concerns, the business policy varies with the classes of buyers to which the newspapers, as the department stores, can best appeal. It is business which puts cheap, gaudy and shoddy goods in one department store which has an immense patronage; it is business which puts reliable “all wool and a yard wide fabric” in another department store which may have an equally large number of patrons. It is also business which suplies one newspaper with sensational, unfounded “fake” stories, exaggerations and imaginations displayed in large showy type and it is also business which makes it good policy for another paper to by [sic] wholesale, for retail purposes, calm, moderate, reliable accounts and reports at least prefering the truth,—other things being equal.

[…]

What paper has not nobly and enthusiastically offered the full strength of its editorial staff to settle the strike? How many newspapers have had, or even endeavored to have had, published unbiased, unexaggerated news—the calm, moderate statement of conditions and issues instead of the exaggerated sensationalism which helps to sell papers but also contributes to the widening of the breach between the two classes which are and must be necessary to each other?

Plus ça change…

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