Tennessee Journalism Series: The Devil and His Due

The Devil and His Due

James Gordon Bennett, the Penny Press, and the Beginnings of Modern Journalism

by Dwight L. Teeter

The Devil and His Due, Penny Press iBook cover imageHe looked demonic with his disconcerting glare. He was afflicted with extreme strabismus, resulting in wildly crossed eyes.

But despite his appearance, James Gordon Bennett succeeded mightily in journalism and in communication innovation. He came to be hated for his combativeness, for his journalistic sensationalism, and for his disdain for mid-19th century moral standards, but he set the pace toward modern media.

James Gordon Bennett symbolizes the most important era of modern journalism history: the Penny Press.

Many of the things that happened first during the Penny Press era have become the staples of today’s journalism: the dominance of non-partisan news; the emphasis on speed; new areas of reporting, including sports reporting; an expansion of readership to include working classes.

The list could go on. Much that is on that list began with James Gordon Bennett.

Bennett, a 27-year-old Scotsman with a university education in economics, arrived in the United States in 1822. He failed in repeated journalistic ventures in the U.S. before founding the New York Herald in 1835. Within six years, however, he rode the crest of the development of penny newspapers to wealth and power, becoming a leading editor of his time.  Bennett didn’t invent the penny press, but his success with the Herald made him a captain of the emerging newspaper industry.

This book takes up the context of the Penny Press facing Bennett in the 1830s and 1840s, considers the 21st century buzzword “media convergence” with a 19th century spin, and looks at some of Bennett’s enduring innovations—and those of a despised competitor, the even-more-famous Horace Greeley, who started his New York Tribune in 1841.

In this book, you’ll read about

• Benjamin Day and the Sun
• James Gordon Bennett and the Herald
• Horace Greeley and the Tribune
• The Nineteenth Century version of convergence

The book also contains a bonus chapter on the First Amendment.

The book can be found on the iBookstore here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-devil-and-his-due/id639595273?ls=1

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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