History of American Newspapers - The Press in The Party System: 1820–1890 - Associated Press and Impact of Telegraphy

Associated Press and Impact of Telegraphy

This idea of news and the newspaper for its own sake, the unprecedented aggressiveness in news-gathering, and the blatant methods by which the cheap papers were popularized aroused the antagonism of the older papers, but created a competition that could not be ignored. Systems of more rapid news-gathering and distribution quickly appeared. Sporadic attempts at co-operation in obtaining news had already been made; in 1848 the Journal of Commerce, Courier and Enquirer, Tribune, Herald, Sun, and Express formed the New York Associated Press to obtain news for the members jointly. Out of this idea grew other local, then state, and finally national associations. European news, which, thanks to steamship service, could now be obtained when but half as old as before, became an important feature. In the forties several papers sent correspondents abroad, and in the next decade this field was highly developed.

The telegraph, in 1844 shown to be practical, and put to successful use during the Mexican-American War, led to numerous far-reaching results in journalism. Telegraphic columns became a leading feature; news associations grew as the wires lengthened; but the greatest effect on the journalism of the country at large was to decentralize the press by rendering the inland papers, in such cities as Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and New Orleans independent of those in Washington and New York. A change made in the postal laws in 1845 favored the local circulation of newspapers. The country circulation of most of the large Eastern papers was so curtailed that only one or two, like the New York Tribune, were able to maintain through their weekly editions something of their national character; the organs in Washington, even Niles’s Weekly Register, which had been a most useful vehicle for the disseminating of political information, were still further shorn of their usefulness and soon eliminated; and the already vigorous provincial press became numerous and powerful.

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