Antedating :: journalism--and a personal note (OT) [Was: The iPad: What is a Gutenberg moment, anyway?]

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 9 08:20:17 UTC 2010

Before I address George Thompson's comment on the changing nature of
reporting in the early 19th century New York City, a personal note. I
know I have a tendency to ramble on in my posts looking back at history,
particularly when it comes to lexicography. The reason is two-fold.
First, I tend to include a number of intermediary sources, showing the
notes and the progress, not merely the conclusion (this may drive the
dictionary people crazy, but they are only a part of the audience,
narrow as it may be). Second, I tend to include extended passages that
aim to show the extended background of the issue in question--this is
done less to annoy those who want a quick answer before moving on, and
more to help those who do want to see the background and would not want
to lose the time going back to the source, searching out the individual
passage and then looking at the entirety of context that way. Besides,
the material is not readily available for transcript. So if I take care
to transcribe it for my own notes, I might as well share it, in case
someone else wants the text for their own citations. Occasionally, there
are also other interesting issues that pop up in the surrounding text.
My apologies to the purists--I don't see spotting an individual word as
the prize and an occasion to celebrate; I see it as an occasion to
investigate. This post is no exception.

Having said that, I am trying to figure out a format I can use that
would be helpful to lexicographers as well. Perhaps I can front an OED
note pointing to any antedating finds within the text that follows. I've
tried to do this on occasion with something like this:

OED: journalism, n. 1.a. 1833 --> 1831 (UK), 1822 (US)

This does not help poor Jesse Sheidlower who then must sift through the
volume of prose that I produce to find the actual citation below. When
posting on this list, the limiting factor, of course, is the nature of
the text--it allows for no hyperlinks, anchors, or extended formatting.
Another alternative would be to have a purely descriptive post with
summary and citation that is followed by the more analytical post. If
anyone has any particular suggestions on the subject (hopefully a bit
more constructive than STFU), feel free to send them off-list. If anyone
is particularly bothered by the length of my post, please don't hesitate
to mention that as well.

Now, to the topic at hand--reporting and journalism. ==== <--[Also note
that I often mark the beginning and the end (or just the end) of long
quotations with this kind of insert.]

George Thompson is suggesting that the technological innovation in
publishing (printing, really) that corresponded to the population
explosion in NYC contributed directly to a rapid increase in circulation
of newspapers. He also comments that there is less information available
concerning the history of the press in England. Hopefully, some of what
I have below addresses, in part, both issues.

There is another innovation that may have contributed to the evolution
of NYC papers. I suspect, the model you want to follow is not so much
London, where, as you wrote, the press was subject to regulation, but in
Paris and, perhaps, Berlin, where [investigative] journalism grew into a
liberal profession shortly before the period you're focusing on (more
specifically, in the second half of the 18th century). There was an
ethnic angle to this in the Continental capitals that did not exist
either in New York or London, at the time. There appears to be, as is so
often the case, a confluence of innovations, both technological and
methodological, that lead to the changes that George appears to be
interested in. An additional factor in England was not merely the rather
heavy regulation of the press, but also taxation and postal costs of
subscriptions that the publishers had to bear. No such impediment
existed in the New World.

I presume GAT's post that he mentioned is the one from 22 December 2007.

OED has "journalism" from 1833 (probably 30 years late, but I could only
shave off a couple of years) and "journalist" going back much further,
although the meaning of the latter had evolved just like the meaning of

For "journalism":
New Monthly Magazine. Vol. 32:131. November 1831
Monthly Commentary. p. 487
> Journalism.--_Journalism_ seems to be considered in France by some
> writers another form of despotism ; it is held to be the ruling power,
> and is properly honoured and enthroned. Its sway in this country is,
> perhaps, equally powerful, but it is submitted to with a grumbling :
> the malcontents curse while they obey. The journals are modest, and
> say /they/ have no power ; they are only the mouthpieces of the
> public. There is some truth here, but not the whole truth ; the power
> of _journalism_ arises not merely from its expressing the public
> opinion, but from its facilitating communication and creating
> sympathy, by showing that that which they do express is public
> opinion. Where men are insulated they are easily oppressed : when
> roads become good, and intercourse is easy, their force is increased
> more than a hundred fold : when, without personal communication, their
> opinions can be interchanged, and the people thus become one mass,
> breathing one breath and one spirit, their might increases in a ratio
> of which it is difficult to find the measure or the limit.
> _Journalism_ does this office ; it is to the mind what the rail-road
> is to the body ; so that, without attributing any extraordinary value
> to the compositions of the newspaper writes of the day, we must assign
> to them a much greater importance than that of mere heralds. Even if
> their writings were inferior, it does not follow they would have less
> power.
> It is rumored, that immediately after the passing of the Reform
> Bill--if it pass, and the people are content with what they have
> got--that Lord Althorp intends immediately to address himself to the
> reduction of the Newspaper Tax. The newspapers have themselves been
> very clamorous for this measure, without perhaps foreseeing the
> consequences of the measure to themselves, or with an amazing
> disinterestedness. _The_power_of_Journalism_as_Journalism_ will be
> infinitely diminished : the existing newspapers are now so many
> potentates on their respective thrones--their influence is permanent,
> and their condition steady and sure. They are now representatives of
> an enormous outlay of capital, and valued at a six years' purchase.
> When the tax is taken off, and a journal may be circulated by post
> free, there will be no end to the number of their rivals, to the
> variety of their quality, size, price, matter, and composition. At
> present, under existing disadvantages, the number of new newspapers
> started in a year is great and they are discontinued after a time, nor
> for want of a decent sale, but because they are stopped by the
> necessity of an outlay of stamps, which demands capital ; and among
> persons who understand _the_trade_of_journalism_, scribblers are far
> more numerous than capitalists. ...

There is an interesting twist that follows in the article--the author
goes on to speculate about the evolution of writing--and communication,
in general--to which the printing press contributes. This can be
favorably compared to the speculations concerning the evolution of
writing that accompanied the advent of electronic text processing,
followed by the dominance of text processing software on PCs. In
particular, he wonders if "journalism will lose its distinctive
character, and approach to an identity with conversation." It is too bad
that this was written almost exactly 150 years prior to the invention of

Another issue that struck me in the passage is the nearly complete
interchangeability of "newspaper" and "journal".

Headline: Charleston. Saturday Morning, June 8, 1822; Article
Type: News/Opinion
Paper: City Gazette, published as City Gazette and Commercial Daily
Advertiser; Date: 06-08-1822; Volume: XLIII; Issue: 13652; Page: [2/3];
> In our opinion, instead of teaching our children to "fight the
> British," the prejudic--at least in the commercial cities of the
> Union--sets quite in another current. The /grown children/,
> particularly, as far as the sphere of our observation extends, are
> taught to imitate the British--to read British books--echo the
> slattern of British critics--and to copy British fashions. Not the
> books, the critics and the fashions, whether in literature or
> government, which existed /previous to the American Revolution/. These
> are /ours/ as much as they are theirs--and we claim the whole
> constellation of Wit and Wisdom and Poesy that shone before that Era,
> and must forever shine, with as much justice as we claim the English
> language. We speak here only of the force of fashion ; of the
> influence still exerted across the A'lantic upon the tastes, the
> habits and pusuits of Americans ; of English extravagance, of
> _English_journalism_, and English empyricism. We find it easier to
> copy their vices than their excellencies.

The clipping at hand is from a piece on ... "an appeal to arms between
this gentleman [Mr. McDuffie] and Col. Cummings", which is "a necessary
evil", absent "a Court of Honour" from "a chivalsic age". (Of course,
"chivalsic" may just be a typo, just like "prejudic".) But this is
beside the point. Of more concern is the actual meaning of "journalism".
It seems to be something entirely different from the particular practice
of writing that we now identify by that term. This may well be closely
related to the interchangeability of newspapers and journals in the 1831
clipping, but it is also directly related to the meaning 2. in the
OED--"The keeping of a journal; the practice of journalizing"--which
then is identified as "rare" and cited only to 1848.

First, I believe the OED is completely wrong in this. (And I don't mean
that the citation date of 1848 does not match the bibliographic entry
for the work which lists it at 1849.) The practice of keeping a journal
that Craig alludes to in his dictionary is identical with the use of
"journalism" in the first half of the 19th century. The "journalism"
here is the work of the editors and publishers of journals--not the
personal journals one might assume the 1848 citation identifies, but the
journals of public record, the daily and weekly and monthly newspapers
and magazines. At least as of 1831, the practice of journalism was
little more than that of reporting of personal opinions and news items
of personal interest to the editor. And, it seems, this use is not
limited to English, unless the following is an indirect translation.

Headline: From the Gazette De France, Dated Wednesday, Nov. 21; Article
Type: News/Opinion
Paper: Connecticut Mirror; Date: 01-14-1828; Volume: XIX; Issue: 31;
Page: [2]; Location: Hartford, Connecticut

/From the Gazette de France, dated Wednesday, Nov. 21/.
     Paris, Nov. 20
> "The revolutionary _journals_ (for the language which they hold this
> morning does not deserve another name) announce that serious disorders
> took place yesterday evening in the quarter of St. Denis. In truth
> they know it very well, for it is their work. ... And what are the
> causes of these troubles ? What are the instruments of them ? The
> /Journal des Debats/, has undertaken to inform the /Constitutional/.--
> This _journal_, which recognizes by the name of the elect of
> liberalism, the stillness of the bargain which it signed as the price
> of the nomination of only one of his friends, is already out of
> humour. ...
> Its work will remain incomplete, we repeat, to all the friends of
> order. Their sentiment did not appear doubtful on 'Change yesterday.
> In vain do our adversaries suppose that news from the East, or
> disorders in some city of the kingdom had given the alarm. No news has
> arrived from Constantinople, and tranquility has not been interrupted
> at Lyons. The true cause--the only cause--of the fall of the funds
> yesterday, is the terror inspired by monied men, who are friends of
> peace and of the government, and enemies to confusion and revolutions,
> by the Liberal elections, which _journalism_ proclaims as
> revolutionary triumphs ! This triumph will be of short duration, and
> the disgrace of these saturnalia in which the apostacy of the Debats
> is still more disgraceful than the popular intoxication which it has
> denounced this morning--his disgrace will fall entirely on
> _the_heads_of_those_who_
> _make_at_sport_of_revolutions_for_the_pride_of_one_or_two_men_.

Headline: Patriotism, Heraldion and Journalism; Article Type: News/Opinion
Paper: Rhode-Island American, published as Rhode Island American and
Gazette; Date: 03-11-1831; Volume: II; Issue: 69; Page: [4]; Location:
Providence, Rhode Island
> *Patriotism, Heraldion and Journalism.*
> The Providence Patriot and the Republican Herald, both published Mr.
> Cambreleng's speech on the Russia mission debate endeavoring to abuse
> Mr Burges; but they could not find room for Mr. Burges' speech, nor
> for the speech of our other Representative, Mr Pearce, on the same
> subject.
> The /Journal/ did find room for the brilliant effort of Mr Burges, but
> it has no space, as yet, for the highly sensible speech of Mr Pearce,
> which does that gentleman and Rhode Island much credit.
> The Patriot and Herald would not do justice to Mr Burges, because he
> is a political opponent. For what reason does the Journal keep its
> readership in ignorance of what one of their Representatives has done
> in Congress?

In both the 1828 and the 1831 snippets, the issue is political coverage
that suits the needs of the editors or publishers of "journals"--that is
to say, newspapers. But what is of importance is the connection between
this practice and its designation as "journalism". Since there was no
"reporting" in the contemporary sense, per se, there was no "journalism"
in the contemporary sense either. Journalism, then, was simply the
practice of keeping a public journal of opinion, or news and opinion
(newspaper), or literature, culture and opinion (magazine).

This is just the confusion surrounding the meaning of "journalism". I
did not even attempt to dig through all the materials that contain the
word "journalist". But what is of particular importance is the
interoperability of terms such as journal, newspaper, news sheet,
gazette, magazine. Of these, the news sheet and gazette are probably the
closest, although the official Gazettes (London, Edinburgh and Dublin)
are also referred to as "journals" despite their titles. And, in
general, all periodical publications of this period and prior are often
interchangeably referred to as "journals", save for the pure news sheets
that publish nothing but news reports. Yet, the only commonality between
these publications--some news oriented, some not--is the amount of input
provided by their editors and/or publishers, and it is this input, it
seems, that is identified as "journalism", not the practice of news

I do not know when the meaning of journalism evolved from merely
publishing a journal to encompass what is now the journalistic
profession. But it should be clear that this evolution did take place.
It would be a mistake to look back at the use of a word, such as
"journalism", in the context that it was used in 1822-1831 and assume
that it was the same meaning that we use now. More importantly, what has
evolved is the concept of "journal", dragging all associated definitions
with it.

It is a simple semantic shift, but the problem with dictionary entries
is that they often don't allow for such a possibility--especially if
their past editors overlooked it. The reality is that the Craig entry is
completely in line with the original meaning of "journalism" and does
not /deserve/ a separate entry--in the OED or anywhere else. Slapping a
current--or, I should say, then-current--definition is the best they can
do, under the circumstances, as they are hardly in a position to indulge
in historical analysis of the meaning. The goal of an average dictionary
is to present the contemporary meaning of each entry. Dictionaries such
as the OED endeavor to go beyond this formality and look at the
historical development of each entry. If this is the case, then a shift,
such as this one, cannot be ignored.


PS: I've attached a bunch of dictionary definitions. Note, in
particular, that Webster's 1913 has the same division as the OED, while
AHD goes entirely with the contemporary use. From my perspective, the
most interesting entries are MWOL 1c and 2c, which indirectly reflect
the point I've been trying to make.

On 4/7/2010 10:48 AM, George Thompson wrote:
> ... Then the population exploded, and newspapermen began to think that they could sell a lot more copies than the old presses could produce.  125,000 on Manhattan Island in 1820, about 180,000 in 1830.
> ...
>   News was pretty much whatever fell into the editor's lap.  By the end of the 1830s /the dailies had reporters scurrying round town gathering news and much larger staffs/ generally, and their offices were open 24 hours a day.  (I think it was the newspapers that were responsible for NYC becoming a 24 hour town.)
> Meanwhile, back in London, the population was 10 times that of NYC; but the press was subject to regulation --.  I wish I had a good history of London newspapers, like F. L. Mott's history of the U. S.  It seems that the innovations in printing originated in England, but not until the 1810s or so; that up to then London newspapermen were content/resigned to press runs of 800 or so, even though there was a market that would have bought many more.
> One of the things I have been looking for and noting when found are any references in the newspapers to how they conduct their business -- news gathering, editing, printing and distribution.  But I will spare you.  I did touch on some of this a year or so ago, in a note on the development of the word "reporter" as seen in the NYC press of 1810-1840.

1. The occupation or profession of a journalist; journalistic writing;
the public journals collectively.

1833 Westm. Rev. Jan. 195 (Reviewing a French work 'Du Journalisme')
'Journalism' is a good name for the thing meant..A word was sadly
wanted. Ibid. 196 The power of journalism is be
enormous in France. 1837 CARLYLE Fr. Rev. II. I. iv, Great is
Journalism. Is not every Able Editor a Ruler of the World, being a
persuader of it? 1880 G. MEREDITH Tragic Com. (1881) 112 Journalism for
money is Egyptian bondage. No slavery is comparable to the chains of
hired journalism. a1881 CARLYLE in Westm. Gaz. (1894) 26 Feb. 7/1 [He
[L. Stephen] remembered Carlyle..saying to a young man who told him that
he wrote for the papers,] 'Journalism is just ditchwater'. 1887 M.
ARNOLD in 19th Cent. May 638 We have had opportunities of observing a
new journalism which a clever and energetic man has lately invented.
1891 Pall Mall G. 11 Sept. 6/1 It was Matthew Arnold who christened the
'New Journalism' (that much abused and much misapplied name) and
identified it with Mr. Stead.

2. The keeping of a journal; the practice of journalizing. rare.

1848 CRAIG, Journalism, the keeping of a journal.


jour·nal·ism    (jûrn-lzm)
1. The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news
articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.
2. Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for
3. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and
magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences
with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.
4. Newspapers and magazines.
5. An academic course training students in journalism.
6. Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.

Webster's 1913

Jour"nal*ism (?), n. [Cf. F. journalisme.]

1. The keeping of a journal or diary. [Obs.]

2. The periodical collection and publication of current news; the
business of managing, editing, or writing for, journals or newspapers;
as, political journalism.

MWOL (11)

Main Entry: jour·nal·ism
Pronunciation: \?j?r-n?-?li-z?m\
Function: noun
Date: 1828
1 a : the collection and editing of news for presentation through the
media b : the public press c : an academic study concerned with the
collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium
2 a : writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine b :
writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description
of events without an attempt at interpretation c : writing designed to
appeal to current popular taste or public interest

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