Old Time Newspaper Wankery

Newspapers didn’t always have pretensions to be objective. In the 1800s, they were often small operations. They printed mostly gossip. They were explicitly Democratic or Republican and received support from their party. In smaller cities, they were extensions of the publisher, who also served as editor and reporter as well. A newspaper was much like a blog today as far as its personality, including feuding.

In the 1880s, Springfield Illinois had two main newspapers, the Illinois State Journal and the Illinois State Register, as well as Sangamo Monitor. They were not friends.

From the Illinois State Journal, 11 July 1881, page 6:

Scooped, Illinois State Journal


With fiendish glee the Register and Monitor yesterday morning announced the death of Coleman Woods, the colored man who was sun-struck Wednesday. — Journal.

Just so: and the lazy Journal reporters would have made the same announcement, if they had been abroad, in search of news. They were safely housed, however, compiling from an old almanac the “best methods of preventing sun-stroke” and did not encounter the report of Wood’s death, which was prevalent throughout the city, and which was generally believe until the next day. Indolence is not always without its compensations, as is manifested in this case — Register.

“Just so” and if the over-enterprising reporters for the Register, who fiendishly declared that live men are dead, “had been abroad in search of news,” instead of remaining “housed up” in the effort to frame the above lame defense of an utterly indefensible action, they might have announced the three cases of sunstroke which occurred on Friday; the fact that two men were overcome by poisonous gases in the Court House well on the same day, and they also might have given a history of the operations of the counterfeiters, sentenced to the penitentiary by Judge Treat. Or if they had not been “housed up” Saturday, they might have been able to announce the interesting decision given by Judge Zane in the German American Savings, Loan & Building Association litigation, which the Journal presents this morning. “They were safely housed up, however,” and were consequently “scooped” by “the lazy Journal reporters,” just as they are again this morning. The fact of the matter is that the Journal is continually “scooping” its cotempories. The Journal is not afflicted with toadyism; it does not deal in “Personal and other Reflections,” but eschews personalities for the sake of legitimate news.

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