[Was hard] news ever commercial?
Gerald J. Baldasty’s book, The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century, makes a case clear as spring water that hard news has almost never been a mass commercial enterprise.
The American newspapers of the 1820s and early 1830s were creatures of political parties, edited by zealots. Essentially propaganda sheets, these newspapers were “devoted to winning elections,” as Baldasty wrote… Without newspapers, top political organizer Martin Van Buren once said, “we might as well hang our harps on willows.”
Political parties supported the papers financially, and when editors strayed from the party line into independence, the parties would dump their newspapers.
The New York Times reports this week that only 1 in 8 of New York’s public high schools has a student newspaper — and many of those are published just a few times a year. A few more are online, which can leave out poorer schools.
The national figures are a little higher. But as Rebecca Dwarka, an 18-year-old senior in the Bronx who works for her student paper, The Dewitt Clinton News, told the Times, “Facebook is the new way of finding out what happened. Nobody wants to actually sit down and read a whole article about it,” which makes a “whole article” sound a little like a long sentence in solitary confinement.
Scott Simon, High School Newspapers: An Endangered Species, NPR.
FJP: And then there are things like Rhode Island’s 2011 anti-bullying law, which banned the use of social networks on school grounds. Here’s the Xtranormal take (video: 3 min 13 sec) on what high school journalism classrooms would look like without Facebook.