The History of American Newspapers Has Been Digitized: Explore 114 Years of Editor & Publisher, “the Bible of the Newspaper Industry”

If you look into the his­to­ry of the Amer­i­can news­pa­per, you can’t get too deep before your inevitable encounter with Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er. Brand­ed as “the bible of the news­pa­per indus­try,” the trade mag­a­zine has for 120 years cov­ered its sub­ject from every pos­si­ble angle. Though news­pa­pers had already been pub­lished in the Unit­ed States for near­ly 200 years before the mag­a­zine’s found­ing, its run has been coeval with an espe­cial­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, even dra­mat­ic peri­od in their his­to­ry. It was in the 20th cen­tu­ry that Amer­i­can news­pa­pers con­sol­i­dat­ed into the pil­lars of what looked, for a time, like a mighty “fourth estate”; in this cen­tu­ry, they’ve plunged into what Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er’s own­er Mike Blind­er terms “such a cri­sis.”

Still, since pur­chas­ing the mag­a­zine last year, writes Inter­net Archive Col­lec­tions Man­ag­er Mari­na Lewis, “Blind­er and his wife, Robin, have been able to turn the oper­a­tion around, dou­bling its rev­enues and tripling its audi­ence.” He also gave the Inter­net Archive per­mis­sion to upload and make avail­able 114 years of Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er issues online for free.

“Going beyond the Inter­net Archive’s tra­di­tion­al lend­ing sys­tem ensures it can be indexed by search engines and made max­i­mal­ly use­ful to read­ers and researchers,” writes Lewis. “The abil­i­ty to research these archived issues has been tru­ly excit­ing, espe­cial­ly for those look­ing up his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, many with a per­son­al or fam­i­ly con­nec­tion.”

As the Nie­man Jour­nal­ism Lab’s Joshua Ben­don remem­bers itEdi­tor & Pub­lish­er was once “the best (and often only) place to find out about job open­ings at news­pa­pers.”  With more than a cen­tu­ry of its back issues freely avail­able at the Inter­net Archive, “if you’re at all inter­est­ed in the 20th-cen­tu­ry his­to­ry of the Amer­i­can news­pa­per busi­ness, you now have access to a robust new resource.” In the archive he finds doc­u­men­ta­tion of “some of the century’s most inter­est­ing moments,” at least as far as that busi­ness is con­cerned: The New York­er’s 1946 pub­li­ca­tion of John Hersey’s “Hiroshi­ma,” which it sub­se­quent­ly offered to con­ven­tion­al news­pa­pers (“The piece runs about 30,000 words and no cut­ting or con­dens­ing is to be per­mit­ted”); the 1965 hir­ing of Ben Bradlee by The Wash­ing­ton Post; the 1971 debut of Doones­bury in nation­al news­pa­pers.

Not all of these reflect well on the U.S. news­pa­per indus­try. Ben­ton high­lights the 1981 expo­sure of “Jim­my’s World,” a Pulitzer-win­ning Post sto­ry about an eight-year-old hero­in addict, as a fab­ri­ca­tion — or a piece of “fake news,” as we might say today. That arti­cle also quotes a Boston Globe edi­tor as say­ing “the pub­lic faith in the press is min­i­mal at the moment,” a sen­ti­ment not unheard these 40 years lat­er. The mag­a­zine was also quick to observe the emer­gence of oth­er forms of media (such as a 1925 test of French inven­tor Édouard Belin’s exper­i­men­tal “tele­vi­sion”) that would lat­er force change upon the news­pa­per indus­try’s very nature. And if the cur­rent cri­sis is, as some argue, not destroy­ing the fourth estate but return­ing it to its roots, there could be few bet­ter paths back to an under­stand­ing of those roots than through the Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er archive.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Techie Work­ing at Home Cre­ates Big­ger Archive of His­tor­i­cal News­pa­pers (37 Mil­lion Pages) Than the Library of Con­gress

Enter “The Mag­a­zine Rack,” the Inter­net Archive’s Col­lec­tion of 34,000 Dig­i­tized Mag­a­zines

The End of an Era: A Short Film About The Last Day of Hot Met­al Type­set­ting at The New York Times (1978)

A Big Dig­i­tal Archive of Inde­pen­dent & Alter­na­tive Pub­li­ca­tions: Browse/Download Rad­i­cal Peri­od­i­cals Print­ed from 1951 to 2016

From the Annals of Opti­mism: The News­pa­per Indus­try in 1981 Imag­ines its Dig­i­tal Future

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.