Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 19. Economic Bias Among Newspapers

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XX. Newspapers Since 1860

§ 19. Economic Bias Among Newspapers

The necessity of selecting for publication only a small part of the available wealth of daily news has made of the news editor the judge of what aspect of the world’s activity should be presented to the readers, who must see the world through his eyes, if at all, and has placed in his hands incalculable power in moulding public opinion, in establishing in countless ways the levels and proportions of daily thought and life. This has always been true in some measure of course, and so long as newspapers were predominantly political the bias of the editor was understood and discounted. When they were no longer mainly concerned with politics, and the lines of cleavage in public affairs became uncertain, shifting from the political to the social and economic, the point of view of the editor became not only increasingly important to the reader who sought the light of truth but alsoincreasingly difficult to ascertain. In such measure as the line of cleavage has been established between the two chief economic elements in society, self-interest, if nothing else, would naturally have led the greatly capitalized newspapers to look at life from the point of view of property interest. Enough of such a bias has been perceptible to arouse a profound distrust of the daily press as an institution in which the point of view, the purposes, and aspirations of large classes were sure of adequate or sympathetic representation. A similar distrust of the Associated Press has arisen for precisely the same reasons. It has been the avowed aim of that association to render its members a service entirely uncoloured by prejudice, and so long as political bias was the only one to be taken into account it succeeded admirably. Whether justified in doing so or not, the leaders and sympathizers in labour movements and other manifestations of new social and industrial forces have come to believe that the press associations have the same restricted outlook as the “capitalistic” press, and that the world they picture day by day is but a partial world. An equally widespread possibility of control of opinion through the purposeful selection or modification of intelligence has been perceived in the “plate matter” furnished to thousands of smaller papers throughout the country by the Western Newspaper Union.