The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting

Hardback
Many books have shown that journalists have political power, but none have offered a more wide-ranging account of how they got it. The Power of the Press is a pioneering look at the birth of political journalism. Before the American Revolution, Thomas Leonard notes, the press in the colonies was a timid enterprise, poorly protected by law and shy of government. Newspapers helped make the Revolution, but they were not fully aware of the way they could fit into a democracy. It was only in the nineteenth century that journalists learned to tell the stories and supply the pictures that made politics a national preoccupation. Leonard traces the rise of political reporting through some fascinating corridors of American history: the exposes of the Revolutionary era, the unfeeling accuracy of Congressional reporting, the role of the New York Times and Harper's Weekly in attacking New York City's infamous Tweed Ring, and the emergence of muckraking at the beginning of our century. The increasing power of the press in the political arena has been a double-edged sword, Leonard argues. He shows that while political reporting nurtured the broad interest in politics that made democracy possible, this journalism became a threat to political participation.