Article

The Penny Press and the Birth of Modern Religion Reporting

Judith M. Buddenbaum

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195395068
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195395068.013.0002

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Penny Press and the Birth of Modern Religion Reporting

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The first decades of the nineteenth century were a time of unusual religious fervor. During the Second Great Awakening, religious fervor, along with industrialization and urbanization, helped to create a climate in which a new, more modern kind of press, the Penny Press, could develop and flourish. In 1830, there were sixty-five newspapers in the United States, at least nine of them in New York City. Two of them were the New York Sun, founded by Benjamin Day, and the New York Herald, founded by James Gordon Bennett, Sr. In the Herald, three themes dominated coverage of the seamy side of religion: sex, money, and politics. The Herald balanced “hard news” stories with features that reported and commented on everyday religious events and activities. But hard news coverage of the kind Bennett pioneered also planted the seed for the kind of complaints that are still voiced by those who believe that journalists for secular newspapers should practice religious journalism instead of the kind of religion reporting that fulfills the surveillance and watchdog functions of the press.

Keywords: Penny Press; newspapers; religion reporting; religion journalism; press; New York Herald; James Gordon Bennett; religion; politics

Article.  5523 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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