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Volume 47, No. 3, Sept. 2021

The September issue contains articles by Katrina Quinn, Wing Kin Puk, Mary Cronin, and Autumn Linford. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.

Article Abstracts

Big Brains and the Solid South: The Role of the Press in the Election of 1880,” Katrina J. Quinn
The US presidential election of 1880 provides an opportunity to examine the dynamic role of the nineteenth-century press in defining the candidates, implementing campaign tactics, and constructing an ideological battlefield for the campaign. The coverage demonstrates that the press engaged in tactics that remain staples of electoral communication strategy: constructing candidates via a campaign biography, engineering a bandwagon effect by repeatedly invoking the popularity of the candidate, disseminating qualified endorsements, calling for voter turnout, and adopting a rhetoric of victory. It was also in 1880, the research shows, that the construct of the Solid South came to the fore, denoting, in the case of the Democratic press, the political and economic reemergence of the region in the wake of Reconstruction or, in the case of the Republican press, a reactionary crystallization of Southern interests.

North China Herald’s View of the May Fourth Incident,” Wing Kin Puk
The student protest in Peking (Beijing) on May 4, 1919, was one of the most influential events in modern Chinese political and cultural history. This study examines how the North China Herald covered the event in the immediate two months after it occurred. It examines the history of this famous English press in treaty-port Shanghai and highlights its semi-colonial nature. The North China Herald treated the Chinese students with a mixture of sympathy and suspicion, and counted on US and UK alliances to rescue China from its own weakness and from Japanese imperialism. The Herald’s coverage was influenced by its awareness of the rise of Chinese nationalism that would inevitably challenge the colonial and semi-colonial presence of the West in China, including the paper itself.

‘Free Speech Is Sometimes a Dangerous Privilege’: Western Editors’ Support for Press Suppression during the US Civil War,” Mary M. Cronin
Little research has been undertaken that examines editors’ views on freedom of the press during wartime. This research explores how and why editors in the far Western states and territories supported, encouraged, and rationalized press suppression during the American Civil War. Despite their distance from the fighting, the majority of the West’s Republican editors believed passionately in the Union cause and pledged their loyalty to the nation. Many members of the Democratic press did, as well. But two-party partisan hostilities motivated editors to encourage press suppression, as did fear of the opposition press’s power. Economic concerns also proved a motivating factor for press suppression in some communities. Western press members often used popular, rather than Constitutional, definitions of treason to support, explain, and encourage suppression of fellow editors whose newspapers appeared disloyal.

Rivington Revisited: A Nuanced Look at James Rivington, America’s “Tory” Printer,” Autumn Lorimer Linford (Podcast)
James Rivington of New York may well be the most infamous printer of the American Revolution. During his lifetime, he was called “despotic,” “treasonable,” and “detestable.” He was considered an adamant Tory and enemy of the Patriot cause. Now, he is commonly cited as the token Tory printer in media history textbooks. Yet, if Rivington can be so easily categorized as a Loyalist, why did he so frequently assert that his press was “open to publications from ALL PARTIES,” and publish essays from both Patriot and Tory perspectives? This research aims to provide a nuanced look at this much-discussed figure of media history, and to add to the conversation regarding extreme partisanship by detailing one example of what occurred when party furor was aimed at one man and his newspaper.