History of The New York Herald

The New York Herald was one of the most influential newspapers in American history. Founded in 1835 by James Gordon Bennett Sr., it quickly rose to prominence and became a staple of New York City journalism. Over the years, the paper played a significant role in shaping American history, particularly during the Civil War. However, the Herald’s glory days were short-lived, and the paper eventually met its demise in the early 20th century. In this article, we will explore the history of the New York Herald, focusing on its founding, its role in the Civil War, and its eventual downfall.

Founding of the New York Herald

James Gordon Bennett Sr. was born in Scotland in 1795 and immigrated to the United States in 1819. He began his career as a journalist in Boston, where he worked for the Boston Courier and the Boston Gazette. In 1831, he moved to New York City, where he became the editor of the New York Enquirer. Bennett was known for his unorthodox approach to journalism, and he quickly made a name for himself in the New York City media landscape.

In 1835, Bennett decided to strike out on his own and founded the New York Herald. The first issue of the paper was published on May 6, 1835, and it immediately caused a stir. The Herald was unlike any other newspaper in New York City at the time. It was bold, brash, and unapologetically sensational. Bennett’s goal was to create a newspaper that would appeal to the masses, and he was not afraid to use shocking headlines and salacious stories to grab his readers’ attention.

The early years of the New York Herald were marked by controversy. Bennett was not afraid to take on powerful politicians or institutions, and he quickly became known for his aggressive reporting style. In 1836, the Herald published a series of articles exposing corruption in the New York City police department. The series, which was titled “The Great Police Report,” caused a public outcry and led to significant reforms within the department.

Despite its controversial reputation, the Herald quickly became one of the most popular newspapers in New York City. By the end of its first year, it had a circulation of over 4,000 copies per day, making it one of the largest newspapers in the country. Bennett’s innovative approach to journalism had struck a chord with readers, and the Herald was soon a household name.

The New York Herald’s Civil War Coverage

The New York Herald’s coverage of the Civil War is perhaps its most significant contribution to American journalism history. The paper’s reporting on the conflict was groundbreaking, and it played a crucial role in shaping public opinion about the war.

In the early years of the war, the Herald was staunchly pro-Union. Bennett believed that the preservation of the Union was essential, and he used his paper to advocate for a strong military response to the secessionist movement in the South. The paper’s coverage of the war was often sensational, with dramatic headlines and vivid descriptions of the battles.

One of the Herald’s most famous contributions to Civil War reporting was its coverage of the Battle of Bull Run. On July 22, 1861, Union and Confederate forces clashed in the first major battle of the war. The Herald had a reporter on the scene, and his account of the battle became one of the most widely read newspaper articles of the era. The article, which was titled “The Great Battle in Virginia,” described the chaos and confusion of the battle in vivid detail. It was later revealed that much of the article was embellished or outright fabricated, but the Herald’s coverage of the battle helped to shape public opinion about the war and cemented the paper’s reputation as a leading voice in American journalism.

The New York Herald was one of the most influential newspapers in American history, but by the turn of the 20th century, the paper was facing a number of challenges. The rise of new technologies, changing reader preferences, and intense competition from other newspapers had all taken a toll on the Herald’s circulation and profitability. However, the paper continued to play a significant role in American journalism, particularly in the realm of populist journalism. In this article, we will explore the history of the New York Herald in the 20th century, focusing on its significance to populist journalism and its eventual demise.

The New York Herald’s Influence on Populist Journalism

In the early 20th century, the New York Herald was known for its populist approach to journalism. The paper was fiercely independent, and it was not afraid to take on powerful politicians or institutions. The Herald’s coverage of issues like corruption, crime, and poverty resonated with working-class readers, who saw the paper as a voice for the common people.

One of the Herald’s most famous populist journalists was Nellie Bly. Bly was a pioneering investigative reporter who worked for the paper in the late 19th century and early 20th century. She was known for her bold reporting style and her willingness to take on difficult assignments. In 1887, she famously posed as a patient in a mental institution to expose the mistreatment of patients. Her reporting on the issue led to significant reforms in the mental health system.

Another important influence on the New York Herald’s populist journalism was William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was a newspaper magnate who owned a number of newspapers, including the New York Journal. He was known for his sensationalist approach to journalism, and his papers often featured lurid headlines and exaggerated stories. However, Hearst also used his papers to advocate for progressive causes, like workers’ rights and women’s suffrage. His papers were popular among working-class readers, who saw Hearst as a champion of their interests.

The Decline of the New York Herald

Despite its populist approach to journalism, the New York Herald began to decline in the early 20th century. One of the major reasons for the paper’s decline was the misguided stewardship of James Gordon Bennett Jr., the son of the paper’s founder. Bennett Jr. took over the paper in 1867, and he was known for his extravagant lifestyle and his eccentric behavior. He spent vast sums of money on lavish parties and expensive hobbies, like yachting and horse racing. His behavior alienated many of the Herald’s readers, who saw him as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

Bennett Jr. also made a number of poor business decisions that hurt the paper’s bottom line. He invested heavily in new technologies, like the telegraph and the telephone, but he failed to fully capitalize on these innovations. He also refused to adapt to changing reader preferences, sticking with the Herald’s old-fashioned style of journalism even as other papers were experimenting with new formats and approaches.

By the early 20th century, the Herald was struggling to stay afloat. Circulation had declined significantly, and the paper was losing money. In 1924, Bennett Jr. sold the Herald to Frank Munsey, a newspaper magnate who had made a fortune by buying up struggling papers and turning them around. Munsey had some success in reviving the Herald, but the paper never fully recovered from the damage done by Bennett Jr.

The Demise of the New York Herald

Despite Munsey’s efforts to revive the paper, the New York Herald ultimately met its demise in the mid-20th century. The paper faced intense competition from other newspapers, particularly the New York Times and the New York Daily News, which had adopted more modern approaches to journalism.

What Happened to the New York Herald?

The New York Herald newspaper eventually ceased publication. After changing hands several times and experiencing financial difficulties throughout the 20th century, the paper was merged with the New York Tribune in 1924 to form the New York Herald Tribune.

The new paper continued to face challenges and competition from other newspapers, and it ultimately ceased publication in 1966 due to financial struggles. Despite its eventual demise, the New York Herald remains an important part of American journalism history, particularly for its contributions to populist journalism and its coverage of significant events like the Civil War.