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The Civil War and the Media

February 20, 2012

The Civil War made a great impact on the American media changing forever the way we report and receive our news. The need for increased news coverage during this time introduced America to Sunday editions and afternoon “extras.” New and improved printing methods such as the process of stereotyping by Greeley’s the New York Tribune and Bullock’s invention of the web perfecting press in 1863 allowed newspapers to be produced in large quantities. Additionally, new typographical equipment helped bring about display headlines changing the appearance and format of how news stories were being printed.

Web Perfecting Press

The increased demand for news coverage on the Civil War also led to enterprise reporting within the media and newspaper industry. This popularized news agencies such as the New York Associated Press, and introduced the newspaper syndicate. News agencies coupled with newspaper syndicates allowed for the news to be distributed on a mass scale as never seen before in American history. During this time, the rise of the telegraph helped create new journalistic styles of writing such as the inverted pyramid in which the most important facts of a news story are reported first. This style of writing came about out of the correspondent’s fear that the telegraph system would fail halfway through communicating a news story through the wire.

Telegraph

American journalism continued to evolve during the Civil War with the development of saturation coverage and on-the-spot reporting through the media coverage of John Brown’s Raid of 1859 along with the trials and executions that followed. This was the first time in American history that reporters and illustrators traveled to cover a story creating the modern journalist who chased breaking news. The format and elements of the printed news story, in turn, began depending on visual journalism in the form of illustrations and photography. The use of woodcuts and the camera was highly popularized by the media, and became extremely helpful when reporting the news. Reporting the news was taken to a new level by newspapers now being able to provide a visual account of the Civil War and how it continued to progress.

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