The trio of P’s in early American history – the press, politics, and parties

It seems as though researching 19th century American political communication history is so interesting that I forgot to update this! Haha, well that may be an overstatement. It may not be exactly interesting, but it certainly is extensive!

Working my way through the party organ press to 20th century newspapers has proven quite challenging, as modern scholarly research did not strongly form until the 1950s along with the widespread use of television. There are few theoretical assertions tested in those times, so finding non-formal instances of selective exposure is extremely difficult. Luckily, after reading about 1,000 pages of commentary about early American press, I found a few examples I can use to strengthen my hypothesis.

Fun facts (Okay, honestly, these may not be classified as “fun,” but certainly interesting!)

– The early party press editors were more often than not politicians or publishers hired by politicians to produce their own newspapers to help them get elected.

– In the early republic, the press and the government had a symbiotic relationship. Much different than the system we have today, one author referred to newspapers as “the political system’s central institution.”

– Although much attention today is turned toward national newspaper legacies (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today), 38% of Americans report to reading a local newspaper, compared to 12% reading a national newspaper. (Stats courtesy of Pew Research Center, 2005)

– When radio was first introduced, broadcasting stations were controlled largely by conservative businessmen who advocated for the Republican party. The radio’s most influential time in political communication was during the 1920s, a time in which all three candidates who won the presidency were Republicans.

– Television was featured at the World’s Fair in New York City in 1939. President FDR, a renowned radio orator, rejected having the medium even installed in the White House at first.

Poster for 1939 World's Fair (Image courtesey of

Also, the Center for Political Communication is planning on unveiling their research in a November event, which I’m coordinating. Planning has gone great so far…and we recently found out that we secured a special guest speaker for the event! šŸ™‚


About Abby Ecker

PR pro and healthy living blogger in the First State
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