The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.
XXI. Newspapers, 17751860.
§ 21. Henry Jarvis RaymondThe New York Times.
|Henry Jarvis Raymond, who began his journalistic career on the Tribune and gained further experience in editing the respectable, old-fashioned, political Courier and Enquirer, perceived that there was an opening for a type of newspaper which should stand midway between Greeley, the moralist and reformer, and Bennett, the cynical, non-moral news-monger. He was able to interest friends in raising the hundred thousand dollars which he thought essential to the success of his enterprise. This sum is significant of the development of American daily journalism, for Greeley had started the Tribune only ten years earlier with a capital of one thousand dollars, and Bennett had founded the Herald with nothing at all. On this sound financial basis, Raymond began the career of the New York Times, 18 September, 1851, and made it a success from the outset. He perfected his news-gathering forces and brought into play his intimate acquaintance with men of affairs to open up the sources of information. Above all he set a new standard for foreign service. The American public never had a more general and intelligent interest in European affairs than in the middle years of the nineteenth century. The leading papers directed their best efforts toward sustaining and improving their foreign service, and Raymond used a brief vacation in Europe to establish for his paper a system of correspondence as trustworthy, if not as inclusive, as that of the Herald or Tribune. If our newspapers today are immeasurably in advance of those of sixty years ago in almost every field of journalism, there is only here and there anything to compare in worth with the foreign correspondence of that time. The men who wrote from the news centres of Europe were persons of wide political knowledge and experience, and social consequence. They had time and ability to do their work thoroughly, carefully, and intelligently, innocent of superficial effort toward sensation, of the practices of inaccurate brevity and irresponsible haste which began with the laying of the Atlantic cable.
| The theory of journalism announced by Raymond in the Times marks another advance over the party principles of his predecessors. He thought that a newspaper might assume the rôle now of a party paper, now of an organ of non-partisan, independent thought, and still be regarded by the great body of its readers as steadily guided by principles of sincere public policy. An active ambition for political preferment prevented him from achieving this ideal. Although he professed conservatism only in those cases where conservatism was essential to the public good and radicalism in everything which might require radical treatment and radical reform, the spirit of opposition to the Tribune, as well as his temperamental leanings, carried him definitely to the conservative side. He was by nature inclined to accept the established order and make the best of it. Change, if it came, should come not through radical agitation and revolution, but by cautious and gradual evolution. The world needed brushing, not harrowing. Such ideas, as he applied them to journalism, appealed to moderate men, reflected the opinions of a large and influential class somewhere between the advanced thinkers and theorists and the mass of men more likely to be swayed by passions of approbation or protest than by reason.
| It was the tone of the Times that especially distinguished it from its contemporaries. In his first issue Raymond announced his purpose to write in temperate and measured language and to get into a passion as rarely as possible. There are few things in this world which it is worth while to get angry about; and they are just the things anger will not improve. In controversy he meant to avoid abusive language. His style was gentle, candid, and decisive, and achieved its purpose by facility, clearness, and moderation rather than by powerful fervor and invective. His editorials were generally cautious, impersonal, and finished in form. With abundant self-respect and courtesy, he avoided, as one of his coadjutors said, vulgar abuse of individuals, unjust criticism, or narrow and personal ideas. He had that degree and kind of intelligence which enabled him to appreciate two principles of modern journalismthe application of social ethics to editorial conduct and the maintenance of a comprehensive spirit. As he used them, these were positive, not negative virtues.
| Raymonds contribution to journalism, then, was not the introduction of revolutionizing innovations in any department of the profession but a general improving and refining of its tone, a balancing of its parts, sensitizing it to discreet and cultivated popular taste. Taking the London Times as his model, he tried to combine in his paper the English standard of trustworthiness, stability, inclusiveness, and exclusiveness, with the energy and news initiative of the best American journalism; to preserve in it an integrity of motive and a decorum of conduct such as he possessed as a gentleman. To his success American journalism is deeply indebted.