ABC-CLIO

The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, 1945-1965

by David R. Davies

 

In the years following World War II, the newspaper industry faced overwhelming threats to its dominance of the media marketplace; while the industry as a whole remained profitable, it failed to adjust to television and other challenges and began a decline that continues today.

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July 2006

Praeger

Pages 200
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/General
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    978-0-313-30701-0

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On the surface, the American newspaper industry appears to have changed little from 1945 to 1965, remaining both healthy and prosperous. The number of newspapers in 1965 was about the same as in 1945, while during the twenty-year period advertising revenues increased substantially despite new competition from television. Just as in 1945, the vast majority of newspapers went to press with improved but old-fashioned letterpress methods in 1965. And newspaper reporters still professed a strong, if now somewhat shaken, faith in the federal government at the end of the twenty years.

But the surface appearance of both stability and profitability obscured profound change. In the two decades after World War II, the business of newspaper publishing changed significantly in myriad ways. By 1965, editors and publishers had recognized the extent of these changes and were beginning to adjust. Each of the changes was significant of its own accord, and the range of challenges throughout the period combined to transform newspapers and the nation they served by 1965. This transformation was evident, to varying degrees, in newspapers' content, their production methods, their economic position within the overall media marketplace, and their relationship with government. Newspapers - some more than others - made strides to keep up with and overcome some of these challenges. But in each of these areas, newspapers as a group were slow to respond to the problems facing journalism.

Table of Contents

ForewordTrends in the Postwar Press, 1945-1949Improvement and Criticism, 1945-1949Government, the Cold War, and Newspapers, 1950-`954The Press and Television, 1948-1960Newspapers and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1957The Seeds of Long-Term Change, 1950-1963Kennedy and the Press, 1960-1963An Industry in Crisis, 1960-1965960Reflections on the Postwar PressResourcesIndexBibliographic Essay

Reviews/Endorsements

Reviews

"Davies identifies a steady decline in the US newspaper business during the 20 years following WW II, and he attributes that decline in part to sluggish business practices, including the country's lethargic conversion to new printing technologies. He notes that newspapers during this period were passive about covering the Civil Rights Movement and failed to introduce journalistic innovations to compete with the growing audience for television news. Davies explains how sociological, legal, political, and cultural changes, as well as differences within the journalism community, influenced the newspaper industry's decline. He provides excellent detail about the early history of US television news. Joining a series intent on revitalizing scholarship on the history of American journalism, this book is easy to read and carefully annotated. A thematic bibliographic essay highlights other readings. Highly recommended. All readers; all levels."—Choice

"The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, 1945-1965 is a long-overdue study of a neglected time in journalism history....The volume demonstrates that Davies has a broad grasp of postwar journalism history generally, and it is especially useful in that it goes beyond the standard recital of famous personalities and events to offer some meaningful analysis of the technological changes, shifting attitudes about press/government relations, internal debates about professional standards, and competition from other media that threatened the industry."—H-Net Reviews

"It is my dream that Davies' book will be read and talked about by journalism historians and students. It is equally essential that it be pondered by professional journalists, editors, and publishers, who cumulatively have contributed to the lemming-like leadership of an industry in decline in the post World War II period until 1965. Davies' book may be just a tiny step to help stomp upon the lemmings who continue to lead the newspaper business over the cliff in the twenty-first century. But at least his book looks like a stomp in the right direction."—American Journalism

"Davies seeks to explain the slow and steady decline of American newspapers in the two decades following World War II. He argues that the country's publishers and editors failed to respond to the need for more long-term analysis in their reporting of such broad societal changes as the Civil Rights movement and failed to recognize the challenge posed by television. He also looks at the impact of rising costs, demographic change such as suburban migration, and changing government-press relations."—Reference & Research Book News

"This book includes a bibliographic essay, extensive footnotes, and an outstanding bibliography. It should be a handy reference for anyone with a professional interest in media. It is both scholarly and accessible and should provoke thought among media professionals about how to respond to the challenges of convergence....Every newspaper publisher in the U.S. should read this book for guidance in how to respond to today's news changes."—Communication Research Trends

"The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, 1945-1965 provides a thoughtful overview of significant trends affecting newspapers during the post-war era....[m]akes a valuable contribution to the field of journalism history."—Journalism History

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