Journalism and Ideology in the Life of Charles A. Dana
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 In the first biography of 19th-century newspaperman Charles A. Dana since Candace Stone's Dana and the Sun (1938), Steele (Rhetoric and Communications/Univ. of Virginia) cautiously depicts her subject's life from his obscure New Hampshire origins to his 30-year stint as editor of the New York Sun, then one of the most influential papers in America. Born to poverty in 1817, unable to continue the Harvard education he craved, Dana joined Brook Farm, the suburban Boston utopian experiment in communal living for the intelligentsia. After visiting France during the aborted Revolution of 1848, he signed up as managing editor of Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, a post he kept until 1862. While at the Tribune, Dana--working with George Ripley--compiled the enormously successful, 16-volume American Cyclopaedia, which solicited contributions from such distinguished authors as Engels and Marx. During the Civil War, Dana served as Lincoln's assistant secretary of war; in 1868, following a brief editorship at The Chicago Tribune, he took over the Sun and gave it a personal voice, as well as a distinct character as a workingman's paper covering the nascent union activities and promoting cooperative labor. In the 1880's, Joseph Pulitzer's New York World challenged the Sun's popularity by favoring the new consumer ethic, including in its pages guides to entertainment, sports, gossip, and fashion, as well as advertising, women's pages, and illustrations- -everything that Dana believed was too frivolous for the working classes. The World also introduced the new corporate voice of modern journalism, replacing the personal tone that Dana had cultivated. Ultimately, Dana turned against the working-class that he felt had betrayed him, and he became increasingly conservative and cynical--his new tone, Steele says, resembling the dark humor of Mark Twain and the illustrations of Thomas Nast. Like an old newspaper, Dana seems faded here--distant, out of focus, with his claimed significance difficult to account for; ironically, it's Pulitzer who comes across vividly and with bite. (Eighteen illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8156-2579-0
Page count: 222pp
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993