Rise of the Penny Press in the 1830s Nurtured Democracy

Jacksonian democracy was aided, beginning in the 1830s, by the rise of the penny press in cities: even working class factory folks could purchase the news of the day for one cent, subsidized by advertising. In seeking the widest possible audience of a wide variety of political beliefs, publishers of these cheap newspapers eventually sought a standard of “objectivity,” reporting facts, drawing on police reports and official documents from governments and businesses. Thus the modern concept of journalism was born. These newspapers were published in much smaller format known as tabloids.

The penny press was made possible by new technologies: the steam press, and other technologies discussed in the video below.

Founders of the Penny Press were Benjamin Day of the New York Sun, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald. To win audience share in a hyper-competitive environment, Day published the Great Moon Hoax.

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