Alex Massie

The Colour of Newsprint

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Jack Shafer  - entertaining as ever - mounts a spirited defence of yellow journalism: "Being rambunctious to the extreme, yellow journalism is misunderstood. At its best, yellow journalism was terrific, and at its worst, it really wasn't all that bad."

Quite so. Newspapers are an entertainment just as much as they're a source of, like, news. That's one reason why you can make a decent argument that, taken on its own terms, the News of the World - the yellowest of our papers - is also the best paper in Britain.

Shafer adds this:

One of the biggest enemies of yellow journalism in the 1890s was Adolph Ochs, who purchased a controlling interest in the New York Times in 1896. He prided himself in publishing the journalism of restraint and impartiality (aka anti-yellow journalism). Upon acquiring the Philadelphia Times in 1901, Ochs had a list of newspaper "don'ts" drawn up, which aims squarely at the yellow papers. The list was published in a newspaper trade journal and reprinted (paid) in the June 29, 1901, New York Times. It states:

No red ink.

No pictures.

No double column heads.

No freak typography.

No free advertisements.

No free circulation.

No free notices to advertisers.

No reading matter advertisements with-out marks.

No medical advertisements.

No advertisements on first page.

No free passes from railroads.

No free theatre tickets.

No collectors of advertising bills.

No Bryanism.

No coupon schemes.

No guessing contests.

No prizefighting details.

No advertisements that a self-respecting man would not read to his family.

No concessions from the advertising rate card.

No personal journalism.

No pessimism.

No friends to favor.

No enemies to punish.

No drinking by employes.

No speculation by employes .

No private scandal.

No word contests.

No prize puzzles.

No advertisements

   Of immoral books,

   Of fortune tellers,

   Of secret diseases,

   Of guaranteed cures,

   Of clairvoyants,

   Of palmists,

   Of massage.

No advertisements

   Of offers of large salaries,

   Of large guaranteed dividends,

   Of offers of something for nothing.


No drinking by employees

Above all, what's the point of owning a newspaper if you don't use it to punish your enemies?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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