Sources for the Study of Newspapers
In this paper I have tried to give some thought to the use of sources for the study of newspapers, and the unlikely result is that I am almost prepared to conclude that newspapers are too speculative, too problematic, to be used as sources at all. They present enormous difficulties and have many lacunae. In short, they resemble all too closely Corker’s comical definition of the news in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, that it is ‘what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything (else) wants to read’.1 Notwithstanding this scepticism, however, I believe that newspapers are perhaps the best general source we have for the study of many aspects of Victorian life, including both its enlightening features and its unanticipated pleasures and adventures.
KeywordsNineteenth Century Daily Mail Good Story Daily Telegraph Enormous Difficulty
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- 1.Evelyn Waugh, Scoop (Boston, Mass., 1977) p. 191.Google Scholar
- 2.Lucy Salmon, The Newspaper and the Historian (New York, 1923) p. 35.Google Scholar
- 3.Virginia Berridge, ‘Content Analysis and Historical Research on Newspapers’ in Michael Harris and Alan Lee (eds), The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries (Rutherford, NJ, 1986) pp. 200–18.Google Scholar
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- 9.Here is another observation by Spender which makes much the same point: ‘The readers of the modern popular newspaper may frequently be heard saying that they hate its politics and pay no attention to its leading article, but they cannot help being affected by its headlines, its catch phrases, its presentation of the news, the stress which it lays on some things, the veil which it draws over others’. J.A. Spender, The Public Life, vol. II (New York, 1925) p. 111.Google Scholar
- 10.Another great Victorian editor, E. T. Cook, once stated: ‘To be interesting and to be helpful; those are the two essentials of the good Editor, and unless he interests us, he will not be able to help us’. J. W. R. Scott, Faith and Works in Fleet Street: An Editor’s Convictions after Sixty-Five Years in Journalism (London, 1947) p. 46.Google Scholar
- 12.Quoted in W. T. Stead, ‘Character Sketch: February: The Pall Mall Gazette’, Reviews of Reviews, VII (1893) 155.Google Scholar