"The World's Newspapers," The Daily Picayune, Nov 25, 1894.

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"The World's Newspapers," The Daily Picayune, Nov 25, 1894.


Lippincott, Sara Jane (pseudonym: Grace Greenwood), 1832-1904
Manners / Etiquette
Social Events--Travels
Travel Reports
Social Acceptance
Social Critique
Gender Norms


Greenwood, speaking from her travel experience and stays abroad, evaluates the French, Italian, and English press in comparison to the US-American. In the context of a changing press culture, she also indulges in a long speech against scandal-mongering journalists that invade the private sphere to satisfy the newspaper customers. She defends most women journalists as being more decent and interested in "truthful" stories compared to their male counterparts.


19th Century U.S. Newspapers


Lippincott, Sara Jane (pseudonym: Grace Greenwood), 1832-1904


The Daily Picayune


F.A. Lumsden & G.W. Kendall





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[...] With the French and Italian journals ours can hardly be compared. Indeed, the former can hardly be called newspapers in a broad sense. They are vehicles of information on local, or at best national, topics and interest and of art criticisms; or they are organs of political parties and the clerical "powers which be," or want to be. [...]
Some of these stories are of high literary character, but most of them are shamelessly immoral, and all go into many French homes. One of the brightes and best, that is cleverest of its kind, is Le Figaro--but that is as wicked as it is witty, and quite conscienceless--a genuine Boulevadier.
Compared with the French, on the grounds of morality, taste and refinement, English daily journals stand out nobly. The proverbal "young person" can read them without a blush, if not without a yawn. They may be dull, but they are decent. [...]
Fewer women are employed on English leading journals than on ours, and they who aspire to good journalistic positions must be as well trained, as respectable and reliable as are the men, filling like good positions, though of course with a difference in the matter of salary. No society beauty, or gossip, no "highflyer at fashion," no scandal-monger and assuredly no "slouch," need apply. As signatures are not apended to even the cleverest articles the unwholesome temptation of notoriety is quite lacking. There are women on the London press filling[?] enviable places, having proved themselves capable of not only writing light, graceful pictorial sketches of important scenes and the actors of them, but of buckling down to hard work, and of grappling with serios and profound questions, social, moral and even political. Their personalities are few, and usually delicate and discreet. [...]
For a long time I reposed in comfort and confidence on the dignity and neatness, the dear old-fashioned wholesome aspect of +++ +++, a certain famous New York daily--an honest newspaper founded long ago by an honest old-fashioned journalist, but one of the greatest that ever was, or ever will be; and since I have beheld that fair sheet also breaking out with an eruption of "ugly wings," I have fallen into low spirits. Yet I know that if in business one will not wag on as "the world wags" he will have to wag all alone by himself, in a slow and profitless way. [...]
As it is, the English journals of high social standing and political importance are not sensational nor funny, not consciously and purposely funny--that is, at least they never "make fun" of sorrows, disgraces or calamities. [...]
[talking about the US press] They are perfect monsters of enterprise--lying in wait like the octopus, and tackling news with tremendous tentacles. They are mighty on the boom, and sublime on crimes and casualties, vices of men, and visitations of God. Their interviewers are as eager, as cunning and persuasive as a greengods vendor, and as ferociously persistent, indefatigable and incorruptible as an Anna Katharine Green detective on the faint scent of a criminal.
My charge is that in the stress of rivalry, the struggle and strain after "news," they respect "no man, may, nor woman either"--that for most newspapers most men and all women live in glass houses. There is no longer much sanctity about private life--if there be any private life nowadays, which I sometimes doubt. Even when a man is mercifully sent to hide great guilt and disgrace to prison, interviews may intrude on his penitential calm, and executives break in and pardon.
Domestic tragedies must be served up by the mroning papers hot and spicy, though there be "death in the pot," and the headlines of the pitiless paragraphs must be startling and imposing--regular "scare heads." Personal misfortunes of however delicate a nature, and however proud and sensitive their subjects, must commence their melancholy public parade with a grand flourish of typographical trumpets. I remember how harsh and hard were some of the notices of the sudden unlooked-for failure, the reuit of illness and sorrow, of Mme. Gerster during her last engagement in New York, a failure which proved a lasting calamity to an admirable artist and an admirable woman. Those cutting paragraphs struck through her tearful eyes to her heart, and she said: "I think until I am quite my old self the public should be indulgent. Artists after all are women, and pens can be very, very cruel."
Could poor Gerster have known that some of the severest of her critics were callow youths, with the merest smattering of musical culture, would she have found comfort or aggravation in the knowledge?
I hold that the chief dangers to popular American journalism are first, a growing desire to be startling and sensational, leading to gross exaggeration, at times to something more reprehensible--even to the sin of Ananias--without its penalty, unhappily; next, a fierce determination to be the first to bring out the latest gossip, or scandal, this leading to exhibitions of bad taste and often to cruelty; and last, and worts [sic] of all, esthetically, if not ethically, a fixed and solemn resolve to be funny, at any cost, on any topic, under any circumstances. [...] Pagan Rome recklessly given up to games, shows and unspeakable luxury--Athens, in her passionate demand for "something new," were never much more frivolous and reckless than is New York and Chicago on the verge of the two-thousandth year of our blessed, crucified Lord. [...]
I am most grieved when I am told by my young sisters of the press of such charges being given to them by their chiefs of carefully prepared, truthful sketches, paragraphs and items thrown back on their hands as "too literary," or "not spicy enough," or as having a word or two +++, or under measure. [...] Left to themselves, women journalists are less inclined to deal in idle gossip, not to say scandal, than their brothers of the press. They are ambitious of excellence, and their morals and methods are usually pure and legitimate. With a few unhappy exceptions, they shrink from details of crime, disaster and dishonor--from studies of vice and shame---choosing wholesome and cleanly topics when they are free to do so. [...]


Gale Document Number:GT3014464241


New Orleans, LA, US

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Lippincott, Sara Jane (pseudonym: Grace Greenwood), 1832-1904, “"The World's Newspapers," The Daily Picayune, Nov 25, 1894.,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed September 29, 2023, https://archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/547.

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