The contradictory legacy of the Enlightenment for American journalism

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The European Enlightenment fostered ideals that still animate democratic societies, but those ideals were freighted with received notions of white supremacy and patriarchy. This presentation traces …

The European Enlightenment fostered ideals that still animate democratic societies, but those ideals were freighted with received notions of white supremacy and patriarchy. This presentation traces the ways in which those ideas affected the development of the norms and practices of American journalism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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  • 1. Journalism and the Troubled Legacy of the Enlightenment
    Race, Gender and the News
    Kim Pearson
  • 2. As we saw last week
    The Age of Enlightenment introduced the ideal of a society founded on egalitarian ideals
    However, received notions about human nature from theology, law and science kept those ideals from being universally applied
    Therefore news and publishing industries perpetuated notions of race and gender hierarchy
  • 3. Contradicting Egalitarian Ideals
    Belief that race and gender hierarchies were ordained by God
    “Great Chain of Being”
    “Sons of Ham,” “Mark of Cain”
    Linnaeus’ taxonomy makes racism scientific
    Laws permitting
    Slavery,
    Defining women as property
    Restricting naturalization to free white men
  • 4. Early news media echoed these beliefs
    Hottentot Venus
    Narratives of “exploration”
    Ads for sales of slaves, “wanted posters for runaways
    Some women became printers, publishers, usually as wives and mothers of men in the industry
    Magazines instructed women on proper conduct
  • 5. Journalism in the Jacksonian era
    De Tocqueville – Democracy in America
    Americans as
    Individualistic
    Property loving
    Anti-authoritarian
    Pietistic
    Favoring voluntarism
    Dawn of the Penny Presses
    Temperance, Abolitionist presses
  • 6. Cult of true womanhood
    As we have seen with the reaction to such writers as Mary Wollstonecraft women’s claims to equality was ridiculed
    Mid-19th century “cult of domesticity” promoted view that women ruled the private sphere, men the public sphere
    Godey’s Ladies Book: Sarah Josefa Hale
  • 7. This framed the context for the rise of black, native and feminist presses
    Had to confront racist, sexist ideologies
    Contest dominant narratives
    Highlight contradictory evidence – eg Benjamin Banneker’s letter to Thomas Jefferson
    Equiano’s depiction of the unchristian behavior of slaveonwners
    Promote alternative narratives
    Biblical arguments: Moses, Acts 17:26
    Wheatley: salvation makes us equal
    Maria Stewart
    Cady Stanton, et al: Woman’s Bible, adopt “liberty rhetoric)
    Had to instruct the masses (Maria Stewart)
    Had to create forum for strategizing and organizing
  • 8. Native American newspapers
    Cherokee Phoenix established 1828, still published
    Sequoyah’ssyllabary
    Founding Editor, Elias Boudinot
    Key issue: Indian Removal, Indian nationhood
  • 9. The rise of “objective” journalism
    Mindich, Schudson agree the tenets emerged over course of 19th, early 20th centuries
    Non-partisanship
    Detachment
    Facticity
    Inverted Pyramid
    Balance
    Assumed to be the province of white men, hence the savaging of Ida B. Wells
    Note how the Times’ slur fits race, class gender hierarchy
  • 10. Conclusion
    Enlightenment era spawned a contradiction:
    The press became a means of oppression
    The creation of alternative presses allowed people to “plead our own cause”
    (More)