Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations of the press, “The journalists of the United States are usually placed in a very humble position with a scanty education and a vulgar turn of mind.”

Alexis-de-TocquevilleIn America there is scarcely a hamlet which has not its own newspaper. It may readily be imagined that neither discipline nor unity of design can be communicated to so multifarious a host, and each one is consequently led to fight under his own standard. All the political journals of the United States are arrayed indeed on the side of the administration or against it; but they attack and defend in a thousand different ways. They can not succeed in forming those great currents of opinion which overwhelm the most solid obstacles. This division of the influence of the press produces a variety of other consequences which are scarcely less remarkable. The facility with which journals can be established induces a multitude of individuals to take part in them; but as the extent of competition precludes the possibility of considerable profit, the most distinguished classes of society are rarely led to engage in these undertakings. But such is the number of the public prints that, even if they were a source of wealth, writers of ability could not be found to direct them all. The journalists of the United States are usually placed in a very humble position with a scanty education and a vulgar turn of mind.

….

But although the press is limited to these resources, its influence in America is immense. It is the power which impels the circulation of political life through all the districts of the vast territory. Its eye is open constantly to detect the secret springs of political designs, and to summon leaders of all parties to the bar of public opinion. It rallies the interest of the community round certain principles, and it draws up the creed which factions adopt; for it affords a means of intercourse between parties which hear, and which address each other without ever having been in immediate contact. When a great number of the organs of the press adopt the same line of conduct, their influence becomes irresistible; and public opinion, when it is perpetually assailed from the same side, eventually yields to the attack. In the United States each separate journal exercises but little authority but the power of the periodical press is only second to that of the people.

Source:

Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America; Volume 1 , D. Appleton & Company; New York. 1899. p. 191 – 193.

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