Friday, February 6, 2009

Benjamin Day

In the 1830's, New York was coming of age as the nation's First City. Newspapers were also changing: from lightly-circulated publications for the higher classes to popular entertainment for the masses. While Boston saw the first permanent penny-paper in 1830 and New York itself had one by early 1833, it was New Yorker Benjamin Day who began transforming the world of newspapers in later '33 by founding the New York Sun.

Called a "penny-paper" literally due to its cost, the Sun transformed the news industry. It was 1/6 the cost of the eleven broadsheets published at the time, subsidized by advertising, and distributed by newsboys. Day is credited with starting the newsboy tradition as a way to cut costs; in their wake, newspaper consumption skyrocketed. Also unique at the time was the paper's focus on news items of low-brow appeal, particularly crime stories.

The Sun, later credited with "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," in Day's time gained ever-lasting fame for the Moon Hoax of 1835. Richard Locke, the writer behind the six-piece story, created a religious satire that was apparently believable to a majority of New Yorkers at the time and helped to raise the paper's profile.

According to Day's obituary in the New York Times, his goal in publishing the first edition of the Sun was to advertise his printing business. Whatever the origin, his creation reminds me of the first popular blogs from eight to ten years ago. Day is today's Hero of Capitalism because through the Sun he helped popularize newspaper consumption and changed irrevocably the face of journalism.

Time Magazine Centennial

Matthew Goodman on Bob Edwards Weekend Discussing The Sun and the Moon Hoax (33:00)

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