James Gordon Bennett, 1795-1872

Peter Petrie profiles an American journalistic pioneer, the founder and first editor of the New York Herald newspaper.

James Gordon Bennett, founder and first editor of the New York Herald, died on June 1st, 1872. Only the European edition of the Herald Tribune can claim direct descent from his work, but Bennett’s legacy can be traced in almost every modern newspaper.

Among the innovations introduced by him to the American press were financial journalism (1835); the first direct personal interviews (1836); the first systematic use of special foreign correspondents (1838) and war correspondents; and, more generally, the formation of the Associated Press and the relentless pursuit of the sensational story-as, for example, in the despatch of Stanley to find Livingstone.

Bennett’s unprecedented insistence on the primacy of news made him a pioneer in exploiting for journalism the latest technical inventions: successively he was the first to intercept the incoming sailing ships for their news; to travel on the first trans-Atlantic steamship; to use the telegraph and the Atlantic cable; and to develop improved printing machinery. Some maintain that he was also the first editor to realize the role of sex and murder in selling newspapers.

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