Life and Times of Edward H. Butler, Founder of the Buffalo News (1850-1914)

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Edward H. Butler was emblematic of the late 19th-century new journalists who built the modern press by wrenching civic discourse from its narrow partisan roots and carving out vital new cultural, social, economic and political roles for newspapers. The trajectory of Butler’s career arcs through this important transitional period in the development of American journalism and civic culture. The central conflict in contemporary journalism between democratic duty and financial prerogatives grew from paradoxes rooted in the Gilded Age press. A deeper understanding of the forces that made and unmade the ‘new journalism’ sheds light not only on journalism’s past, but on its future. In addition to the biography itself, the study examines the Buffalo News’s impact on local and national levels, including the paper’s crusade to improve the terrible Polish immigrant tenements of the time, its backing of the Pan-American Exposition at which President McKinley was assassinated, and the struggle of labor unions.


“It is an informative, insightful, entertaining, book which I think will appeal not only to media historians and practicing journalists but to the general reader interested in American history. The book is an enjoyable history lesson which introduces the reader to the fascinating, ambitious, and sometimes infuriating protagonist E. H. Butler….Butler’s story becomes a vehicle for examining the volatile period of the ‘Gilded Age.’ Among the topics explored through Butler and his Buffalo, New York newspapers: the successes and failures of urban development…economic empowerment of the middle-class worker…the transformation of the practice of journalism…and the enduring public interest in scandal….The scope of research is impressive. The book fluidly and effectively integrates a wide range of sources, from newspapers themselves (those published by both Butler and his competitors) to biographies of other newspapermen to city directories….He expands the discussion of ‘new journalism’ beyond the usual suspects such as Pulitzer, to examine how truly significant and far-reaching the innovations in gathering, packaging, and delivering news to the public were.” – Joan McGettigan, PhD, Associate Professor, Texas Christian University

“The book provides a much needed corrective to the ‘Big Apple syndrome,’ which views New York City as the crucible for journalistic innovation in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and ignores the changes and challenges occurring in newsrooms around the rest of the country. As Dillon shows through his meticulous research, Butler was forging a new journalism as publisher of the Buffalo News years before Joseph Pulitzer or William Randolph Hearst….By examining the development of the press in a ‘lesser’ city like Buffalo, Dillon has contributed to a deeper understanding of the evolution of American journalism.” – Howard Good, PhD, Professor, SUNY New Paltz

"Edward Butler and his very interesting family come alive in the pages of this book." - American Journalism

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
Preface by Daniel Pfaff
1. A Typical Newspaperman
2. The Publishers and the Pulpit (journalism and moral authority; civic leadership; politics; reform; motives)
3. A Bright Vision (Mrs. J. B. Adams; name on the masthead; friends and public favor)
4. A Paper for the Masses (populist manifesto; crosscurrents; the Scripps circuit)
5. Buffalo’s Shame - Anatomy of a Crusade (Buffalo’s Polish immigrant tenements)
6. Satanic Journalism, or Scenes from a Newspaper War (the Grover Cleveland scandal)
7. Give Me the Root (new technology and promotion, strikes)
8. Usefulness and Power (The Pan-American Exposition of 1901, McKinley’s assassination)
Bibliography; Index

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