Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Newspaper readers from history

I've previously quoted George Orwell on the News of the World (from 'The Decline of the English Murder') and Yes, Prime Minister on the mentality of various papers' readers. Here's a paragraph by Claud Cockburn on Thomas Barnes, a mid-nineteenth-century Times editor's view of the readership:

Newspaper writing, he said, is a thing sui generis; it is in literature what brandy is in beverages. John Bull, whose understanding is rather sluggish - I speak of the majority of readers - requires a strong stimulus. He consumes his beef and cannot digest it without a dram; he dozes composedly over his prejudices which his conceit calls opinions; and you must fire ten-pounders at his densely compact intellect before you can make it comprehend your meaning or care one farthing for your efforts.

Norman Rose, The Cliveden Set (London: Jonathan Cape, 2000), p. 162. 

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