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Dead Tree Media

Manufacturing the Newspaper in Twentieth-Century North America

Michael Stamm

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A deep and timely account of how American newspapers were produced and distributed on paper.

Winner of the Best Book in Canadian Business History by the Canadian Business History Association

Popular assessments of printed newspapers have become so grim that some have taken to calling them "dead tree media" as a way of invoking the medium’s imminent demise. There is a literal truth hidden in this dismissive expression: printed newspapers really are material goods made from trees. And, throughout the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority of trees cut down in the service of printing…

A deep and timely account of how American newspapers were produced and distributed on paper.

Winner of the Best Book in Canadian Business History by the Canadian Business History Association

Popular assessments of printed newspapers have become so grim that some have taken to calling them "dead tree media" as a way of invoking the medium’s imminent demise. There is a literal truth hidden in this dismissive expression: printed newspapers really are material goods made from trees. And, throughout the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority of trees cut down in the service of printing newspapers in the United States came from Canada.

In Dead Tree Media, Michael Stamm reveals the international history of the commodity chains connecting Canadian trees and US readers. Drawing on newly available corporate documents and research in archives across North America, Stamm offers a sophisticated rethinking of the material history of the printed newspaper. Tracing its industrial production from the forest to the newsstand, he provides an account of the obscure and often hidden labor involved in this manufacturing process by showing how it was driven by not only publishers and journalists but also lumberjacks, paper mill workers, policymakers, chemists, and urban and regional planners.

Stamm describes the 1911 shift in tariff policy that gave US publishers duty-free access to Canadian newsprint, providing a tremendous boost to Canadian paper manufacturers and a significant subsidy to American newspaper publishers. He also explains how Canada attracted massive American foreign investment in paper mills around the same time that US publishers were able to gain greater access to Canada’s vast spruce forests. Focusing particularly on the Chicago Tribune, Stamm provides a new history of the rise and fall of both the mass circulation printed newspaper and the particular kind of corporation in the newspaper business that had shaped many aspects of the cultural, political, and even physical landscape of North America. For those seeking to understand the travails of the contemporary newspaper business, Dead Tree Media is essential reading.

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Dead Tree Media

Michael Stamm

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Reviews

Reviews

A fascinating narrative about newsprint that encompasses the history of journalism, trade relations, and industrial capitalism in twentieth-century North America... [Stamm's] research is impressive and the portrayal of McCormick's empire enthralling.

Dead Tree Media: Manufacturing the Newspaper in Twentieth-Century North America, the inaugural winner of the Canadian Business History Association's Best Book in Canadian Business History, demonstrates that the industry built to deliver the product of dead trees hot off the presses onto citizens' doorsteps — just to keep them informed of the daily news — at one time unleashed massive economic and industrial disruption of its own.

Historians of the newspaper business fixate on press coverage of a certain event, or on how a publisher's ideology shaped a paper. The historian Michael Stamm upends traditional approaches to the newspaper business. Rather than focus on its public face, he explores its connections to global supply chains, international trade relations, regional economic development, and other issues that seem worlds apart from the blaring headlines.

Looking through the lens of the US newspaper as an industrial operation, this excellent book ranges up and down the supply chain connecting the woods operations, milling, shipping, editorial, printing, and distribution. The result is nothing less than a history of the material foundation of twentieth-century news. With this fresh perspective on both the news and the paper it was printed on, Stamm has composed the most imaginative history of the newsprint industry in more than a generation.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6.125
x
9.25
Pages
376
ISBN
9781421426051
Illustration Description
23 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note to the Reader
Introduction: What Was a Newspaper?
Part I. The North American Newspaper
Chapter 1. The Making of Industrial Print Culture
Chapter 2. Forests, Trade, and Empire
Chapt

Acknowledgments
Note to the Reader
Introduction: What Was a Newspaper?
Part I. The North American Newspaper
Chapter 1. The Making of Industrial Print Culture
Chapter 2. Forests, Trade, and Empire
Chapter 3. The Continental Newsprint Market and the Perils of Dependency
Part II. Extending Chicagoland
Chapter 4. The Local Newspaper as International Corporation
Chapter 5. Robert McCormick and the Politics of Planning
Chapter 6. Work and Culture along the Newsprint Supply Chain
Part III. The Newspaper beyond the Printed Page
Chapter 7. The Diversified Newspaper Corporation
Chapter 8. The Industrial Newspaper and Its Legacies
Chapter 9. The Problem of Paper in the Age of Electronic Media
Conclusion. Media Infrastructures, Old and New
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Michael Stamm

Michael Stamm is an associate professor of history at Michigan State University. He is the author of Sound Business: Newspapers, Radio, and the Politics of New Media.