Harmsworth’s Daily Timesaver: a case study in the interplay of Anglo-American journalistic cultures in the turn-of the-century newsroom

Robert Campbell

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


This study is of the under-reported guest editorship of Joseph W Pulitzer’s New York World on New Year’s Eve 1900 by Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe), the founder of the Daily Mail. The event, in which Harmsworth allegedly invented the tabloid newspaper (nicknamed the Daily Timesaver), and provoked a journalistic debate in the USA, merits a page or so in biographies of the main actors but demands more.

My research examines whether the events of that night, and the subsequent debate, represented a cleft in the commonly understood monolith of Anglo-American journalism, along a ‘tabloid fault line’. It provides an opportunity to freeze, in time, a moment in which choices between ways of doing journalism came into focus. These choices can be defined not least in terms of Anglo and American, and popular and serious, with Harmsworth offering an Anglo middle market option. My study challenges the idea of an Anglo-American journalistic monolith, and considers the use of the popular-serious dichotomy as a way of understanding the linked history of journalism in the two countries.

The study is interdisciplinary, by blending social science with history to provide the firmest evidential basis for a narrative which exploits the high drama of the events.

I have carried out a content analysis of the experimental newspaper and comparable ones, and culled press reports of the event from digital newspaper archives. But the core empirical
data comes from my examining of correspondence amongst 45,000 items in the Pulitzer archives at Columbia University. It is from that, and the press reports, that I have been able to
re-create the newsroom events of the night in some detail, and analyse the decisions made therein at a point where two (or more) journalistic cultures met.

The methodology is a familiar one for historians – but also akin to a retrospective version of newsroom studies as practised by social scientists trying to unpick journalistic procedures. It raises methodological questions relating to the shift, facilitated by increased digitalisation of archives, from scarcity of evidence to plenty. These issues include the researcher’s experience with tailored searches versus the serendipitous potential of handling less finely catalogued physical artefacts; and the increased quantitative potentials for historians versus that discipline’s emphasis on the power of qualitative-based argument.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventThe Joint Journalism Historians Conference, New York University. : AHRC round table on the Long Popularization Process: Anglo-American Perspectives - New York, New York, United States
Duration: 12 Mar 201113 Mar 2011


ConferenceThe Joint Journalism Historians Conference, New York University.
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew York
Internet address


  • press history


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