All of them were based in the temporary national capital, Philadelphia. They were more or less of a generation, born in the 1750s and 1760s, younger than most of the founders and deeply disrespectful of their elders, including George Washington. As a group, they have often been dismissed by historians as the progenitors of “the Dark Ages of partisan journalism”—a mudslinging interval that theoretically preceded the later dawn of journalistic objectivity. Giving each a detailed examination, Daniel shows that there was more substance to their output than mere partisanship and personal abuse of politicians (although there was plenty of that as well). While the editors lined up as Federalists and Republicans, the early incarnation of our two-party system, they were more like sailors in storm-tossed boats, never knowing where the winds of dispute might blow them. Daniel may fall short of establishing these six as founding fathers—even founding fathers of journalism. Yet there is no question that he affirms their important place in the turbulent politics of the 1790s. 

 

James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.