New Journalism (The Magazine/Periodical)

Late Nineteenth Century

In the late nineteenth century, automated printing processes that sped up the production and output of periodicals allowed for greater circulation of content that could reach a wider audience. The magazine, and specifically New Journalism practices, began to change the media landscape by promoting an open text that encouraged audience participation, serving as a precursor for what many fansites would later become in a digital world. On October 22, 1881, George Newness founded the publication “Tit-Bits from all the interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers of the World.” With this periodical, he introduced practices that became known as “New Journalism” that incorporated “contests and prizes, inquiry columns, correspondence, and internal advertising” (McClellan, 2017) which created a participatory fan culture that served as precedent for much of twentieth and twenty-first century media culture.

When Newnes created his periodical, he sought out to reach a wider audience that had previously been underserved by journalistic practices in the past. He “perceived a gender gap in the market between sentimental women’s magazines . . . and the ‘racier’ sporting papers aimed at men,” with those that found a middle ground at too high of a price margin for the working-class reader to afford, and as a result he aimed his magazine to appeal in both price and content to a self-taught middle class (McClellan, 2017). This new audience was the result of the 1870 Education act which expanded both the number of schools and scope of the curriculum, leading to an increase in literacy rates among the working class. To reach this new audience, he changed the format and content of his magazine to lessen the amount of political news and increase the amount of human interest stories, breaking up section of text with images to allow for a more engaging read.

During this time, periodicals were shifting from small-circulation, individualized publications by an “editor-proprietor” to ones that were gaining a mass reading audience. In response to this, Newnes perceived of a new form of audience that was not the solitary, upper-class male audience that had been catered to previously but rather that of a popular audience whose interests were diverse and varied. The key aspect to creating this form of audience was the concept of the New Journalism magazine as an “open text” which became one of the most important interpretive practices for fan communities engaging with source texts.

Ann K. McClellan. “Tit-Bits, New Journalism, and early Sherlock Holmes fandom.” Transformative Works and Cultures. Volume 23. 2017. https://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/816/769

George Newnes, Ltd. "The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia."

Kate Jackson. "The Tit-Bits Phenomenon: George Newnes, New Journalism and the Periodical Texts." Victorian Periodicals Review. Vol. 30, No. 3 (Fall, 1997). Johns Hopkins University Press.

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