How was a newspaper in 1938 made?
I was reading a copy of a 1938 New York Times (about the Orson Welles War of the Worlds debacle) and noticed dozens and dozens of typos. I was wondering if the process was so labor-intensive that typos happen from sheer exhaustion, or maybe another reason?
1 Answer | Add Yours
Newspapers in the United States date back to the 18th century, when Benjamen Franklin's older brother, James, created what is usually known as the first proper newspaper. Instead of old and outdated news, James created a private club to write satire, letters, and opinion essays. The newspapers were laboriously printed off movable type, each letter moved by hand and locked, inked, rolled, and re-inked.
Much, much later, in the 1930s, William Randolph Hearst's newspaper syndicates were the most powerful in America. He used the power of the press to smear rivals and promote friends, and it is commonly assumed that his support of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 resulted in the Roosevelt Presidency.
In 1938, when Orson Welles hoaxed the world with his adaptation of "War of the Worlds," newspaper presses were massive machines that operated automatically. Most were probably rotary printing presses, which used metal reliefs, curved around drums, to print quickly against a continuous roll of paper. The reliefs were cast from paper-mâché molds, which were in turn made from the original typeset frame. The number of errors in the paper you describe probably had a number of origins; the speed of printing, which can make certain letters smudge and seem like others (compare 'h' and 'n'); the fact that the Orson Welles story was a huge seller and they wanted to get it off as fast as possible, so errors might have been ignored; the number of "allowed" errors before the frame would be re-set with type; the age of the paper; and of course, simple human error. The process was certainly labor-intensive, but the Hearst syndicates had a lot of employees; still, with a story that big they would all be working around the clock.
My personal guess is that they were in such a rush to get the paper out before their rivals that they allowed and missed a number of errors. Comparison of that paper with others from the same period might provide more information; if they have comparable numbers of errors, it might be more than I could find here.
We’ve answered 319,807 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question