All the labor problems fit to print: the New York Times and the cultural production of the U.S. ‘labor problem’, 1870-1930.
Mai, Quan Dang Hien
The period that spanned the Gilded Age to the onset of the Great Depression saw the rise and relative decline of the U.S labor movement. The salient events of labor movements over these years undoubtedly shaped public perception about labor issues, and some scholars have been attempting to unpack the mechanisms through which depictions and characterizations of the “labor problem” were produced in authoritative venues that could have shaped the future of the movement. This study goes beyond the standard practice of explaining news report volume to feature the political valance of the reports on the labor problem over a 61-year time period. The aforementioned period also saw significant changes in news reporting practices, with the rise of objective informational writing and of the embracement of journalism as a profession. The change within journalism itself could potentially shape the depiction of the labor problem, yet such change has been overlooked by existing literature pertaining to the topic. This research makes a theoretical case for integrating social processes central to the labor movement and journalism from 1870-1930 and explains patterns in the cultural production of the labor problem in the New York Times by analyzing these two tracks of history in conjunction.