Professional Networks and Managerial Culture in the British and Irish Press, 1836-1899

James O’Donnell
National Universtiy of Ireland, Galway

This paper will address the ‘political economy of the press’, ‘newspapers within a social history of communication’ and the ‘commodification and professionalisation of journalism’ strands of the conference.

The Provincial Newspaper Society (PNS), established in 1836, and the Press Association (PA), established in 1869, were key organisations in the corporate and commercial development of the press in Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth century. Both are frequently identified as British institutions, which overlooks the central role played the Irish media in their histories. This paper will contribute to these histories and argue that they can be more fully understood as British and Irish institutions.

Both organisations had clear commercial missions. The PNS was a trade a lobbying body that worked, for example, to secure the repeal of stamp duty and ‘taxes on knowledge’. The PA was a news agency tasked with the gathering and dissemination of national and international news to the provincial press of Britain and Ireland, with close ties to Reuters, the ‘Empire’s News Agency’, from its beginnings. Both the PNS and PA also provided forums for the development of common commercial, professional and organisational values among the owners and senior executives of the British and Irish press. Indeed the PA was, in certain ways, a product of these values fostered within the PNS.

This paper will focus on the role of Irish newspapers in the foundation, organisation and development of the PNS and PA in order to more fully integrate the histories of the British and Irish media in the nineteenth century. Through the examination of meetings, investments, commercial and lobbying initiatives it will reveal that, at a commercial and managerial level, there is a common and shared history of British and Irish newspapers. In the case of the Irish newspapers this displays little, if any, evidence of divisions reflecting politico-religious affiliations, which are evident in their published output and normally so central to their historical investigation and understanding.

Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900