James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald was one of the penny newspapers that devoted a large amount of space regularly to business and economics news. Started in 1835 on Wall Street, the Herald developed the best financial section of any of the mainstream newspapers. Bennett was a former economics teacher, and he often wrote what he called the “money page,” note Emery and Emery. The May 11, 1835 topic was stock speculating and the “secret conspiracy of our large capitalists.” Bennett often used the page to explain why stock prices rose and fell. Also on his financial reporting staff was Thomas Prentice Kettell, who began writing a financial column for the Herald in 1835 and is considered the first financial editor of any daily newspaper in the country. Kettell later founded United States Economist in 1852.
As Bennett explained his view of business journalism, “The spirit, pith and philosophy of commercial affairs is what men of business want. Dull records of facts, without condensation, analysis, or deduction, are utterly useless. The philosophy of commerce is what we aim at, combined with accuracy, brevity, and spirit.”
What is striking about Bennett’s attitude toward business news is that it was one of the first times a newspaper had developed a “beat” for its coverage. Newspapers in the early 19 th century did not process news stories the way they do today by having reporters responsible for specific coverage areas. In that respect, Bennett’s coverage of business and economics stories was a precursor to developing a business beat at other newspapers. In comparison, other newspapers of that time period provided scant analysis of the business community. Bleyer notes that Bennett’s coverage “of financial affairs in Wall Street were the first attempt to cover adequately that important department of local news” and that the reporting in the Herald “came to be recognized as a distinctive contribution to daily journalism.”