The Power of The Press

When reading a novel, we have to become immersed in another world. A new world filled with not just the characters who are most important to the plot, but we have to believe the protagonist is operating in a world that goes beyond the one in which we are presented. What I like about fiction is that novels can create a parallel universe – a world with characters which we memories, and have knowledge of, we absorb all the details of the characters lives, and I think the books that take the most attention feel the most real, are the ones that stay with me. A detail which I think really adds to the reality of a novel is the media presence, I have an interest in journalism and always look out for the newspapers and journalists to see if they are viewed with as much suspicion in the story as they are in reality.

The power of the press is something that I take a huge interest in, especially in regards to politics, is it true that it was the Sun that ensured the Tory victory?

After all, they did run a very anti-Labour campaign…and the highest levels of readership for The Sun are in the swing constituencies. Although, weather the press and spin is good for politics is another post for another blog perhaps. Regardless, the power of the press I would consider is a key theme in The Warden by Anthony Trollope.

The fictional paper in The Warden is The Jupiter and is based upon The Times, as it is the only paper where the dates fit with the publication of the novel. The Jupiter supports John Bolds attack on Mr. Harding’s wages from Hairm’s Hospital, and is the moral crusader with damaging attacks on Mr. Harding penned by Tom Towers, editor and friend of Mr. Bold. The paper builds Mr. Harding up to be some amoral monster willfully stealing form the poor, but this is juxtaposed to the description we have of Mr. Harding as a kind and caring man. It is interesting to view the power of the press by examining Mr. Hardings’s actions – he wants to resign, and eventually does, but is it due to the articles in The Jupiter

We are informed that the warden or master of an old almshouse attached to Barchester Cathedral is in receipt of twenty-five times the annual income appointed for him by the will of the founder, […] In other words, he legatees under the founder’s will have received no advantage from the increase in the value of the property during the last four centuries, such increase having been absorbed by the so-called warden. It is impossible to conceive a case of greater injustice. […]. On what foundation, moral or divine, traditional or legal, is grounded the warden’s claim to the large income he receives for doing nothing? […]Does his conscience ever entertain the question of his right to such subsidies?” (Chapter 7, “The Jupiter”)

 What do you think would be going through Mr. Harding’s mind after reading the above article. “…some fifty lines of a narrow column have destroyed all his grace’s equanimity, and banished him forever from the world” (p137).

We are told that forty thousand copies of the Jupiter are sold daily, and each copy is read by at least five. Which would mean that two hundred thousand people would see this accusation; how can he possible show them that he is the upstanding moral character that he is?…by resigning? It puts me in mind of the Daily Telegraph and the MP expenses scandal. Quotes such as the above seem to indicate that he leaves simply due to public opinion, this certainly seems to be the views of the other characters of the novel. The Archdeacon knows the press he is a worldly man, he does not see the articles as a real threat “The Jupiter can break no bones” (p88).

I would however, suggest that The Jupiter is not as powerful as it thinks it is, Tom Towers, considers himself a god, “smiting” (p141) politicians if he wants to, dispensing thunderbolts from Mt. Olympus, in fact “Tom Towers considered himself the most powerful man in Europe….striving to look like a man, but knowing within his breast that he was a god” (p142). This seems to be the origin of politicians being so keen to set the press agenda, to keep a tight leash on the political correspondents, but in the 19th century, Tom Towers is certainly in control of the politicians, he can publish whatever he wants in the Jupiter and the public will trust the content, due to it’s strict impartiality, as Towers notes “private motives get in the way of public justice” (p153). Mr. Bold however sees through this and considers that Tom Towers would change his mind if it suited his paper, his truest motive is newspaper sales.

Mr. Harding does resign from is post as warden, but it is not due to fear of the press, but it is rather his conscience, it has been woken by the actions of Mr. Bold, and that is why he must resign, he cannot sleep knowing he is acting poorly, it is not due to his fear of acting illegally, as he has been told by the attorney-general that there is no dispute over the legality of the will and his income, nor is it the press – it is Mr. Harding’s strict moral code and the call of the peaceful life.






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