The Press: The Social News

An American . . . is afraid of ranking himself too high; still more is he afraid of being ranked too low.

—Alexis de Tocqueville (1840) Since James Gordon Bennett launched the first society page in his New York Herald in 1840, the job of ranking Americans in "society" has fallen increasingly to the society pages. Many a U.S. daily gives more space to society news than to foreign dispatches; few parts of newspapers are read with more scrupulous devotion by woman readers. Once, metropolitan society newshens concentrated on the doings of the very few—a group rigidly defined by such social dictators...

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