Many of America’s great newspapers have moved away from even the pretense of political neutrality. That tradition dates to 1835, when a Scottish immigrant named James Gordon Bennett founded the New York Herald. He had $500 in capital, an office in a dank cellar, and only himself as staff.

With a dozen other papers in the city, no one thought the Herald would amount to much. But by the time Bennett died in 1872, the Herald had the largest circulation in the world, its advertising revenue was second only to the Times of London,…



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