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James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872) was a Scottish-born newspaper publisher and editor whose work in the New York penny press established the foundation for modern journalism. In May 1835, he launched a new penny paper of four four-column pages called the New York Herald. Though he began with only $500 in capital and based the operation out of a cellar on Wall Street, Bennett's paper quickly rivaled Benjamin Day's Sun and was selling 15,000 copies a day within a year.

Bennett was a tireless self-promoter who employed a number of notorious tactics in order to sell issues. The Herald fixated on the most lurid and scandalous tales of murder and sex that the city had to offer; its coverage of the Helen Jewett murder case in 1836 set the standard for journalistic sensationalism. Bennett became the first editor in the history of American journalism to tour the scene of the crime when he reported on Jewett's dead body, one of many descriptions that took on a quasi-erotic undertone. Bennett also headed a citizens' Committee of Safety after the public demanded action from the police to solve the murder of Mary Rogers, while profiting from reporting on these violent crimes. He broke with contemporary tradition and criticized both political parties in his editorials, rather than siding consistently with one or the other. Given the newspaper's location in Manhattan, it seemed only natural that Bennett would include news on the financial market, which was in itself an innovation. He also employed the first-ever European correspondents.

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