History of journalism
The history of journalism, or the development of the gathering and transmitting of news, spans the growth of technology and trade, marked by the advent of specialized techniques for gathering and disseminating information on a regular basis that has caused, as one history of journalism surmises, the steady increase of "the scope of news available to us and the speed with which it is transmitted. Before the printing press was invented, word of mouth was the primary source of news. Returning merchants, sailors and travelers brought news back to the mainland, and this was then picked up by pedlars and travelling players and spread from town to town. This transmission of news was highly unreliable, and died out with the invention of the printing press. Newspapers have always been the primary medium of journalists since 1700, with magazines added in the 18th century, radio and television in the 20th century, and the Internet in the 21st century.
- 1 Early Journalism
- 2 England
- 3 Germany
- 4 United States
- 5 India
- 6 Latin America
- 7 Radio and television
- 8 Internet journalism
- 9 Historiography
- 10 See also
- 11 Sources
- 12 Further reading
- 13 Further reading
- 14 References
- 15 Online sources
Before the advent of the newspaper, there were two major kinds of periodical news publications: the handwritten news sheet, and single item news publications. These existed simultaneously.
In 1556, the government of Venice first published the monthly Notizie scritte ("Written notices") which cost one gazetta, a Venetian coin of the time, the name of which eventually came to mean "newspaper". These avvisi were handwritten newsletters and used to convey political, military, and economic news quickly and efficiently throughout Europe, more specifically Italy, during the early modern era (1500-1800) — sharing some characteristics of newspapers though usually not considered true newspapers.
However, none of these publications fully met the modern criteria for proper newspapers, as they were typically not intended for the general public and restricted to a certain range of topics.
Early publications played into the development of what would today be recognized as the newspaper, which came about around 1601. Around the 15th and 16th centuries, in England and France, long news accounts called "relations" were published; in Spain they were called "relaciones".
Single event news publications were printed in the broadsheet format, which was often posted. These publications also appeared as pamphlets and small booklets (for longer narratives, often written in a letter format), often containing woodcut illustrations. Literacy rates were low in comparison to today, and these news publications were often read aloud (literacy and oral culture were, in a sense, existing side by side in this scenario).
By 1400, businessmen in Italian and German cities were compiling hand written chronicles of important news events, and circulating them to their business connections. The idea of using a printing press for this material first appeared in Germany around 1600. The first gazettes appeared in German cities, notably the weekly Relation aller Fuernemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien ("Collection of all distinguished and memorable news") in Strasbourg starting in 1605. The Avisa Relation oder Zeitung was published in Wolfenbüttel from 1609, and gazettes soon were established in Frankfurt (1615), Berlin (1617) and Hamburg (1618). By 1650, 30 German cities had active gazettes. A semi-yearly news chronicle, in Latin, the Mercurius Gallobelgicus, was published at Cologne between 1594 and 1635, but it was not the model for other publications.
The news circulated between newsletters through well-established channels in 17th century Europe. Antwerp was the hub of two networks, one linking France, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands; the other linking Italy Spain and Portugal. Favorite topics included wars, military affairs, diplomacy, and court business and gossip. 
After 1600 the national governments in France and England began printing official newsletters. In 1622 the first English-language weekly magazine, "A current of General News" was published and distributed in England in an 8- to 24-page quarto format.
The first newspaper in France, the Gazette de France, was established in 1632 by the king's physician Theophrastus Renaudot (1586-1653), with the patronage of Louis XIII. All newspapers were subject to prepublication censorship, and served as instruments of propaganda for the monarchy. Jean Loret is considered to be one of France's first journalists. He disseminated the weekly news of music, dance and Parisian society from 1650 until 1665 in verse, in what he called a gazette burlesque, assembled in three volumes of La Muse historique (1650, 1660, 1665).
By the 1500's, printing was firmly in the royal jurisdiction, and printing was restricted only to English subjects. The Crown imposed strict controls on the distribution of religious or political printed materials. In 1538, Henry VIII of England decreed that all printed matter had to be approved by the Privy Council before publication. By 1581, the publication of seditious material had become a capital offence.
Queen Mary used the trade itself to control it. She granted a Royal Charter to the Company of Stationers in 1557. The Company became a partner with the state under Queen Elizabeth. They advantaged greatly from this partnership as this restricted the number of presses, allowing them to keep their profitable business without much competition. This also worked in the favour of the Crown as the Company were less likely to publish material that would disturb their relationship because their privileges were directly derived from them.
Restrictions only became tighter in the printing industry as time went on. Edward VI prohibited 'spoken news or rumour' in his proclamations of 1547 to 1549. Royal permission had to be obtained before any news could be published, and all printed news was regarded as the royal prerogative.
The only form of printed news that was permitted to be circulated was the 'relation'. This was a narrative of a single event, domestic or foreign. These were printed and circulated for hundreds of years, often sold at the north door of St Paul's Cathedral. There were two categories of news being circulated here: items of 'Wonderful and Strange Newes' and government propaganda. The first category of news was often given eye catching titles to grab the reader with its sensational content.
The 17th century saw the rise of political pamphleteering fuelled by the politically contentious times -the Thirty Years' Warand the English Civil War followed by the Interregnum and Glorious Revolution polarized society along political and religious lines and each party sought to garner maximum public support by the distribution of pamphlets in the coffeehouses where people would gather. Because the Thirty Years War was fought between Protestants and Catholics, there was a huge thirst for news in largely Protestant England. There was an air of dissatisfaction, especially because their neighbours in mainland Europe had a regular weekly news service, knows as corantos. Holland originally began supplying a number of corantos to the English market in 1620. Although none survive today, the first coranto printed in England was likely printed by Thomas Archer of Pope's Head Alley in early 1621. Records advise that he was sent to prison later that year for printing a coranto without a license. During this period, there were about a thousand corantos imported into England. However, this method was unreliable, and often they were not sold on the same day every week. According to Ben Jonson, corantos cost roughly one groat, and was restricted therefore to the narrow class who could afford to buy weekly regular copies. Corantos had very low sales because people were more interested in political and religious tensions in England rather than in Europe, due to the increasing political awareness across the classes. Charles I of England had introduced illegal taxes and seemed to be slowly moving England towards a more Catholic country. This was causing tensions among the lower classes.
The Court of High Commission and the Star Chamber were abolished in 1641, and Copyright laws melted into thin air. Because of this, the press was free. Many people began to print their own newsbooks, free of any worry of prosecution, but only a few publications survived past the first few issues. Unlike the corantos, who only interested a small few people, Civil War Newsbooks contained information that affected everybody. They were available for a cheaper rate than the corantos, a penny or twopence a copy. Some titles sold as much as 1,500 copies. Pressures to get enough copies printed suggested that two printing presses were used. These tended to be highly biased, depending on whether Royalists or Parliamentarists wrote them.
A milestone was reached in 1694; the final lapse of the Licensing Order of 1643 that had been put in place by the Stuart kings put an end to heavy-handed censorship that had previously tried to suppress the flow of free speech and ideas across society, and allowed writers to criticize the government freely. From 1694 to the Stamp Act of 1712 the only censure laws forbade treason, seditious libel and the reporting of Parliamentary proceedings.
The 1640s and 1650s were a fast paced time in the history of British journalism. Because of the abolition of copyright laws, over 300 titles quickly came into existence. Many did not last, with only thirty three lasting a full year. This was also a time filled with war and fragmentation of opinion. The Royalists main title was Mercurius Aulicus, Mercurius Melancholicus ('The King shall enjoy his owne againe and the Royall throne shall be arraied with the glorious presence of that mortall Deity'), Mercurius Electicus ('Communicating the Unparallell'd Proceedings of the Revels at West-minster, The Head Quarters and other Places, Discovering their Designs, Reproving their Crimes, and Advising the Kingdome') and Mercurius Rusticus, among others. Most newsbooks in London supported the Parliament, and titles included Spie, The Parliament Scout and The Kingdomes Weekly Scout. These publication compelled the reader to take sides, depending on whose bias and propaganda they were reading.
There was also a series of semi-pornagraphic newsbooks produced by John Crouch: The Man in the Moon, Mercurius Democritus and Mercurius Fumigosus. These publications contained a mixture of news and dirty jokes disguised as news.
The Oxford Gazette was printed in 1665 by Muddiman in the middle of the turmoil of the Great Plague of London and was, strictly speaking, the first periodical to meet all the qualifications of a true newspaper. It was printed twice a week by royal authority and was soon renamed the London Gazette. Magazines were also moral tracts inveighing against moral decadence, notably the Mercurius Britannicus. The Gazette is generally considered by most historians to be the first English newspaper.
Prior to the Glorious Revolution journalism had been a risky line of work. One such victim was the reckless Benjamin Harris, who was convicted for defaming the King's authority. Unable to pay the large fine that was imposed on him he was put in prison. He eventually made his way to America where he founded one of the first newspapers there. After the Revolution, the new monarch William III, who had been installed by Parliament, was wary of public opinion and did not try to interfere with the burgeoning press. The growth in journalism and the increasing freedom the press enjoyed was a symptom of a more general phenomenon - the development of the party system of government. As the concept of a parliamentary opposition became an acceptable (rather than treasonable) norm, newspapers and editors began to adopt critical and partisan stances and they soon became an important force in the political and social affairs of the country.
The huge and absolute freedom of the press came to an end with the Restoration (England). King Charles introduced the Printing Act of 1662, which restricted printing to the University of Oxford and Trinity College, Cambridge and to the master printers of the Stationer's Company in London. It also required that only twenty were allowed to work in the master printers. This act provided the highly regulated and restricted environment that had previously been abolished.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Britain was an increasingly stable and prosperous country with an expanding empire, technological progress in industry and agriculture and burgeoning trade and commerce. A new upper middle class consisting of merchants, traders, entrepreneurs and bankers was rapidly emerging - educated, literate and increasingly willing to enter the political discussion and participate in the governance of the country. The result was a boom in journalism, in newspapers and magazines. Writers who had been dependent on a rich patron in the past were now able to become self-employed by hiring out their services to the newspapers. The values expressed in this new press were overwhelmingly consistent with the bourgeois middle class - an emphasis on the importance of property rights, religious toleration and intellectual freedom in contrast to the restrictions prevalent in France and other nations.
London's The Gentleman's Magazine, first published in 1731, was the first general-interest magazine. Edward Cave, who edited it under the pen name "Sylvanus Urban", was the first to use the term "magazine", on the analogy of a military storehouse. The oldest consumer magazine still in print is The Scots Magazine, which was first published in 1739, though multiple changes in ownership and gaps in publication totaling over 90 years weaken its claim. Lloyd's List was founded in Edward Lloyd’s England coffee shop in 1734; it is still published as a daily business newspaper.
Journalism in the first half of the 18th century produced many great writers such as Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Henry Fielding, and Samuel Johnson. Men such as these edited newspapers, or wrote essays for the popular press on topical issues. Their material was entertaining and informative and was met with an insatiable demand from ordinary citizens of the middle class, who were beginning to participate in the flow of ideas and news.
The newspaper was becoming so popular that publishers began to print daily issues. The first daily newspaper in the world was the Daily Courant, established by Samuel Buckley in 1702 on the streets of London. The newspaper strictly restricted itself to the publication of news and facts without opinion pieces, and was able to avoid political interference through raising revenue by selling advertising space in its columns.
Defoe in particular is regarded as a pioneer of modern journalism with his publication The Storm in 1704, which has been called the first substantial work of modern journalism, as well as the first account of a hurricane in Britain. It details the events of a terrible week-long storm that hit London starting Nov 24, 1703, known as the Great Storm of 1703, described by Defoe as "The Greatest, the Longest in Duration, the widest in Extent, of all the Tempests and Storms that History gives any Account of since the Beginning of Time."
Defoe used eyewitness accounts by placing newspaper ads asking readers to submit personal accounts, of which about 60 were selected and edited by Defoe for the book. This was an innovative method for the time before journalism that relied on first-hand reports was commonplace.
Richard Steele, influenced by Defoe, set up The Tatler in 1709 as a publication of the news and gossip heard in London coffeehouses, hence the title. It presented Whiggish views and created guidelines for middle-class manners, while instructing "these Gentlemen, for the most part being Persons of strong Zeal, and weak Intellects...what to think."
Jonathan Swift wrote his greatest satires for The Examiner, often in allegorical form, lampooning the controversies between the Tories and Whigs. The so-called "Cato Letters," written by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon under the pseudonym, "Cato", were published in the London Journal in the 1720s and discussed the theories of the Commonwealth men such as ideas about liberty, representative government, and freedom of expression. These letters had a great impact in colonial America and the nascent republican movement all the way up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The increasing popularity and influence of newspapers was unappealing to the government of the day. The first bill in parliament advocating a tax on newspapers was proposed in 1711. The duty eventually imposed in 1712 was a halfpenny on papers of half a sheet or less and a penny on newspapers that ranged from half a sheet to a single sheet in size. Jonathan Swift expressed in his Journal to Stella in August 7, 1712, doubt in the ability of The Spectator to hold out against the tax. This doubt was proved justified in December 1712 by its discontinuance. However, some of the existing journals continued production and their numbers soon increased. Part of this increase was attributed to corruption and political connections of its owners. Later, toward the middle of the same century, the provisions and the penalties of the Stamp Act were made more stringent, yet the number of newspapers continued to rise. In 1753 the total number of copies of newspapers sold yearly in Britain amounted to 7,411,757. In 1760 it had risen to 9,464,790 and in 1767 to 11,300,980. In 1776 the number of newspapers published in London alone had increased to 53.
An important figure in the fight for increased freedom of the press was John Wilkes. When the Scottish John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, came to head the government in 1762, Wilkes started a radical weekly publication, The North Briton, to attack him, using an anti-Scots tone. He was charged with seditious libel over attacks on George III's speech endorsing the Paris Peace Treaty of 1763 at the opening of Parliament on 23 April 1763. Forty-nine people, including Wilkes, were arrested under the warrants. Wilkes, however, gained considerable popular support as he asserted the unconstitutionality of general warrants. At his court hearing the Lord Chief Justice ruled that as an MP, Wilkes was protected by privilege from arrest on a charge of libel. He was soon restored to his seat and he sued his arresters for trespass.
As a result of this episode, his popular support surged, with people chanting, "Wilkes, Liberty and Number 45", referring to the newspaper. However, he was soon found guilty of libel again and he was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment and a fine of £1,000. Although he was subsequently elected 3 times in a row for Middlesex, the decision was overturned by Parliament. When he was finally released from prison in 1770 he campaigned for increased freedom of the press; specifically he defended the right of publishers to print reports of Parliamentary debates. Due to large and growing support, the government was forced to back down and abandoned its attempts at censorship.
By the early 19th century, there were 52 London papers and over 100 other titles. In 1802 and 1815 the tax on newspapers was increased to three pence and then four pence. Unable or unwilling to pay this fee, between 1831 and 1835 hundreds of untaxed newspapers made their appearance. The political tone of most of them was fiercely revolutionary. Their publishers were prosecuted but this failed to get rid of them. It was chiefly Milner Gibson and Richard Cobden who advocated the case in parliament to first reduce in 1836 and in 1855 totally repeal of the tax on newspapers. After the reduction of the stamp tax in 1836 from four pence to one penny, the circulation of English newspapers rose from 39,000,000 to 122,000,000 by 1854; a trend further exacerbated by technological improvements in transportation and communication combined with growing literacy.
The Daily Universal Register published from 1785 and become known as The Times from 1788. In 1817 Thomas Barnes became general editor; he was a political radical, a sharp critic of parliamentary hypocrisy and a champion of freedom of the press. Under Barnes and his successor in 1841, John Thadeus Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and in the financial district (the City of London). It spoke for reform.
Due to Barnes's influential support for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, his colleague Lord Lyndhurst described him as "the most powerful man in the country". Journalists of note included Peter Fraser and Edward Sterling, who gained for The Times the pompous/satirical nickname 'The Thunderer' (from "We thundered out the other day an article on social and political reform.") The paper became the first in the world to reach mass circulation due to its early adoption of the steam-driven rotary printing press. It was also the first properly national newspaper, using the new steam trains to deliver copies to the rapidly growing concentrations of urban populations across the UK. This helped ensure the profitability of the paper and its growing influence.
The Times originated the practice for newspapers to send war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W. H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the army in the Crimean War of 1853-1856, wrote immensely influential dispatches; for the first time the public could read about the reality of warfare. In particular, on September 20, 1854, Russell wrote a missive about one battle that highlighted the surgeons' "humane barbarity" and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops. Shocked and outraged, the public reacted in a backlash that led to major reforms.
The Times became famous for its influential leaders (editorials). For example, Robert Lowe wrote them between 1851 and 1868 on a wide range of economic topics such as free trade (which he favored).
The Manchester Guardian was founded in Manchester in 1821 by a group of non-conformist businessmen. Its most famous editor, Charles Prestwich Scott, made the Guardian into a world-famous newspaper in the 1890s. The Daily Telegraph was first published on June 29, 1855 and was owned by Arthur Sleigh, who transferred it to Joseph Levy the following year. Levy produced it as the first penny newspaper in London. His son, Edward Lawson soon became editor, a post he held until 1885. The Daily Telegraph became the organ of the middle class and could claim the largest circulation in the world in 1890. It held a consistent Liberal Party allegiance until opposing Gladstone's foreign policy in 1878 when it turned Unionist.
The New Journalism reached out not to the elite but to a popular audience. Especially influential was William Thomas Stead, a controversial journalist and editor who pioneered the art of investigative journalism. Stead's 'new journalism' paved the way for the modern tabloid. He was influential in demonstrating how the press could be used to influence public opinion and government policy, and advocated "government by journalism". He was also well known for his reportage on child welfare, social legislation and reformation of England's criminal codes.
Stead became assistant editor of the Liberal Pall Mall Gazette in 1880 where he set about revolutionizing a traditionally conservative newspaper "written by gentlemen for gentlemen." Over the next seven years Stead would develop what Matthew Arnold dubbed 'The New Journalism'. His innovations as editor of the Gazette included incorporating maps and diagrams into a newspaper for the first time, breaking up longer articles with eye-catching subheadings and blending his own opinions with those of the people he interviewed. He made a feature of the Pall Mall extras, and his enterprise and originality exercised a potent influence on contemporary journalism and politics. Stead's first sensational campaign was based on a Nonconformist pamphlet, "The Bitter Cry of Outcast London." His lurid stories of squalid life spurred the government into clearing the slums and building low-cost housing in their place. He also introduced the interview, creating a new dimension in British journalism when he interviewed General Gordon in 1884. His use of sensationalist headlines is exemplified with the death of Gordon in Khartoum in 1885, when he ran the first 24-point headline in newspaper history, "TOO LATE!", bemoaning the relief force's failure to rescue a national hero. He is also credited as originating the modern journalistic technique of creating a news event rather than just reporting it, with his most famous 'investigation', the Eliza Armstrong case.
Matthew Arnold, the leading critic of the day, declared in 1887 that the New Journalism, "is full of ability, novelty, variety, sensation, sympathy, generous instincts." However, he added, its "one great fault is that it is feather-brained."
A pioneer of popular journalism for the masses had been the Chartist Northern Star, first published on 26 May 1838. The same time saw the first cheap newspaper in the Daily Telegraph and Courier (1855), later to be known simply as the Daily Telegraph. The Illustrated London News, founded in 1842, was the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper.
From 1860 until around 1910 is considered a 'golden age' of newspaper publication, with technical advances in printing and communication combined with a professionalisation of journalism and the prominence of new owners.
The turn of the century saw the rise of tabloid journalism aimed at the working class and tending to emphasize sensational topics. Alfred Harmsworth or Lord Northcliffe, was an early pioneer of this style. In 1896 he began publishing the Daily Mail in London, which was a hit, holding the world record for daily circulation until Harmsworth's death; taglines of The Daily Mail included "the busy man's daily journal" and "the penny newspaper for one halfpenny". Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, said it was "written by office boys for office boys". He used his newspapers newly found influence, in 1899, to successfully make a charitable appeal for the dependents of soldiers fighting in the South African War by inviting Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Sullivan to write The Absent-Minded Beggar.
During the First World War (1914-1918), Germany published several newspapers and magazines for the enemy areas it occupied. The 'Gazette des Ardennes,' was designed for French readers in Belgium and France, Francophone prisoners of war, and generally as a propaganda vehicle in neutral and even enemy countries. Editor Fritz H. Schnitzer had a relatively free hand, and he tried to enhance his credibility by factual information. He realized until the closing days of the war that it was necessary to produce an increasingly optimistic report to hide the weakening position of the Central Powers in the summer and fall of 1918.
The first newspaper in India was circulated in 1780 under the editorship of James Augustus Hickey. Named The Bengal Gazette , it mainly printed the latest gossip on the British expatriate population in India. On May 30, 1826 Udant Martand (The Rising Sun), the first Hindi-language newspaper published in India, started from Calcutta (now Kolkata), published every Tuesday by Pt. Jugal Kishore Shukla. Maulawi Muhammad Baqir in 1836 founded the first Urdu-language newspaper the Delhi Urdu Akhbar. India's press in the 1840s was a motley collection of small-circulation daily or weekly sheets printed on rickety presses. Few extended beyond their small communities and seldom tried to unite the many castes, tribes, and regional subcultures of India. The Anglo-Indian papers promoted purely British interests. Englishman Robert Knight (1825-1890) founded two important English-language newspapers that reached a broad Indian audience, The Times of India and the Statesman. They promoted nationalism in India, as Knight introduced the people to the power of the press and made them familiar with political issues and the political process.
British influence extended globally through its colonies and its informal business relationships with merchants in major cities. They needed up-to-date market and political information. El Mercurio was founded in Valparaiso, Chile, in 1827. The most influential newspaper in Peru, El Comercio, first appeared in 1839. The Jornal do Commercio was established in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1827. Much later Argentina founded its newspapers in Buenos Aires: La Prensa in 1869 and La Nacion in 1870.
Radio and television
The history of radio broadcasting begins in the 1920s, and reached its apogee in the 1930s and 1940s. Experimental television was being studied before the 2nd world war, became operational in the late 1940s, and became widespread in the 1950s and 1960s, largely but not entirely displacing radio.
The rapidly growing impact of the Internet, especially after 2000, brought "free" news and classified advertising to audiences that no longer cared for paid subscriptions. The Internet undercut the business model of many daily newspapers. Bankruptcy loomed across the U.S. and did hit such major papers as the Rocky Mountain news (Denver), the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among many others. Chapman and Nuttall find that proposed solutions, such as multiplatforms, paywalls, PR-dominated news gathering, and shrinking staffs have not resolved the challenge. The result, they argue, is that journalism today is characterized by four themes: personalization, globalization, localization, and pauperization.
Journalism historian David Nord has argued that in the 1960s and 1970s:
- "In journalism history and media history, a new generation of scholars . . . criticised traditional histories of the media for being too insular, too decontextualised, too uncritical, too captive to the needs of professional training, and too enamoured of the biographies of men and media organizations."
In 1974, James W. Carey identified the ‘Problem of Journalism History’. The field was dominated by a Whig interpretation of journalism history.
- "This views journalism history as the slow, steady expansion of freedom and knowledge from the political press to the commercial press, the setbacks into sensationalism and yellow journalism, the forward thrust into muck raking and social responsibility....the entire story is framed by those large impersonal forces buffeting the press: industrialisation, urbanisation and mass democracy.
O'Malley says the criticism went too far, because there was much of value in the deep scholarship of the earlier period.
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Britain & British Empire
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