History of journalism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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. 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.

Contents

Early Journalism

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.Template:Citation needed

In the following decades, the national governments in Paris and London 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 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).

England

17th Century

The 17th century saw the rise of political pamphleteering fuelled by the politically contentious times - the English Civil War followed by the Interregnum and Glorious Revolution polarized society along political lines and each party sought to garner maximum public support by the distribution of pamphlets in the coffeehouses where people would gather. 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.

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.

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.

18th Century

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Britain was an increasingly stable and properous country with an expanding empire, technological progress in industry and agriculture and burgeoning trade and commerce. A new 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 periodicals, 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 liberty from Continental absolutism.

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, andwas 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.

19th Century

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 the 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 Times

The Daily Universal Register began life in 1785 and was later to become known as The Times from 1788. In 1817, Thomas Barnes was appointed 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 amongst the City of London. It spoke for reform.

Due to his influential support for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, Barnes was described by his colleague Lord Lyndhurst as "the most powerful man in the country." Peter Fraser and Edward Sterling were two noted journalists, and 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 was 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, as it was distributed via the new steam trains to rapidly growing concentrations of urban populations across the country. This helped ensure the profitability of the paper and its growing influence.

The Times was the first newspaper to send war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W. H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the army in the Crimean War, 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's backlash 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).

Manchester Guardian

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.

New Journalism

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. 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.

20th Century

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.

Socialist and labour newspapers also proliferated and in 1912 the Daily Herald was launched as the first daily newspaper of the trade union and labour movement.

See also




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