Birth Of American Newspaper

868 words - 3 pages

The Birth of the American Newspaper

It has been said that the true newspaper must meet these qualifications: (1) it must be published at least once a week; (2) it must be produced by mechanical means (to distinguish it from handwritten "newes letters"); (3) it must be available to anyone willing to pay the price, regardless of class or special interest; (4) it must print anything of interest to a general public, as contrasted with some of the religious and business publications; (5) it must have an appeal to a public of ordinary literary skill; (6) it must be timely, or at least relatively so, in the light of technical development; and (7) it must have stability, as contrasted to the fly-by-night publications of more primitive times.
-Emery and Smith, 1954

Before the printing press or printing plates hand

written pamphlets were the means for communicating anything

over a distance of land or sea. Documentation, for those

who were literate, played major roles in politics long

before today’s modern Sunday Advertisers. In 1566, the

Venetian Magistracy ordered accounts of the war in Dalmatia

to be read and posted in public places. Persons interested

in this news paid a small coin, called a gazetta, for the

privilege of obtaining it. As far back as 69 BC, news sheets

known as Acta Diurna were posted in public places in Rome

(Emery and Smith, 1954)."

     It might be said that the newspaper was the most

significant contribution of the printing press. Johann

Gutenberg introduced movable type around 1440. Not until it

had been perfected was it possible to produce literature

and printed reports cheap enough to reach the masses. The

revolution was not as much in the medium as in the

audience. With publication of this type, there was some

incentive for gathering and processing information of

interest to the general public- news (Emery and Smith,

1954). News became a commodity, like food and merchandise,

produced for profit to meet a demand. Newspapers didn't

create news; news created newspapers (Emery and Smith,


     David Copeland claims that the American newspaper was

"quietly" born on September 25, 1690. On this day,

"Publick Occurrence Both Foreign and Domestic" was printed

in Boston by Benjamin Harris. The young nation's first

newspaper promised to provide "an account of such

considerable things as have arrived unto our Notion

(Copeland, 1997). Needless to say, the young paper did not

make a second edition due to the fact that the governor

found the pamphlet contained “reflections of a very high

nature” and ordered its suppression” (Lee, 1924).

     America's next chance at a newspaper was started by

John Campbell. The Boston News-Letter began on April...

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