History of Print Journalism in America
Identify the following: • The first continuously published newspaper • The first newspaper affordable to the masses • The case that set a precedent for freedom of the press • The first nationally published daily newspaper
History of Print Journalism Newspapers have not always been the sophisticated, full-color extravaganzas we know today. American journalism had its humble beginnings in the Colonial period with the publication of Benjamin Harris’Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, which was shut down after its one and only issue on Sept. 26, 1690. (See note)
This newspaper was printed on three sheets of stationery-size paper and the fourth page was left blank so that readers could add their own news before passing it on to someone else.
Unfortunately, the essays which this paper contained did not please the authorities, and Harris had not bought the required license, so the paper was shut down after just one issue.
The first continuously published American newspaper did not come along for 14 more years. The Boston News-Letter premiered on April 24, 1704. The publisher was John Campbell. The paper originally appeared on a single page, printed on both sides and issued weekly.
One of the most sensational stories published when the News-Letter was the only newspaper in the colonies was the account of how Blackbeard the pirate was killed in hand-to-hand combat on the deck of a sloop that had engaged his ship in battle.
Perhaps the most famous name in early American journalism is that of Peter Zenger. Publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, Zenger was accused and tried for libel against the colonial British government in 1735. In this picture, Zenger is arrested and his printing press is burned by Colonial authorities.
Zenger was found innocent and it was that one verdict that paved the way for a free and independent press in America. For the first time it was considered proper for the press to question and criticize the government. This is a pillar of a free press in the United States and any country that is free. Journalists have to be able to question the actions of the government in order to make them accountable.
All that is needed for newspapers to become a mass medium is a good idea. Along comes Benjamin Day in 1833. Day opened the New York Sun and created the Penny Press, charging only one cent per issue, making newspapers affordable, for the first time, for the masses.
He also changed the content of newspapers to make it more sensational and more popular to the lower class. He hired boys to sell the newspapers on street corners. It was the Penny Press that also began using advertising as a way to bring readers information, but advertising also helped by paying for the printing and distribution of newspapers.
The Civil War era brought some “new” technology to the publishing industry. Photography became a popular addition to newspapers. Matthew Brady set up a camera on the battlefields and photographed the soldiers at war. One of his photographs appears above.
An invention that helped speed news along was the telegraph. Reporters were able to send encoded news back to their papers as it was happening.
Abraham Lincoln became the first president to direct armies in the field directly from the White House. Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation curator of American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library, holds a book of telegraph ledgers. The telegraph ledger contains the text of a message sent by Abraham Lincoln. (Walt Mancini / Staff Photographer)
Because the telegraph wires kept going down on a regular basis, sometimes the story that a reporter was trying to send got cut off before it was finished.
To alleviate this situation, reporters developed the “inverted pyramid” form of writing, putting the most important facts at the beginning of the story. The Pony Express bridged the gap between the East and West sections during construction. The Overland Pony Express Harper's Weekly, November 2, 1867 Photographed by Savage, Salt Lake CityFrom a Painting by George M. Ottinger.
This way, the most important part of the story would most likely reach the newspaper, and if anything got cut off, it would be the lesser important details of what happened.
In the mid-1890s, Pulitzer (in the New York World) and Hearst (in the San Francisco Examiner and later the New York Morning Journal) transformed newspapers with sensational and scandalous news coverage, the use of drawings and the inclusion of more features such as comic strips.
After Pulitzer began publishing color comic sections that included a strip entitled "The Yellow Kid" (left) in early 1896, this type of paper was labeled "yellow journalism."
The Yellow Kid was the name of a lead comic strip character that ran from 1895 to 1898 in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, and later William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. • Created and drawn by Richard F. Outcault in the comic strip Hogan's Alley (and later under other names as well), it was one of the first Sunday supplement comic strips in an American newspaper, although its graphical layout had already been thoroughly established in political and other, purely-for-entertainment cartoons. • The Yellow Kid is also famous for its connection to the coining of the term, Yellow Journalism.
One of the most popular reporters of the Yellow Journalism era was a woman named Elizabeth Cochrane who wrote under the name “Nellie Bly.” She wrote with anger and compassion. She wrote to expose the many wrongs that developed in nineteenth century cities after the industrial boom. Most of her reporting was on women.
Nellie Bly At the time women who worked at newspapers almost always wrote articles on gardening, fashion or society. Nellie Bly eschewed these topics for hard pressing stories on the poor and oppressed. Drawing from her mother's experience, she wrote on the inherent disadvantages women had in divorce proceedings. She also wrote numerous articles on the lives of poor women who worked in Pittsburgh's bottle factories. Nellie's articles fascinated readers, but drew criticism from the business community. When companies threatened to pull advertising from the Dispatch because of her articles, Nellie was assigned to a gardening story. When she turned in the article, she included her resignation.
The high point in her life, however was the round-the-world trip, which she made in 72 days, 6 hours,11 minutes and 14 seconds. • Joseph Pulitzer sent a special train to meet her return to San Francisco, and she was greeted by fireworks, gun salutes, brass bands and parade on Broadway.
In 1895 Nellie Bly (30) married a millionaire, Robert Seaman, 40 years older than herself, and retired. She lost most of his money after he died and in 1919 tried unsuccessfully to make a comeback. She died in 1920.
The American public purchased more newspapers because of the sensational writing, and this strongly encouraged Hearst and Pulitzer’s newspapers to write more sensationalized stories.
This cartoon made fun of the way Hearst and Pulitzer were each claiming to “own” the story about the Spanish-American War.
As the U.S. population in the latter half of the 20th century has shifted from cities to suburbs, and with the growth in competition from other media, many large city newspapers have had to cease publication, merge with their competitors, or be taken over by a chain of newspaper publishers such as the Gannett Company or Knight-Ridder Inc.
When USA TODAY launched in 1982, a computerized word processing system designed by Atex, Inc., of Bedford, Mass. was the heart of the USA TODAY production system. The editorial staff wrote and edited stories on video display terminals (VDTs). The stories would then go to phototypesetters to be set in photographic form (positive type on a paper film), which in turn was then pasted up into the various USA TODAY pages. The ATEX system was phased out in summer 1999.
The Technology Behind USA TODAY Without the technologies of communications satellites and high-resolution facsimile transmission, USA TODAY could not exist. The USA TODAY newspaper you picked up on the newsstand this morning traveled more than 44,600 miles through space at the speed of light before it arrived at the printing plant last night. USA TODAY is completely edited and composed in McLean, Virginia. It is then transmitted, via satellite, five days a week, to the thirty-six printing plants serving major market clusters across the USA, and to four printing plants serving Europe and Asia. The satellite signal that carries the domestic edition of USA TODAY is sent in one-eighth of a second to two GE Americom satellites, the GE4 and GE2, parked in stationary orbit 22,300 miles above the earth over the United States. Instantaneously, the signal is beamed back earthward, and another eighth of a second later is received simultaneously at the printing sites.
Four of the world’s largest news agencies have added their voices to the mounting tsunami of opposition against the proposed media appeals tribunal and Protection of Information Bill. Agence France Presse, The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters have written to President Jacob Zuma, expressing their concerns. By SIPHO HLONGWANE. Since the invention of the telegraph, which enormously facilitated the rapid gathering of news, the great news agencies, such as Reuters in England, Agence France-Presse in France, and Associated Press and United Press International in the United States, have sold their services to newspapers and to their associate members.
By the 1990s this technology had also affected the nature of newspapers, as the first independent on-line daily appeared on the Internet. By the decade's end some 700 papers had web sites, some of which carried news gathered by their own staffs, and papers regularly scooped themselves by publishing electronically before the print edition appeared.
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