History of Journalism August 29,2007

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History of Journalism

  • August 29,2007

America’s First Newspapers

  • One sheet

  • Letters, essays—very little news

  • First American newspaper:

    • Publick Occurrences
    • 1690
    • Stopped after only one issue because British colonial authorities didn’t like what was printed

America’s First Newspapers

  • The Boston News-Letter was the first continuously published newspaper in the colonies.

  • It was supervised very closely by the British government.

The Boston News-Letter

Freedom of the Press

  • In the colonies, any paper that criticized the government was guilty of sedition (the stirring of rebellion).

  • Famous case: 1735

    • John Peter Zenger, publisher of the New York Weekly Journal was arrested for printing articles critical of the governor.
    • The colonial jurors found him not guilty of sedition—a major turning point in the fight for freedom

Birth of a Nation

  • By 1775 (when the Revolution began), 37 newspapers were being published in the colonies.

  • Most newspapers backed the Patriots and were in favor of the Revolution. The newspapers were partisan at that time.

    • Tory newspapers: supported the British
    • Whig newspapers: supported the Revolution
  • Some historians say there would not have been a Revolution without the support of the press.

First Amendment

  • The Constitution makes no mention of the Freedom of the Press

  • But the freedom of the press is addressed in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights:

    • “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Penny Press

  • Forerunner of today’s newspapers

  • “Penny press” newspapers (such as the New York Sun and The New York Tribune) were sold for a penny and included real news—the police beat, natural disasters, etc.—and fewer opinions

  • The “penny press” achieved a huge audience, made up mostly of the working class

  • Advertising played a major role

  • Not unusual for a city to have eight or nine competing newspapers

The Telegraph

  • In 1861, reporters at Civil War battle sites began using the telegraph to transmit their news stories

  • This led to more concise writing

  • The telegraph led to the formation of the first news-gathering service (a forerunner of the Associated Press). Newspapers subscribed to this service.

Early telegraph

Yellow Journalism

  • Late 1800s

  • Unethical, irresponsible journalism that involved hoaxes, altered photographs, screaming headlines (like today’s tabloids)

  • Sensationalism

  • Geared at selling papers

  • Most notable yellow journalists:

    • William Randolph Hearst—New York Journal
    • Joseph Pulitzer—New York World

Yellow Journalism

Nellie Bly

  • One of the most famous female journalists (wrote during the late 1800s)

  • Noted for her “stunts”—stories in which she was the one making the news

  • Famous story:

    • She pretended she was mentally ill and was committed to New York’s Blackwell Island Asylum
    • Later wrote a story exposing the asylum’s poor conditions, and the story sparked reforms around the country

Nellie Bly, investigative journalist

Investigative Journalism

  • After the era of yellow journalism, newspapers became crusaders for social causes

  • Investigative reporters were called “muckrakers” by their critics

  • Government made several reforms—including a reform of the meat-packing insdustry—as a result of the investigative pieces published in newspapers and magazines

Minority Media

  • The Chicago Defender, founded in 1905

    • influential African-American newspaper
    • Founder, Robert S. Abbott, was the son of slaves
  • African-American magazines continue to prosper today

  • Hispanic, Native American, and Asian-American newspapers also are published

  • Major newspapers and news networks are making a strong effort to attract minority reporters


  • Radio:

    • First news broadcast in 1916
    • NBC formed in 1926 and CBS in 1927
  • Television:

    • First television newscast in 1940
    • Because of TV news, most newspapers don’t put as much emphasis on “breaking news”
    • They now try to provide the background on current events that readers didn’t get from the television
  • Internet:

    • An option for obtaining news and information with the click of a mouse

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