History of Journalism

Journalism spans history, going back all the way to the 1400s. It really took off in the 1600s, however, when the printing press was created in Germany. Soon after, newspapers and gazettes began to flood the streets, beginning to keep the public educated on the events happening around them. Political pamphlets were distributed, leading to the first periodical to be published in 1655. This was called the Oxford Gazette and it inhabited all of the qualifications needed in a newspaper.

In the late 1600s, people began to question the lines of press freedom. The only laws that actually were in place before the Stamp Act of 1712 were those that prevented treason, reporting Parliamentary actions, and rebellious slander. Journalists were cautious of publishing any material that spoke against the government until later acts that protected freedom of the press were put into place. Once journalism began to grow and become a more respected profession, it began to play a significant part in the political and public dealings of many countries.

The world of journalism began to significantly increase in the 18th century with the boost of literacy and political interest. The first piece of what is considered modern journalism was published in 1703 by Daniel Dafoe, highlighting the Great Storm of 1703 in Britain. Just six years later, a news and gossip publication called The Tattler was created. The government began to frown upon such an increase in production of newspapers and magazines that they began to try placing taxes on them via parliament votes. After many attempts at censorship, the government eventually backed down after many rebels began to step up in the name of press freedom. Once taxes began to raise on newspapers in London, numbers of untaxed papers showed up, with a very revolutionary political tone to them. Even after having the publishers prosecuted, they refused to go away, causing an eventual repeal.

The 1700s were beneficial for American journalism as well. The first successful periodical was The Boston News-Letter in 1704. Ben Franklin ran the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1728, publishing newspapers for the six biggest colonies. By 1800s, there were nearly 234 newspapers being published in the new United States of America. Both the Federalist and Republican parties went back and forth, attacking each other on the pages. As the cities began growing, journalism began to spread to smaller towns and cities, in hopes to communicate and campaign for the political parties.

During the American Civil War, war correspondents began working for newspapers. Since telegraphs were so expensive to send, writing had to be developed into shorter forms. This eventually led to the establishment of wire services, with the Associated Press becoming one of the first. New and untraditional forms of journalism began to grow as well, redefining what people thought they knew of journalism. The first African American newspaper was established in 1827 and foreign language newspapers soon followed.

In the 21st century, the growth of the Internet had a significant impact on the journalism world. The Internet brought free news and major newspapers saw troubling financial times. Large publications decided to end print editions and go to solely online papers for small subscription fees. Other companies decided to try hybrid publishing, where they would print some hard copy editions and the rest would be available on the Internet. With a whole new world being available on the World Wide Web, publications had a lot to decide in a short time if they wanted to save their companies.

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