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The History and Evolution of The Newspapers in America

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Student-Led Lecture: The History and Future of Newspaper

Ever since before the separation of Britain and the American Colonies, newspapers have been a regular feature in Britain; the American Colonies followed suit. Today, although newspapers are not used as the main source of communication as they have been generations before, citizens of the United States and around the world see them as a great way to keep in touch with what is going on locally and abroad. Back in the late 1600s citizens saw them as a great way to stay informed and reliable in terms of its credibility because Britain’s libel laws were just. Ever since the first recurring newspaper was established in America, it has been a very popular media source in the US.

In a court case in 1735, a man named John Peter Zenger was acquitted of seditious libel for publishing factual data in a newspaper that reflected poorly upon the royal governor. The American Jury solidified the difference between American and English law by stating that truth could be used as a defense against libel. The American colonies were united in the sense of their universal desire to know the complete truth about their government and the actions of the government. Without the just libel laws that the American colonies had, the government could have easily filtered and suppressed free speech in American journalism.

The first English-language newspaper was The Daily Courant. This paper looks nothing like the newspapers people see today. Big changes in the newspaper’s look came when methods for making headlines across the page were developed. Photographs and colored pictures also shaped the way newspapers were made as well. The steam-powered press, the rotary press, computerized printing technologies, and other driving forces were big keys in the mass production and transportation of newspapers across the world.

Newspapers published in Europe in the 1600s were a mix of political views and business news. This is because merchants needed to know what was going on politically and economically. In the mid to late 1700s, Britain imposed a series of taxes, including the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts. Because the Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament, it required colonists to purchase stamps for newspapers, as well as many other things. This affected everyone, which provoked hostility around the country. It was during this time that newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Journal; and Weekly Adviser, protested against the Stamp Act to show that people do have a voice. Newspapers were being used to rally people together in hopes of creating change. Newspapers were one of the most well-known forms of communication during this period, so almost everyone had their hands on a copy or two.

In the time frame of 1780s-1820s, newspaper began to be swayed by politicians. Similar to the way newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post in today’s age are politically swayed in some of their news coverage, the newspapers of that time period also had politicians and merchants that swayed the coverage of news to benefit themselves. Because of the bias in most newspapers, there are many tricks to reading articles in a newspaper and studying the newspaper as a whole.

In 1791, The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is adopted, which protects the press. In the early 1800s, the United States began to see a growth of canals and railroads which were built in order to help transport newspapers. In 1833, the Benjamin Day began selling The New York Sun daily for one cent per paper. Due to the growth in the newspaper industry, beginning in the 1840s there was a huge increase in newspaper circulation. This led to the use of the type-revolving press, which was an early rotary press.

In the 1840s-1850s there was a significant increase in newspaper sales and distribution, which led to the frequent use of the Hoe’s rotary. The Hoe’s rotary had a very efficient design to print enough newspapers for the large circulation newspaper companies had in that time. The New York Times was innovative in its technique of appealing to different parts of the group of people within the same issue through the use of separate sections. The use of separate sections allowed for more specialized entertainment. More people read newspapers because they found sections that they enjoyed much more than readings the newspaper design that was in place earlier, a mix of news with no separation of genre or news type. It was a huge innovation to the newspaper and brought a lot more money into the industry.

One of the first anti-slavery articles in a newspaper was seen in 1847 by Frederick Douglas. The former slave published the North Star. Around this same time, the name of the author and the date when they wrote it is published in the newspaper. Also, In 1846, the Associated Press is established by New York City newspapers. It was meant to be a cooperative newsgathering organization.

In the 1890s the term “yellow journalism” was used to describe a newspaper that was irresponsible, fickle, and sensational newsgathering and exhibition.

In 1890, newspapers began to make visual strides closer to their appearance today. Following Paris’ lead, the United States adopted full-color presses for the first time. They were primarily used for Sunday comics. By the end of the 1890s, the Spanish-American war began to receive sensationalistic coverage. Leading the way, markedly in New York, were publisher Joseph Pulitzer and Randolph Hearst, who were competing for circulation in the area.

Next, the 1920s. The 1920s marked the beginning of the tabloid industry. Leading this category was non-other than the New York Daily News, who established themselves as “New York’s picture newspaper”. The 1920s also introduced the concept of objectivity to aspiring journalists. They took the foundation of objectivity and began to institute ethics and rules.

As the decade transitioned into the 30s, the progression of newspapers coincided with the Great Depression. This ushered in an era of power newspaper chains, or companies that owned several newspapers. As the Great Depression persisted, though, the newspaper industry faced competition from the rise of radio. During this battle, many advertisers pulled their material from newspapers in pursuit of air time. As a result, the newspaper industry suffered.

Fast forward to the 1950s: the vast majority of US homes (86%) have televisions. As you can guess, this was a blow to both the newspaper and radio industry. Television would go enjoy a multiple decade leadership, however the Internet would soon claim that title.

Now it is the 1990s and the internet has taken over. Instead of purchasing newspapers, consumers were instead surfing the free web in pursuit of news through an online medium. The newspaper industry’s decline grew steeper and steeper.

Eventually, in 2008, six large newspaper companies filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code. The year after that, a well-known newspaper in Seattle, the Post-Intelliger, switched to an online format in order to save money. As you will see in future years, more and more newspaper companies would follow suit.

Soon thereafter, the Global recession struck the world, and the newspaper industry was not spared. Due to a large amount of debt the companies were in when the recession happened, the industry was doubly affected. Companies saw total newspaper revenues decline in both 2008 and 2009.

Like the publication from Seattle, The Rocky Mountain News, another prominent newspaper, were forced to sell their final papers just two months shy of their 150th anniversary. At this point, companies were dropping like flies. While some publications struggled to adapt to the technological shift, others thrived. For example, ProPublica, an independent nonprofit news organization became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.

The next notable event in the newspaper world was the purchase of The Washington Post by Amazon.com founder, Jeff Benzos. This was significant because it marked the end of an eighty-year local ownership of the publication. This serves as further evidence of the Internet’s growing supremacy over the newspaper industry. By 2014, the statistics cleared up the inevitable: the Internet would ultimately eliminate the newspaper industry. Annual newspaper revenue in the US plummeted from $46.7 billion in 2004 to 16.4 billion in 2014.

2014 marked another technological first: computer-generated stories. The Associated Press created an artificial intelligence capable of interpreting news and transcribing it into stories for consumers to read. Not only was this bad for the newspaper industry, but also for online news editors who could potentially lose their job to an unpaid robot.

While the newspaper industry has had many ups and down, one pattern that has remained consistent through it all is the consolidation of media companies. By 2015, it was found that 90% of US media are owned by six companies. To put it in comparison, a total of 50 companies owned that same proportion of US media in 1983. This begs the question of how stringently the aforementioned ethics and rules are followed. When one company owns two publications that ideologically oppose each other, there are questions that need to be asked. One of the concerns skeptics have with online news is the lack of objectivity. Traditionalists will argue online news is too “click-driven”, while newspaper are rooted more in truth and neutrality.

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The History and Evolution of the Newspapers in America. (2018, September 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-history-and-evolution-of-the-newspapers-in-america/
“The History and Evolution of the Newspapers in America.” GradesFixer, 28 Sept. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-history-and-evolution-of-the-newspapers-in-america/
The History and Evolution of the Newspapers in America. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-history-and-evolution-of-the-newspapers-in-america/> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2022].
The History and Evolution of the Newspapers in America [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Sept 28 [cited 2022 Sept 22]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-history-and-evolution-of-the-newspapers-in-america/
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