How do you get your news? Is it from news feeds on your social media accounts? Is it from news websites? Is it from television channels? Or is it still from newspapers? Few may read them today, probably, most especially to first world countries who have great access to any other forms of news delivery other than print. Yet, the most read part of the newspapers are possibly the front pages and editorial pages. Maybe others still enjoy buying it not just for the news but for the puzzles included in it that could help past the time. But have you ever wondered how this thing came to be before we had access to television and the web? Does, the old newspapers also have editorials, advertisements, and puzzles in it? Or does it only contain news? It would be interesting how news was delivered in the past and what were the newspaper contents back then, thus this essay will delve into the history of newspapers.
In the old days, gossips, news, and everyday happenings were passed down from person to person orally when writing and printing were not yet fully developed. The Acta Diurna of the Romans or Daily doings was credited by scholars to be the first published newspaper which believed to have contained assemblies, daily gossip, births, deaths, and chronicles of events though no copies of it can be found to this day. This newspaper predecessor was printed through carving the letters on a metal or stone and are posted in message boards of public places (“Acta Diurna: The First Daily Gazette”, n. d.). After the Romans, the Italians had also made another predecessor of the newspaper when the Avisi or gazettes was seen in Venice, Italy in 1566. Yet unlike the Roman counterpart, this only contained news on military and political conflicts. As mass printing was not yet invented on those times both of these predecessors did not have the technology of the printing press which had limited their circulation (“History of Newspaper”, n.d.).
In another continent, mass printing was already used through blocked printing which was invented around the 4th and 7th century in the Tang Dynasty. Blocked printing was initially used in the printing process of artworks in textiles and later to Buddhist religious texts, scrolls, and books (History of Chinese Invention – The Invention of Block Printing). These were also later used in the European continent yet it had its limitations. Then around 1440, Johannes Gutenberg had invented the first printing press in Europe. His printing press was mechanical and was movable thus started the printing revolution which spread all across Europe.
In America however, the newspaper did not come about until 1690 when Benjamin Harris published the Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick. Yet he was put out of business by the authorities four days after he first published because he reported that the English military forces have joined forces with the savages. The curiosity and appetite of the people for information was then supplemented by a lot of local tabloids and broadsheets by the end of the eighteenth century where the names of Benjamin Franklin, a leading journalist of his time and John Campbell, newspaperman and postmaster became known (Breig, 2003).
All this history did not come smoothly as freedom of the press were not yet known at those times. Governments or authorities did not want to divulge a lot of information to people fearing that they may know all thus these early printers and publishers were more or less involved in a scandal or a rift with the authorities like Harris did. Yet again the thirst for knowledge and the rights of the people to know what is happening had obviously emerged triumphant thus we had newspaper prints to this day. The evolution of it came hand in hand with the development of printing machines and the making of paper. As the demand increases, then the need for cheaper material to print on and the machine to print hundreds in quantity in lesser time have one way also initiated in the development of those things because indeed we could not keep on carving wood or pounding on metal to distribute news. Even today, newspapers are still printed in ink and paper. The development of journalism or on the manner on how news should be delivered may also come hand in hand in the development of newspapers as this was the first source of news long before the television and the radio were invented.
It’s not surprising to know that when you delved in the history of one object, in this case, the newspaper, you could learn that it is connected to the development of a lot of other things in the past. Yet it is still curiously fun to know how these things were interconnected. We owe a lot of the comfort that we have today to those people in the past who struggled to make things easier for us, otherwise, we would still be reading in stone tablets or hammering metals for printing to this day rather than reading in paper or printing with machines.