The history of journalism
, or the development of the gathering and transmitting of news, spans the growth of technology and trade, marked by the advent of specialized techniques for gathering and disseminating information on a regular basis that has caused, as one history of journalism surmises, the steady increase of "the scope of news available to us and the speed with which it is transmitted. Newspapers have always been the primary medium of journalists since 1700, with magazines added in the 18th century, radio and television in the 20th century, and the Internet in the 21st century.17th Century:
In 1622 the first weekly magazine, "A current of General News" was published and distributed in England in an 8- to 24-page quarto format.
The 17th century saw the rise of political pamphleteer fueled by the politically contentious times-the English Civil War followed by the Interregnum and Glorious Revolution polarized society along political lines and each party sought to garner maximum public support by the distribution of pamphlets in the coffeehouses where people would gather. The Oxford Gazette was printed in 1665 by Median in the middle of the turmoil of the Great Plague of London and was, strictly speaking, the first periodical to meet all the qualifications of a true newspaper. It was printed twice a week by royal authority and was soon renamed the London Gazette. Magazines were also moral tracts inveighing against moral decadence, notably the Mercurius Britannicus.
A milestone was reached in 1694; the final lapse of the Licensing Order of 1643 that had been put in place by the Stuart kings put an end to heavy handed censorship that had previously tried to suppress the flow of free speech and ideas across society, and allowed writers to criticize the government freely. From 1694 to the Stamp Act of 1712 the only censure laws forbade treason, seditious libel and the reporting of Parliamentary proceedings.18th Century:
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Britain was an increasingly stable and prosperous country with an expanding empire, technological progress in industry and agriculture and burgeoning trade and commerce. A new middle class consisting of merchants, traders, entrepreneurs and bankers was rapidly emerging - educated, literate and increasingly willing to enter the political discussion and participate in the governance of the country. The result was a boom in journalism, in periodicals, newspapers and magazines. Writers who had been dependent on a rich patron in the past were now able to become self-employed by hiring out their services to the newspapers. The values expressed in this new press were overwhelmingly consistent with the bourgeois middle class - an emphasis on the importance of property rights, religious toleration and liberty from Continental absolutism.
Journalism in the first half of the 18th century produced many great journalists such as Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Henry Fielding, and Samuel Johnson. Men such as these edited newspapers, or wrote essays for popular press at one time or another. Although their material was not news in the modern sense of the word, the material was entertaining and informative and was met with an insatiable demand. Ordinary citizens also began to participate in the flow of ideas and news as readers were able to contribute their thoughts for newspaper content.19th Century:
By the early 19th century, there were 52 London papers and over 100 other titles. In 1802 and 1815 the tax on newspapers was increased to three pence and then four pence. Unable or unwilling to pay this fee, between 1831 and 1835 hundreds of untaxed newspapers made their appearance. The political tone of most of the was fiercely revolutionary. Their publishers were prosecuted but this failed to get rid of them. It was chiefly Milner Gibson and Richard Cobden who advocated the case in parliament to first reduce in 1836 and in 1855 totally repeal of the tax on newspapers. After the reduction of the stamp tax in 1836 from four pence to one penny, the circulation of English newspapers rose from 39,000,000 to 122,000,000 by 1854; a trend further exacerbated by technological improvements in transportation and communication combined with growing literacy.
The Daily Universal Register began life in 1785 and was later to become known as The Times from 1788. In 1817, Thomas Barnes was appointed general editor. Under Barnes and his successor in 1841, John Thadeus Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and amongst the City of London. Due to his influential support for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, Barnes was described by his colleague Lord Lyndhurst as "the most powerful man in the country."Peter Fraser and Edward Sterling were two noted journalists, and gained for The Times the pompous/satirical nickname 'The Thundered' (from "We thundered out the other day an article on social and political reform.") The paper was the first in the world to reach mass circulation due to its early adoption of the steam-driven rotary printing press. It was also the first properly national newspaper, as it was distributed via the new steam trains to rapidly growing concentrations of urban populations across the country. This helped ensure the profitability of the paper and its growing influence.20th Century:
The turn of the century saw the rise of tabloid journalism aimed at the working class and tending to emphasize sensational topics. Alfred Harmsworth or Lord Northcliffe, was an early pioneer of this style. In 1896 he began publishing the Daily Mail in London, which was a hit, holding the world record for daily circulation until Harmsworth's death; taglines of The Daily Mail included "the busy man's daily journal" and "the penny newspaper for one halfpenny". Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, said it was "written by office boys for office boys”. He used his newspapers newly found influence, in 1899, to successfully make a charitable appeal for the dependents of soldiers fighting in the South African War by inviting Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Sullivan to write The Absent-Minded Beggar. He also founded The Daily Mirror in 1903, and rescued the financially desperate Observer and The Times in 1905 and 1908, respectively. In 1908, he also acquired The Sunday Times.
Socialist and labor newspapers also proliferated and in 1912 the Daily Herald was launched as the first daily newspaper of the trade union and labor movement.