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Updated on July 13, 2011


The Latin periodical from Cologne Mercurius Gallobelgicus published in 1592 was the first journal to be published in the world on a semi-annual basis. This was followed by the English journal Oxford Gazette which was published on a regular basis.

In 1690 the first newspaper in the US Publick Occurrences both Foreign and Domestick was published, but it was soon suppressed as it did not have a license which was mandatory in Massachusetts. Boston news letter which commenced in 1704 had a longer existence and published news until 1776, but faded out of the scene probably due to late publishing of news and absence of quality. The first major colonial newspaper was new England courant, which was started in 1721 by James Franklin, elder brother of Benjamin Franklin. By the time American Revolution took place there was nearly 89 newspapers. As most of them opposed the stamp act, they were anti-royalist in outlook.

Republican newspapers were partisan and devoid of objectivity or accountability. Even when the ownership shifted to private enterprise, their outlook was basically anti-establishment.

The first really modern newspaper was the New York Herald which was started in 1835 and New York Tribune in 1841 but it was in 1851, New York Times was started by Henry Raymond and George Jones. What made them stand out from the competition was balanced writing and high writing standards.

By the 20th century what started out as investigative journalism soon came to be derided as muckraking. Though to a large extent it was due to the sensationalism which crept into newspapers in the 19th century, the yeoman service done by Ida Tarbell, and Upton Sinclair introduced a strong social commitment in newspapers, particularly among the smaller ones. Mainstream newspapers like New York Times and Washington Post which depended largely on advertisers for revenue displayed a conservatism which has been criticized by people like Chomsky. In fact after the great depression, there was newspaper consolidation all over US. Smaller newspapers disappeared from the scene giving way to giant newspaper establishments which were big in every sense of the word, in size influence and profit. But by the 60s newspapers like I.F.Stones weekly, The Village Voice and The Nation found part of what came to be known as the alternative press. This was a welcome change as mainstream newspapers content were becoming more and more the voice of the vested interest.

The next major change was the emergence of the internet. Newspapers not only became online but changed the way events were reported. For the first time peoples participation in news reporting gave rise to blogs and a new genre called citizen journalism. This was facilitated largely due to technological marvels like digital cameras and convergence technology. Journalism is on the threshold of the next major leap in development. Though technological changes might change the face of journalism in the digital age; its spirit remains the same---the perennial quest to freely express and inform without fear or favor without compromising on truth.


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