Arts and Culture

Week 1: The Birth of Traditional Journalism

(The first in a series on technology’s influence on journalism)


In today’s world, journalism is an irreplaceable source of information for the masses. It is available not only through printed paper, television, and radio, but it is also accessible as far as the eye can see on the internet. Yet, this overwhelming amount of information only presents more problems for the public in this day and age. So how did information amalgamate with journalism, and ultimately, how did society become so reliant on it? In order to answer these questions we will delve deep into the history of information and how it was spread in the past, going as far back as Ancient Greece.

Before print was invented, information was distributed by word of mouth. The job of informing the people was often a sacred one. The Kērykes, for instance, had exactly this role during the time of the Ancient Greeks, “acting as inviolable messengers between states, even in time of war, proclaiming meetings of the council, popular assembly, or court of law, reciting there the formulas of prayer, and summoning persons to attend” (“Kēryx,” 1998). These people were equivalent to messengers of divine power, and to lie or misinform the people would be a blasphemy. As a result, information spoken by these messengers would be the absolute truth, who could object against the words of a respected “messenger of god”? 


Greek city of Lebadeia


The earliest form of written distribution of information tracks back to the 10th Century. People during the Sung Dynasty gained information through the distribution of Tipao, or public information sheets. These texts had information about local and nationwide news. Unfortunately, these texts were handwritten, and due to the fact that they were written in Chinese, commoners in rural areas often had difficulty understanding the contents. Still, it is believed that this sacrifice and transition into written, and therefore more permanent sources of information, led the way to create a more mainstream source of information for the masses.

Technology and its evolution are ever-changing, and this is the same for technology relating to information. This segment in the history of information covered the transition from word of mouth to written text, but there is still much more to cover before reaching the current state of the world wide web of information available to us today.

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