Arts and Culture

Week 3: Newspapers

What comes to mind when someone mentions “the paper”?


The earliest newspaper is titled Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, it was printed by Johann Carolus from 1605 onwards. This newspaper closely resembled the Tipao used by the Sung Dynasty, bearing more similarities to public notice or poster rather than a handheld collection of articles that we recognize today. Nevertheless, it was mass-produced with ease thanks to the introduction of new and polished printing presses of the era. Furthermore, as part of the improvement, these new presses were also capable of printing patterns and pictures rather than just text.


The more familiar newspapers such as the London Gazette which was first published in 1665, were controlled by the state, or the “Authority.” However, this form of newspaper was less of a notice (as the one in the picture above), and more of a paper which individuals could hold and read freely. Matters of utmost importance for the state and the people were carried by these papers. The example below, which is from 1666, describes a fire that happened in London, and includes an address from Royalty to the people of London. 


Nevertheless, this was just the start of modern newspapers. By 1704, the first newspaper-bourne advertisement was printed in the Boston News-Letter. By 1742, Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine printed the first magazine ads. Furthermore, by 1843, the first company specializing in advertising was launched, that be newspapers, magazines, signs, etc. One may wonder. What does advertising have anything to do with journalism and its current state? The problem is that advertisements attempt to convince the reader for their own gain. By riddling newspapers with advertisements, their identity as a true informative device started to warp. Obviously, its popularity never declined, since it was the most convenient form of information back in the day, but many started to see how advertisements took up more space on their papers.

The identity shift of newspapers wasn’t the only problem. Their informative portion started to become affected too. The government saw the people’s dependence on newspapers as a weapon. Propaganda played a huge role in future wars, such as WWI and WWII, where newspapers and various informative sources were muddled with propaganda and manipulative information. This practice was not just a form to censor the truth, but also a way to misdirect people and control entire communities through the power of words.

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