The history of journalism, spans the growth of
technology and trade.
Journalism is marked by the advent of specialized
techniques for gathering and disseminating
information on a regular basis.
Journalism has caused 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.
1400: businessmen in Italian and German cities
were compiling hand written stories of important
These were then circulated to their business
The idea of using a printing press for printing
material first appeared in Germany around 1600.
A few decades later, the national governments in
Paris and London began printing official newsletters.
A semi-yearly news chronicle, in Latin, the Mercurius
Gallobelgicus, was published at Cologne between
1594 and 1635.
In 1622 the first English-language weekly
magazine, "A current of General News" was
published and distributed in England.
The rise of political pamphleteering saw 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
Muddiman 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
Oxford Gazette was printed twice a week by royal
authority and was soon renamed the London
The Licensing Order of 1643 put in place by the
Stuart kings was withdrawn in 1694.
This saw an end to heavy handed censorship.
The order had previously tried to suppress the flow
of free speech and ideas across society
The end of the order allowed writers to criticize the
From 1694 to the Stamp Act of 1712 the only
censure laws forbade treason, seditious libel and the
reporting of Parliamentary proceedings.
Journalism was a risky line of work.
Benjamin Harris, was convicted for defaming the
Unable to pay the large fine that was imposed on
him he was put in prison.
He eventually made his way to America where he
founded one of the first newspapers there.
William III, who had been installed by
Parliament, was wary of public opinion and did not
try to interfere with the growing press.
The growth in journalism and the increasing freedom
the press enjoyed was a symptom of the
development of the party system of government.
As the concept of a parliamentary opposition
became acceptable, newspapers and editors began
to adopt critical and partisan stances.
They soon became an important force in the political
and social affairs of Britain.
Britain was an increasingly stable and prosperous
country with an expanding empire, technological
progress in industry and agriculture and burgeoning
trade and commerce.
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
Emphasis was given to the importance of property
rights, religious toleration and liberty from
Journalism in the first half of the 18th century
produced many great journalists
Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Jonathan
Swift, (Gulliver’s Travels) Joseph Addison, Richard
Steele (founders of The Spectator Magazine), and
Samuel Johnson (founder of the English Dictionary).
They 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.
The newspaper was becoming so popular that
publishers began to print daily issues.
The first daily newspaper in England was the Daily
Courant, established by Samuel Buckley in 1702 on
the streets of London.
The newspaper strictly restricted itself to the
publication of news and facts without opinion pieces.
It pioneered the use of advertising in its columns for
Daniel Defoe is regarded as a pioneer of modern
journalism with his publication ‘The Storm’ in 1704.
It has been called the first substantial work of
modern journalism, as well as the first account of a
hurricane in Britain.
It details the events of a terrible week-long storm
that hit London starting Nov 24, 1703, known as the
Great Storm of 1703,
Defoe described it as "The Greatest, the Longest in
Duration, the widest in Extent, of all the Tempests
and Storms that History gives any Account of since
the Beginning of Time."
Defoe used eyewitness accounts by placing
newspaper ads asking readers to submit personal
60 were selected and edited by Defoe for the book.
This was an innovative method for the time before
journalism that relied on first-hand reports was
Defoe considered the accounts reliable because
"most of our Relators have not only given us their
Names, and sign'd the Accounts they have sent, but
have also given us Leave to hand their Names down
‘The Storm’ has been called the first substantial work
After ‘The Storm’
The increasing popularity and influence of
newspapers was unappealing to the government of
The first bill in parliament advocating a tax on
newspapers was proposed in 1711.
The duty eventually imposed in 1712 and depended
on the physical size of the newspaper.
Jonathan Swift expressed in his ‘Journal to Stella’ in
August 7, 1712, doubt in the ability of ‘The Spectator’
to hold out against the tax.
In December 1712 ‘The Spectator’ went out of print.
Some of the existing journals continued production
and their numbers soon increased.
Part of this increase was attributed to corruption and
political connections of its owners.
Later, toward the middle of the 18th century, the
provisions and the penalties of the Stamp Act were
made more stringent, yet the number of newspapers
continued to rise.
18th Century U.K Growth in Newspaper
Amount sold (millions)
In 1802 and 1815 the tax on newspapers was
Unable or unwilling to pay this fee, between 1831
and 1835 hundreds of untaxed newspapers made
The political tone of most of the was fiercely
Their publishers were prosecuted but this failed to
get rid of them.
Milner Gibson and Richard Cobden advocated the
case in parliament to first reduce tax in 1836 and in
1855 totally repeal of the tax on newspapers.
After the drastic reduction of the stamp tax in 1836
the circulation of English newspapers rose
This was pushed further 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.
In1841 under a new editor, the influence of The
Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and
amongst the City of London.
The times was the first in the world to reach mass
circulation due to its early adoption of the steamdriven 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
This helped ensure the profitability of the paper and
its growing influence.
The Times was also the first newspaper to send war
correspondents to cover particular conflicts.
W. H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the
army in the Crimean War, wrote immensely
For the first time the public could read about the
reality of warfare.
On September 20, 1854, Russell wrote a story about
the battle above the Alma River.
Although it was supportive of the British troops, the
story paid particular attention to the battlefield
surgeons‘ and the lack of ambulance care for
Shocked and outraged, the public's backlash from
Russell’s report led the Government to re-evaluate
the treatment of troops.
It also led to Florence Nightingale's involvement in
The Manchester Guardian was founded in
Manchester in 1821 by a group of non-conformist
Its most famous editor, Charles Prestwich
Scott, made the Manchester Guardian into a worldfamous newspaper in the 1890s.
The Daily Telegraph was first published on June
It became the organ of the middle class and could
claim the largest circulation in the world in 1890.
A pioneer of popular journalism for the masses was
the Northern Star, first published on 26 May 1838.
Specialised periodicals of special interest were also
The first cheap newspaper was the Daily Telegraph
and Courier (1855), later to be known simply as the
The Illustrated London News, founded in 1842, was
the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper.
1860 - 1910 is considered a 'golden age' of
There were technical advances in printing and
communication plus a professionalization of
journalism and the prominence of new owners.
Newspapers became more partisan and there was
the rise of new journalism
William Thomas Stead
A controversial journalist and editor who pioneered
the art of investigative journalism.
Stead's 'new journalism' paved the way for the
He was influential in demonstrating how the press
could be used to influence public opinion and
government policy, and advocated "government by
He was also well known for his reportage on child
welfare, social legislation and reformation of
England's criminal codes.
He became assistant editor of the Liberal Pall Mall
Gazette in 1880
He set about revolutionizing a traditionally
conservative newspaper "written by gentlemen for
As editor of the Gazette he was responsible for
incorporating maps and diagrams into a newspaper
for the first time.
He started breaking up longer articles with eyecatching subheadings and blending his own opinions
with those of the people he interviewed.
He made a feature of the Pall Mall extras, and his
enterprise and originality exercised a potent
influence on contemporary journalism and politics.
Stead's first sensational campaign was based on a
Nonconformist pamphlet, ‘The Bitter Cry of Outcast
His descriptive stories of unpleasant life spurred the
government into clearing the slums and building lowcost housing in their place.
He also introduced the interview, creating a new
dimension in British journalism when he interviewed
General Gordon in 1884.
His use of sensationalist headlines is exemplified
with the death of Gordon in Khartoum in 1885.
He ran the first 24-point headline in newspaper
history, "TOO LATE!“
The headline referred to the relief force's failure to
rescue a national hero.
He is also credited as originating the modern
journalistic technique of creating a news event rather
than just reporting it: The Eliza Armstrong case.
A major scandal in the UK involving a child
supposedly bought for prostitution for the purpose of
exposing the evils of white slavery.
While it achieved its purpose of helping to enable the
passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, it
also brought unintended consequences Stead.
The newspaper has had a long history of its
development into what it is today. Newspapers have
also played a key role in highlighting different issues
in social life.
With the Internet and growth of TV and radio, the
‘death of the newspaper’ has been predicted by
some experts in the media world. Hundreds of
newspapers in the USA have already shut down
Do you think the newspaper will stand the test of
time, or will newspapers eventually become a lost
form of media? (250 words)