Newspaper

The Roman Empire.

The urge to inform the public of official developments and pronouncements has been a characteristic of most autocratic rulers. This urge was fulfilled in ancient Rome by the Acta Diurna ("Daily Events"), a daily gazette dating from 59 BC and attributed in origin to Julius Caesar. Handwritten copies of this early journal were posted in prominent places in Rome and in the provinces with the clear intention of feeding the populace official information. The Acta Diurna was not, however, restricted to proclamations, edicts, or even to political decisions taken in the Roman Senate, the actions of which were reported separately in the Acta Senatus (literally "Proceedings of the Senate"). The typical Acta Diurna might contain news of gladiatorial contests, astrological omens, notable marriages, births and deaths, public appointments, and trials and executions. Such reading matter complemented the usual fare of military news and plebiscite results also given in the Acta Diurna and presaged the future popularity of such newspaper fillers as horoscopes, the obituary column, and the sports pages.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
Publishing: Newspaper publishing: ORIGINS AND EARLY EVIDENCES: Medieval Europe.

Medieval Europe.

In Europe, the impetus for regular publication of news was lacking for several centuries after the breakup of the Roman Empire. The increased output of books and pamphlets made possible by the development of the printing press in the 16th century did not include any newspapers, properly defined. The nearest form was the newssheet, which was not printed but handwritten by official scribes and read aloud by town criers. News was also contained in the newsbook, or news pamphlet, which flourished in the 16th century as a means of disseminating information on particular topics of interest. One such pamphlet, printed in England by Richard Fawkes, and dated September 1513, was a description of the Battle of Flodden Field. Titled The Trew Encountre, this four-leaved pamphlet gave an eyewitness account of the battle together with a list of the English heroes involved. By the final decade of the 15th century, publication of newsbooks was running at more than 20 a year in England alone, matching a regular supply on the Continent. Authors and printers escaped official censorship or penalties by remaining anonymous or cultivating a certain obscurity, for it took a long time before the pamphlets came to the attention of the authorities. In any case the topics most frequently chosen for coverage--scandals, feats of heroism, or marvelous occurrences--were mainly nonpolitical and could not be regarded as a threat to the powerful. Governments in various countries were already in the vanguard of news publishing for propaganda purposes. The Venetian republic set a precedent by charging an admission fee of one gazeta (approximately three-fourths of a penny) to public readings of the latest news concerning the war with Turkey (1563), thus recognizing a commercial demand for news, even on the part of the illiterate. The term gazette was to become common among later newspapers sold commercially. Another popular title was to be Mercury (the messenger of the gods). The Mercurius Gallobelgicus (1588-1638) was among the earliest of a number of periodical summaries of the news that began to appear in Europe in the late 16th century. Newspaper names like Mercury, Herald, and Express have always been popular, suggesting the immediacy or freshness of the reading matter. Other names, such as Observer, Guardian, Standard, and Argus (a vigilant watcher), stress the social role played by newspapers in a democratic society.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
Publishing: Newspaper publishing: THE FIRST NEWSPAPERS: Commercial newsletters in continental Europe.

Commercial newsletters in continental Europe.

The newsletter had been accepted as a conventional form of correspondence between officials or friends in Roman times, and in the late Middle Ages newsletters between the important trading families began to cross frontiers regularly. One family, the Fuggers, were owners of an important financial house in the German city of Augsburg; their regular newsletters were well-known even to outsiders. Traders' newsletters contained commercial information on the availability and prices of various goods and services, but they could include political news, just as the financial editor of today must consider the broader sweep of events likely to influence economic transactions. The commercial newsletter thus became the first vehicle of "serious" news, with its attempt at regular, frequent publication and concern with topical events generally.

The newsletter usually accorded primacy as a definite newspaper is the Relation of Strasbourg, first printed in 1609 by Johann Carolus. A close rival is the Avisa Relation oder Zeitung (Zeitung is the German word for "newspaper"), founded in the same year by Heinrich Julius, duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. In 1605, in the Low Countries, Abraham Verhoeven of Antwerp had begun publication of the Nieuwe Tijdingen, although the earliest surviving copy is dated 1621. In any case, this historical rivalry is evidence of a fairly sudden demand for newspapers at the start of the 17th century, and the continuous publication of the Nieuwe Tijdingen indicates that this demand soon became well-established. Although these publications were emerging throughout western Europe, it was the Dutch, with their advantageous geographical and trading position, who pioneered the international coverage of news through their "corantos," or "current news." The Courante uyt Italien, Duytsland, & C., began to appear weekly or twice-weekly in 1618.

Similar rudimentary newspapers soon appeared in other European countries: Switzerland (1610), the Habsburg domains in central Europe (1620), England (1621), France (1631), Denmark (1634), Italy (1636), Sweden (1645), and Poland (1661). English and French translations of Dutch corantos were also available. But signs of official intolerance emerged fairly soon, and censorship stifled newspaper development in the late 17th century and into the 18th century in continental Europe. In Paris in 1631, the Nouvelles Ordinaires de Divers Endroits, a publishing venture by the booksellers Louis Vendosme and Jean Martin, was immediately replaced by an officially authorized publication, La Gazette, published under the name of Théophraste Renaudot but with influential backing by Cardinal de Richelieu. The new publication was to continue (as La Gazette de France) until 1917, casting the shadow of authority over nonofficial newspapers throughout its life. The first French daily--Le Journal de Paris--was not started until 1777; and although the Revolution of 1789 brought a temporary upsurge in newspaper publishing, with 350 papers being issued in Paris alone, the return to monarchy brought another clampdown. Napoleon I had his own official organ-- Le Moniteur Universel, first published by Charles-Joseph Panckoucke (one of a family of booksellers and writers) in 1789 and lasting until 1869--and there were only three other French newspapers.

In Germany, early newsletter development was soon hampered by the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), with its restrictions on trade, shortage of paper, and strict censorship. Even in peacetime censorship and parochialism inhibited the German press. Among the important regional newspapers were the Augsburger Zeitung (1689), the Vossische Zeitung in Berlin (1705), and the Hamburgische Correspondent (1714). In Austria the Wiener Zeitung was started in 1703 and is considered to be the oldest surviving daily newspaper in the world. The oldest continuously published weekly paper is the official Swedish gazette, the Post-och inrikes tidningar, begun in 1645. Sweden is also notable for having introduced the first law (in 1766) guaranteeing freedom of the press, but the concept of an independent press barely existed in most of Europe until the middle of the 19th century, and until then publishers were constantly subject to state authority.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
Publishing: Newspaper publishing: THE FIRST NEWSPAPERS: Early newspapers in Britain and America.

Early newspapers in Britain and America.

Britain. The British press made its debut--an inauspicious one--in the early 17th century. News coverage was restricted to foreign affairs for a long time, and even the first so-called English newspaper was a translation by Nathaniel Butter, a printer, of a Dutch coranto called Corante, or newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France, dated Sept. 24, 1621. Together with two London stationers, Nicholas Bourne and Thomas Archer, Butter published a stream of corantos and avisos, including a numbered and dated series of Weekley Newes, beginning in 1622. But a number of difficulties confronted a prospective publisher: a license to publish was needed; regular censorship of reporting was in operation from the earliest days; and foreign news no longer appeared because of a Star Chamber decree (in force from 1632 to 1638) completely banning the publication of accounts of the Thirty Years' War.

Between the abolition of the Star Chamber in 1641 and the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1649 publishers enjoyed a short spell of freedom from strict official control. Publication of domestic news began to appear more regularly, shedding the original book form. News and headlines increasingly replaced the old title page. The Civil Wars (1642-51) acted as a stimulus to reporters and publishers, and 300 distinct news publications were brought out between 1640 and 1660, although many of these were only occasional reports from the battle front, such as Truths from York or News from Hull. The names of some contemporary publications, like the Intelligencers, Scouts, Spys, and Posts, reflected the bellicosity of the times, but the Mercurys still abounded, including the propaganda papers Mercurius Academicus (Royalist) and Mercurius Britannicus (Parliamentarian). The Parliamentarian victory brought strict control of the press from 1649 to 1658, and the restored monarchy was even more absolute, with the press being restricted to just two official papers. During the period of the Licensing Act (1662-94), an official surveyor of the press was given the sole privilege of publishing newspapers. The Revolution of 1688 produced a return to more permissive publishing laws and the first provincial presses were set up, starting with the Worcester Post Man (1690) and, in Scotland, the first Edinburgh Gazette (1699), although the British press was to remain principally a national one, centred on Fleet Street in London. Appearing briefly was Lloyd's News (1696), issuing from Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, which had become a centre of marine insurance. The subsequent Lloyd's List and Shipping Gazette (from 1734), with its combination of general and shipping news, exemplified both the importance of the City of London's financial activities to the newspapers and the importance of a reliable and regular financial press to business.

In the early years of the 18th century the British newspaper was approaching its first stage of maturity. After 1691, improvements in the postal system made daily publication practical, the first attempt at doing so being the single-sheet Daily Courant (1702-35), which consisted largely of extracts from foreign corantos. A more radical departure was the triweekly Review (1704-13), produced by Daniel Defoe, in which the writer's opinion on current political topics was given, introducing the editorial, or leading article. Defoe had been imprisoned, in 1702, for his pamphlet "The Shortest Way with Dissenters," but many eminent British writers were being attracted to the newspapers. Henry Muddiman had gained eminence as the "journalist" who edited the London Gazette (from 1666). John Milton had edited the Mercurius Politicus under Oliver Cromwell, and Sir Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, The Spectator (published daily 1711-12). The Spectator and The Tatler (triweekly, 1709-11, also written by Steele) are commemorated in the modern magazines of the same name (see below Magazine publishing), but their incorporation of social and artistic news and comment influenced the content of the contemporary newspaper permanently. Sales of the popular Spectator sometimes ran as high as 3,000 copies, and already this circulation level was enough to attract advertising. An excise duty on advertisements was introduced by the Stamp Act (1712), along with other so-called taxes on knowledge aimed at curbing the nascent power of the press. The rate of duty, at one penny on a whole sheet (four sides of print), was the same as the cover price of The Spectator, and this effective doubling of the price killed it, along with many other newspapers. But the newspaper had already become a permanent part of the social and literary life in London, and not even higher duties could prevent the proliferation of newspaper titles throughout the century.

Typical of the new breed of English papers was The Daily Advertiser (1730-1807), which offered advertising space along with news of a political, commercial, and social nature. An important gap in the political pages was filled from 1771, when the right to publish proceedings in Parliament had been granted. This right was not won lightly, for illicit accounts of debates in the House had appeared in the monthly Political State of Great Britain (1711-40) and every effort had been made to stop them. But campaigners such as the political reformer John Wilkes (with the North Briton, 1762) eventually won out. Politicians of both Whig and Tory sympathies ran their own often scurrilous newspapers or simply bribed journalists with occasional handouts and annual stipends, but later in the century there emerged a more sophisticated reader who demanded, and received, an independent viewpoint. Eminent newspapers of the time included the Morning Post (1772), The Times (from 1788, but started as the Daily Universal Register in 1785), and The Observer (1791), each of which is still published (although the Morning Post was later merged with the Daily Telegraph). Censorship continued in the guise of frequent libel prosecutions, and as late as 1810 the radical political essayist William Cobbett was imprisoned and fined for denouncing flogging in the army, but the principle of a free press, at least in peacetime conditions, had been firmly established.

North America.
Publishing: Newspaper publishing: ERA OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Foundations of modern journalism.

Foundations of modern journalism.

The creation of new industrial occupations in society as a whole was reported by a new set of newspapermen who had far more specific jobs than their 18th-century predecessors. Earlier journalists might write, edit, and print each copy of the paper by themselves. With the expansion of newspapers, full-time reporters, whose job was to go and get the news, were recruited, and they replaced many occasional correspondents, although there was always room for the stringer, a part-time reporter based in a small town or a remote region. William Howard Russell, a reporter for the London Times during the Crimean War(1853-56), became famous as one of the first war correspondents, and his writings inspired Florence Nightingale to take up her mission to the Crimea. More than 150 war correspondents reported on the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). The reporter could become as celebrated as the soldier, and vigilant reporting could perhaps prevent some of the atrocities perpetrated in wartime. In peacetime the fearless on-the-spot reporter hoping to "scoop" rival papers for a big story also became a folk hero, and his byline (the name or nom de plume published with the article) could become better known than that of the editor.

The expense of employing a large team of reporters, some of whom could be out of the office for months, proved impossible for smaller papers, thus paving the way for the news agency. The French businessman Charles Havas had began this development in 1835 by turning a translation company into an agency offering the French press translated items from the chief European papers. His carrier-pigeon service between London, Paris, and Brussels followed, turning the company into an international concern that sold news items and that, eventually, also dealt in advertising space. Paul Julius Reuter, a former Havas employee, was among the first to exploit the new telegraphic cable lines in Germany, but his real success came in London, where he set up shop in 1851 as a supplier of overseas commercial information. Expansion soon led to the creation of the Reuters service of foreign telegrams to the press, an organization that grew with the spread of the British Empire to cover a large part of the world. In the United States, meanwhile, a very different type of agency--the newspaper cooperative--had arisen. Six New York City papers were the founding members; they suspended their traditional rivalries to share the cost of reporting the war with Mexico (1846-48) by establishing the New York Associated Press agency. Between 1870 and 1934, a series of agency treaties divided the world into exclusive territories for each major agency, but thereafter freedom of international operation was reinstated. The press agencies ensured a continuous supply of international "spot news"--i.e., the bare facts about events as they occur--and raised standards of objective news reporting. For their feature pages, American newspaper editors came to rely on the feature syndicates, which supplied ready-to-use material from medical columns and book reviews to astrological forecasts and crossword puzzles.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
Publishing: Newspaper publishing: ERA OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Growth of the newspaper business in the English-speaking world.

Growth of the newspaper business in the English-speaking world.

Advances in newspaper production matched a quickening in the pace of life for the millions of people who read newspapers in the late 19th century. The railways, which transported newspapers rapidly from town to town, contributed to the breakdown of rural isolation, while the steamship and the telegraph brought nations closer together. Mass-produced newspapers with a broad appeal became available for the newly literate or semiliterate industrial worker. Circulations of some popular papers were climbing toward 1,000,000 by the end of the century, and newspaper publishing and advertising had become big business.

The United States.
The movement toward a popular and politically independent press was spearheaded in the United States, where many potential readers were refugees from European political and religious persecution. The teeming immigrant population of New York City was the seedbed for several of the newspapers that were to shape the character of modern journalism. In 1835 the New York Herald was founded as the first American newspaper to proclaim and to maintain complete political independence. Its publisher, James Gordon Bennett, announced that the Herald would endeavour to record news, "with comments suitable, just, independent, fearless and good-tempered," while supporting no political party. The popularity of the Herald, with its exciting amalgam of news and views presented in brief, easily digestible articles, was soon represented by a print run of more than 30,000 copies. The New Yorker's appetite for news was a substantial one, and in 1841 Horace Greeley introduced the New York Tribune. Whereas Bennett was an entertainer, Greeley was a campaigner, the first of the many idealists and crusaders who were to occupy American newspaper offices. "Go West, young man!" was a phrase coined in the Tribune, which also reflected its proprietor's fierce opposition to slavery and which influenced opinion well beyond the bounds of New York City. In the rough-and-ready frontier territories of the Midwest, crude sensationalism was a characteristic of the new popular press under editors such as Wilbur F. Storey of the Chicago Times (founded 1854), while painstaking investigation and exposure of political corruption was used by Rockhill Nelson of the Kansas City Star (1880) as new evidence of the independence of the press. In the South newspapers helped in rebuilding civic consciousness after the desolation of the Civil War through the efforts of men like Henry W. Grady at the Atlanta Constitution (after 1880) in Georgia and Henry Watterson at the Louisville Courier-Journal in Kentucky (after 1868).

The character of a newspaper could change radically under a new owner or editor. In New York City, an individual stamp was put on the influential Evening Post by its scholarly editor, Parke Godwin. The New York Sun had started life in 1833 as the first of the inexpensive popular papers known as the "penny press," with its founder, Benjamin H. Day, successfully exploiting a vein of demand for inconsequential "human-interest" stories. Later, under Charles A. Dana (after 1868), the Sun rose in style and prominence. The New York Times (1851), long in the shadow of the more vigorous Herald and Tribune, struck an important and lasting blow for the independence of the press by exposing an attempted bribe of the Times' editor by Tammany Hall politician William Marcy ("Boss") Tweed; the reported $5,000,000 sum offered and rejected was an ample indication of the growing power of the press.

Great Britain.
In Europe, Britain alone could boast the presence of an independent press in the first half of the 19th century. The London Times demonstrated the value of journalistic objectivity and the need to criticize governments if hard-won rights were to be preserved. Under the consistent management of John Walter II and John Walter III, son and grandson of the founder, and with enlightened editorial control from outstanding journalists, such as Thomas Barnes and John Thaddeus Delane, The Times became a model for most serious British newspapers. In 1819 its reporting of the Peterloo Massacre by government troops at a political rally in Manchester was uncompromising; it campaigned for Parliamentary reform (achieved in 1832) and exposed the horrors of the Crimean War. From a technical standpoint The Times led the way in the introduction of advanced printing machinery and provided a fast and reliable news service as early as the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1836 the Stamp Tax was reduced to one penny, and in 1855 it was abolished entirely. This gradual relaxation of an impost on newspapers produced higher circulations for existing newspapers and encouraged the publication of new titles. Many were cheap, lurid crime sheets that disappeared as fast as they emerged. One exception was the sensational Sunday paper, the News of the World (1843), which attracted more readers than any other Sunday paper in Britain for more than a century. More characteristic of the age was the Daily Telegraph(1855), a penny paper, but one that competed directly with The Times by covering serious news stories and including thoughtful editorial comment on four sides of print, but at a quarter of the price of the fourpenny Times.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica
Publishing: Newspaper publishing: ERA OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Continental Europe and other countries.

Continental Europe and other countries.

During much of the 19th century, fear of popular insurgence led the European monarchies to keep a watchful eye on the newspaper presses. At the same time, prior to the unification of the modern states of Germany and Italy, newspapers covering national affairs were of limited interest. The first signs of a popular press appeared with the founding in Paris of La Presse (1836) by Émile de Girardin, who might be called one of the first press barons. He introduced new features and serials to raise circulation as high as 20,000 and thus to enable him to lower the price of his newspapers. A prominent contemporary of Girardin was Louis-Désiré Véron, who founded the Revue de Paris (1829) and revived the liberal daily Le Constitutionnel (1835). Aspiring French authors could gain publicity for their literary talents in these papers, especially when the Tanguy Law (1850) made it compulsory for them to sign the articles they wrote. But this literary slant to French newspapers, which persists to some degree in the modern era, could not disguise their paucity of hard news.

Disunity and political censorship continued to restrict the German press, although one independent daily, the Allgemeine Zeitung (Tübingen, 1798), managed to achieve wide influence. Farther north in Sweden, despite the freedom of speech granted to the press in 1766, the first notable newspaper (the Aftonbladet, founded by Lars Johan Hierta) was not begun until 1830.

Toward the middle of the century, censorship was abolished or relaxed in many other countries, including Switzerland (1848) and Denmark (1849). The new freedoms, together with the spread of literacy, gave birth to important newspapers, many of which still survive, including Le Figaro (Paris, 1854, daily from 1866), Frankfurter Zeitung (1856), Le Peuple (Brussels, date unknown), and the Corriere della Sera (Milan, 1876). In Spain and Portugal, censorship continued to prevent the development of true journalistic independence; any periods of comparative freedom were quickly followed by the reimposition of controls. In Russia strict censorship remained in force under the tsars, apart from a single decade (1855-65) of tolerance under Alexander II, when many new papers appeared. But limitations on publication were reimposed when it was found that greater freedom allowed radical ideas to be voiced, and the Russian press, like that in much of Europe, was forced to concentrate on literary rather than journalistic achievements.

The arrival of the U.S. naval officer Commodore Perry in Japan in 1853 was announced to the public in kawara-bans, which continued to be published for some years, though they began to be superseded by English-language newspapers. The first of these, the Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser (1861), was followed in the next five years by numerous periodicals, mainly translations produced by the shogunate Office for Reviewing Barbarian Papers. The office translated items from newspapers of China, Hong Kong, and the United States, as did Joseph Heko, a naturalized U.S. citizen and an interpreter at the American Embassy, in his monthly Kaigai shimbun (1865-66). The news items were therefore out of date, of little concern to the average Japanese, and too much resembling official announcements to be regarded as true newspapers. In 1867, however, the overthrow of the shogunate and the restoration of the Meiji led to the publication of more than a dozen newspapers concerned with domestic issues. Mainly issued by shogunate sympathizers, they included the Koko shimbun, whose publisher, the dramatist and educator Fukuchi Genichiro, had studied Western newspapers on his official travels abroad for the Japanese government (and who was later, in 1874, to preside over the Nichi-Nichi shimbun, which was closer to Western newspapers in style). The government soon suppressed these publications and promulgated the Newspaper Ordinance, which, in its 1871 version, decreed that the contents of a newspaper should always be "in the interest of governing the nation," a principle that was already anathema to many European and North American publishers.

Arrests of journalists and the supression of newspapers were common in the 1870s, but the decade nevertheless saw the birth of several giants of contemporary Japanese journalism. In 1870 the Yokohama Mainichi, the first daily in Japan, was started; it was also one of the first to use lead type. Two years later the Tokyo Nichi-Nichi appeared as one of the first truly modern Japanese newspapers, although it regarded itself as virtually an official gazette. The Yomiuri shimbun, one of the three leading national dailies in modern Japan, was founded in Tokyo in 1874, and it soon gained a reputation as a "literary" newspaper. The other two principal papers--the Osaka Nippo (1876) and the Osaka Asahi (1879)--were to become, respectively, the Osaka Mainichi and the Asahi shimbun (created in the early 1940s by a merger with the Tokyo Asahi, founded in 1888). They are associated with two of the fathers of modern Japanese newspaper publishing, Murayama Ryuhei (Asahi) and Motoyama Hikochi (Mainichi). Motoyama took full control of the Mainichi in 1903 and three years later added the Tokyo Nichi-Nichi to his publishing empire.

In other parts of the world a familiar cycle took place, with prohibition or strict censorship gradually giving way to the demand for a free press, although colonial governments long exercised an especially tight control on political publications. Canada had its first newspapers as early as the 18th century. These developed regionally and catered to both English and French speakers in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto. Fine standards of journalism were later set by the Winnipeg Free Press (1872).

Parts of India also had an early service, with newsletters being circulated from the 16th century. Under British rule, both English- and vernacular-language papers flourished--the latter under government control--and enviable standards were set by The Times of India (1838, formerly the Bombay Times) and The Hindu (1878).

Several Australian titles date to the early years of settlement, notable ones being the Sydney Morning Herald (1831), the Melbourne Argus (1846), and The Age (1854). Full censorship lasted until 1824 and the stamp tax until 1830, but one title (The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser) was being published as early as 1803. The first issue of New Zealand's earliest newspaper, the New Zealand Gazette, was printed by emigrants even before their departure from London. The second issue awaited the installation of printing facilities in Wellington in 1840, when large-scale colonization was begun, but in the same year the New Zealand Advertiser was added to the list. The Taranaki Herald began publication in 1852.

In South Africa a press law was passed in 1828 to secure a modicum of publishing freedom, mainly through the efforts of the editor of the country's first paper, the South African Commercial Advertiser. Later papers, such as the Cape Argus (1857), were often tied to commercial and mining interests at first, but later their editors began to insist on freer commentary. The racially divided nature of the country has prevented, however, absolute freedom even in modern times. Similar restrictions continue to be applied to publishers in many other African and Asian countries, in eastern Europe, and in Latin America, although the political complexion of the various regimes may differ.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica

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