History of Journalism

First published in 59 BCE, the Acta Diurna is the earliest form of a journalistic record, ushered in by Julius Caesar and words were carved into metal or stone to be posted as government announcement bulletins. The Acta Diurna circulated in Ancient Rome and reported political and social news of the day. Throughout the duration of the Tang dynasty in China (618–907 CE), government officials received a court report called a bao up until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. Venetian written notices known as Notizie scritte were published monthly in 1556.

In England and France during the 1500’s and 1600’s, long-form news articles were distributed and known as “relations.” Single-page broadsheets were also prevalent at this time and posted in public, but due to low literacy rates, the broadsheets were often read aloud. With the advent of the printing press, newspapers were published in Germany and Antwerp on a regular basis in the early 1600’s. England saw the Weekly Newes being published later in 1622, widely regarded as the first weekly newspaper. The Oxford Gazette in 1665 was published twice weekly and met the standards of what we now consider a newspaper, reporting on the Great Plague of London. Newspapers became so popular that publishers began printing every day, the first daily newspaper was known as The Daily Courant, created in 1702 by Samuel Buckley.

Government taxes and censorship originally stifled the production and circulation of newspapers, but the invention of the printing press and proliferation of literacy eventually ensured widespread distribution, despite the interference. The taxes served as a form of censorship, and newspapers began rejecting the imposed government tax by releasing untaxed newspapers to the public. The content was often controversial, and the publishers of these untaxed newspapers were prosecuted by law. In 1855, parliament repealed the newspaper tax altogether.

The rise of magazines began in the early 1700’s, the most notable being the Tatler (1709–11) and Spectator (1711–12). Magazines at this time were a scholarly answer to the newspapers that were being distributed, but this shifted in the early 1800’s, and magazines were suddenly directed towards a less-educated audience. Tabloid journalism became prevalent with sensational topics aimed at the working class and popularized by Britain’s The Daily Mail. The rise of radio and television changed the face of journalism, thereby transforming it into an audiovisual form of communication. In the 21st century, the internet has broadened the scope that journalists can reach by offering free information and leaving paid subscriptions in the past. We have now reached a global stage in which we may share information.

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