Media Transformation…

June 22, 2009 by  
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meredith_walker_bachelors_dFrom Benjamin Harris’ papers of the seventeenth century to the modern day media centers online and on TV, the newspaper has undergone a drastic change in style.  The true transition began when America broke free of British news in 1783 and established the Pennsylvania evening Post as the first American daily.  The many papers published in between these early years were deeply rooted in cultural ideals as well as secrecy from the British Empire depending on the time frame.  The rise to the media outlets as we know them to be today has been a long time coming but is the best form of news to fit modern society.

Isaiah Thomas’ Massachusetts Spy was one such paper that was secretly published within 1770 and 1776 during the American Revolution.  Many similar papers were published during this time, albeit a difficult time in which to publish any type of paper with a continuous circulation.  Many papers did not survive past a few months and those that did were changed to Royalist perspectives due to the British occupancy.  However, after the independence of 1776, papers began to experience the freedom they so craved from the tyranny of an overseas empire.  These new papers united resistance to oppression, praised patriotism, and denounced tyranny, often making the papers themselves a bit more radical than the majority of the population.  These papers often served to unify the general public which proved to be a general step in the right direction when instating a nation.

The later eighteenth century saw the rise of partisan papers and political parties began to take shape.  Federalist and Republican presses dominated different realms of the nation and proved to reach out to constituents in an easy way.  This time period cemented the newspaper ideals and molded the reporting to be what we now know it to be: local affairs and the rivalry of competitors which has since become a dominant force in American journalism.  With the increased annexation of states, the newspaper audience grew as more and more citizens joined the ranks of the United States.  These early papers of the West were often poorly written but served to provide an outlet for these new national citizens in which to approach their Congressman and get their voices heard.  This is what the news was originally about, catering to a smaller local audience in order to get their voices heard on a national scale in the end.  After this original introduction of papers around the United States, they have since grown into larger entities that are all-encompassing.

“Yellow Journalism” and muckraking are terms of the later nineteenth and twentieth century which have helped to cement the importance of journalism in American society.  Yellow journalism references journalism that features scandal-mongering, sensationalism, or other unethical antics by news media organizations; muckraker refers to an individual who investigates and exposes issues of corruption that violate previous societal ethical values.  The original Yellow Journalism battle began between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  These type of battles remain in existence today between rival news networks although they are no longer central to newspaper in print.  The move from print papers to online and televised news accounts has made an extraordinary difference in the modern world.  Most modern day businessmen do not have the time to read an entire newspaper which has since tripled in length, but can hear the snippets of news on the radio or from a news station on TV; furthermore, they can always go online and click the top headlines of the day.  This transformation in the media world is a telling sign of the shift in technology that we have yet to fully realize the significance of.

This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the She welcomes your feedback at

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