Early stages of news

By: Raja Furqan Ahmed

The earlier stages of organizing news were in Ancient Greek time however due to the lack of evidence we can‎’t talk much more about. During the Roman Empire around 1300 BCE, the earliest form of current event reporting was the Acta diurnal of the Empire. Acta diurnal is a Latin word means Daily Events of the Roman Empire. This was organized by the Roman government. They also hired scribes who carved the information into the stone. The Roman government posted the stones in public places like Markets so that people can read the news.

At the same time in China, the government forward official reports called Dibao from the capital to the local governors. After reaching reports to the local governors, they edited them. This means they decided themself which information was important for local people to read. They carved the reports onto woodblocks and printed many copies. They posted the reports in public places for people to read.

Throughout history, people know about current events through posted announcements or word of mouth.  Everything changed with the invention of movable type printing presses, machines with small metal parts that move so that any text could be created and then many identical copies made.

In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg built the first printing press. This was the first time that the English language could be printed quickly and efficiently. This invention changed the way. Before it takes a lot of time but after this machine, it was much quicker and cheaper to print texts and almost anybody could do it.

Technology plays a key role in spreading the news. Soon, they were publishing or preparing and distributing papers, journals, and books. As more and more written material was published, more and more people became literate, or able to read and write. However, the government still controlled what people wrote.

In 14-century people wrote single-page news letter’s called corantos which only focused on wars and other current events. Few corantos were also criticized on the government and the churches but the government censored them. 

1644 in England, John Milton wrote and published a famous coranto called Areopagitica. This speech also refers to the freedom of the press, the right to report the news without being controlled by the government.

Publick Occurrences, the first newspaper in the Americas, was published in Boston in 1690. It contained four pages and was supposed to be published every month but it was censored immediately and its one edition was only published. A politician from the British parliament in 1787 during his speech argued that the press should be allowed to report in House of Commons, the lower house of Great Britain. He spoke about the three traditional parts of European governments commonly known as the Three Estates. Then he pointed to the journalists and called them the Fourth Estate.

A few years later, in 1791, ten amendments to the US Constitution called the Bill of Rights became law. It talked about the freedom of religion, speech and also freedom of the press. This amendment protects the journalist rights. Even though journalism was no longer controlled by the government, most newspapers in the early 19th century were biased.

In 1835, a newspaper called The New York Herald was started with the objects of providing unbiased news. This newspaper also tried to be politically independent.

In the 1850s due to the technological improvements, the movement was easier to spread newspapers from local to national. The invention of the telegraph revolutionized journalism again. The telegraph made it possible to quickly share information around long distances, international borders or oceans.

The telegraph was very expensive which also led to the creation of the first news agencies. A news agency gathers news reports and sells them to news organizations. The first-ever American news agency was the Associated Press, which was founded in New York City in 1846.

Newspapers of the 19th Century were mostly biased. They only told one-sided news story. To attract readers and to protect their interests, newspapers mostly published sensational stories that were not always accurate. These stories were exciting or shocking and many people wanted to read them. This led to the rise of so-called “yellow journalism.”

The early years of the 20th century saw the development of investigative journalism. Although newspapers continued to be popular throughout the 20th century, by the 1920s, they also had to compete with news on the radio.  Listening to the news on the radio allowed the whole family to sit down and hear the news at the same time. 1950s television became popular and almost every family in the world had one.

Later on, in the 1990s the internet became popular and it was the decline for the newspaper. People use the internet and also social media to read news and information.

As technology plays a key role in the development and also spreading the news in society. It also reflects the reader mindset that they are willing to move with the advancement of technology.

The writer is a student of International Relations and Freelance journalist currently based in Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected]