Did You Know? History of the Newspaper

Joann Wolwowicz

In your hand you are holding the official newspaper of the University of New Haven, the Charger Bulletin. But do you really know anything about the history of the newspaper in general? The history of newspapers is a gigantic chapter of the human experience that goes back five centuries.

A newspaper is a regularly scheduled publication containing news, information, and advertizing. General interest newspapers typically publish stories on local and national political events and personalities, crime, business, entertainment, society and sports. Most traditional papers also feature an editorial page containing editorials that express the personal opinions of writers. (Check out our editorial section.). Other features include display and classified advertizing, comics, and inserts from local merchants.

Before the invention of newspapers, in the early 17th century, official government bulletins were circulated at times in come centralized empires. In Ancient Rome, government bulletins were made public by Julius Caesar by being carved in metal or stone and posted in public places. In China, early government-produced news sheets were circulated among court officials during the late Han Dynasty. They were often handwritten on silk and read only by government officials. In 1562, there was the first reference to privately published news sheets in Beijing, during the Ming Dynasty. However, none of these publications fully met the classical criteria for proper newspapers as they are today, as they were typically not intended for the general public and restricted to a certain range of topics.

The emergence of the new media branch in the 17th century came around with the spread of the printing press, from which the publishing press derives its name. In 1690, in Boston, Benjamin Harris published Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick. This is considered the first newspaper in the American colonies, even though only one edition was published before the paper was suppressed by the government. In 1704, the government allowed the Boston News-Letter to be published and it became the first continuously published newspaper in the colonies. Soon after, weekly papers began publishing in New York and Philadelphia. In 1783, the Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first American daily newspaper.

Now that you know a little about the history of the newspaper as a whole, you can settle in and enjoy the rest of the one you are holding, knowing that it has a lot of history behind it.