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What's a Gazette?

April 1, 2008 - Sunny Day

"Newspaper, a publication that appears regularly and frequently, and carries news about a wide variety of current events."   Taken, as much of this content will be, from History of Newspapers by Mitchell Stephens for Collier's Encyclopedia. 

One of the most important functions of a newspaper is to provide information on government and politics.  This was considered so important that the first Congress protected it in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and it prohibits Congress from passing any law that abridges the freedom of the press.

But long before the vast majority  of people could read or write the "newspaper"  or news network was word of mouth.  People passed information to one another over the market stalls or on the road to and from lodgings as they crossed paths with other travelers.  Sailors would carry news and information from port to port.  With the advent of literacy and writing, news gained more reliability (less chance for the story to change according to the listener).  Early Rome actually had handwritten news sheets which told of political events, trials, executions, battles and scandals.  But the oldest direct ancestors of today's newspapers were handwriten news sheets that were circulated in 16th century Venice and called a gazette.  These news sheets were circulated weekly and traveled across Europe bringing news from far off places.

The news sheet form became the cornerstone for today's news reporting - news items began with the date and the name of a particular city.  These became the "dateline"  used yet today.

The first newspaper was printed in England in 1621 with France not far behind in 1631 - BUT Amsterdam was exporting weeklies in English & French as early as 1620.

Dispite the information being passed through word of mouth, the publishers of these weeklies struggled to find new items to report in their papers each week. Originally publishers could print the news sheets at their leisure, but now they had a weekly product to fill.

However, as evolution in the trade took place, the pace accelerated and the newspaper industry (as young as it was) adapted to the weekly schedule, then the daily schedule and ultimately to the electronic media who report on happenings within minutes.

I hope you are enjoying reading this blog - if you have any questions, just send me a comment and we will try to answer them. Next time we'll continue our walk through the evolution of the newspaper....or maybe we will hold the next installment to bring you a bit of an insider's view.




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