When you read the headlines from this week's Chronicle you may be viewing the first moments of tomorrow's history. Newspapers have for hundreds of years written about important stories of their day that over time have become parts of our history. It has only been in the past 100 years that we have gained knowledge of the world around us from early radio and later television.
The First Article of The Bill of Rights ratified in 1791 guarantees the freedom of the press. The written words pressed into paper were guaranteed to be free of government intervention. It was the hope by the authors of the Bill of Rights that the printed word would give the population an unbiased account of the day's events. Early papers were often libelous by today's standards. Political factions struggled for power and early papers often chose a side to give opinions on.
In the early 1800's less than 400 hundred newspapers were being printed. They were expensive, which made them hard for the average person to possess. Then in 1830 technology made printing of newspapers cheap and plentiful. They became known as the penny press and were sold for one cent a copy.
This abundance of reading material undoubtedly had a great influence on the advancement of literacy in our country. This new literacy began to give citizens a better understanding of the world that was out of sight in their daily lives.
Printed paper had its start over five hundred years ago in the form of handwritten copies. Those first papers were written to help the businessmen of the day share information of economics, wars, and even human interest stories.
Germany in the 1400's printed pamphlets that were known as broadsides. Often these early papers sensationalized stories to gain readership. Some say that may still be a practice used in some publications today. One such story that was greatly sensationalized was written about Vlad Tsepes Drakul. We still recognize the story that has been told many times over time. Today that person is known as Count Dracula of Transylvania.
But for all their history and being part of our daily culture, the printed word in newsprint is losing ground to a world of information overload. Television channels are dedicated to 24 hour a day news updates. Small devices that we can listen to our favorite music or world events are so small they go unnoticed. The worldwide web of the internet can in just microseconds transport us to breaking news around the globe.
Last week a newspaper ran a story of a new device that you can purchase for just $499 that can download books, magazines, or even your favorite newspaper for a fee. The device has a screen that is nine inches, which makes it easy for people to see the words on the electronic screen. All the world news and literary masters' words is in one small plastic electronic device. Books and newspapers require no battery charging or electronic updating. We have over mankind's history recorded the words of poets, historians, philosophers, science, and even the Ten Commandments. We have preserved those words and the ones of our future in some vast electronic memory bank. But in the end it still comes down to one overriding fact. Someone will have to keep charging the batteries to save it for mankind's future. The printed word has lasted because the technology is simple and enduring. We value these words written on the pages we hold in our hands that somehow let us feel the story they tell. A cold plastic electronic screen may hold the world's collection of recorded words, but loses the intimacy of their meaning.
It seems lately I often read about a newspaper somewhere in the country that is closing down after years reporting the daily news events. Each paper writes its own obituary as its last major story. That final printed headline of that day may in some future journalistic release be called the history of the American publishing industry.
Can you just imagine sitting down with your morning cup of coffee and begin to read the electronic news major headlines, "The World's Fut." Sorry the batteries just went dead as you were reading Thru The Len.