Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, January 24, 2021

Interesting analysis of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s exhibition, “Breaking News: Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper”, positing that the formation of a post-medieval society is the result of the galvanizing action of centralized news-gathering and reporting:

…But the story of how journalism became a public enterprise in Renaissance England is actually the history of how a public itself took shape; how out of a monarchical society in which great poverty and great wealth cohabited, another kind of identity evolved. It was based on slowly increasing literacy and impassioned written argument; it included curiosity about gossip and a taste for exotic tales; and it developed alongside a new commercial world in which written advertising, like the news it accompanied, helped shape taste and expectations.

Look carefully, and it is really the birth of the modern West that we see taking place here: snippets of news and sensation helped define a shared experience of the past and present, as political debates laid the foundations of democratic culture. If the Reformation is often credited with having turned the West toward the Enlightenment, another such force must be the growing taste for news and its multiple retellings. While other cultures were arguing over the interpretations of sacred texts, England’s was arguing over the nature of government in print. We are the beneficiaries…

The journalistic enterprise itself led to an expanded sense of the importance of individual opinion and even provided glimpses of something like public opinion. The result was a revolution in the ways citizens thought about themselves and their government.

It might seem like aggrandizing Old Media to suggest that we wouldn’t be who we collectively are without the dead-tree editions. If the historical view doesn’t set well with you, then forward the concept into the present and future:

Just as pre-printing press news was distributed via personal letters and journals, so too does modern, individually-generated information and expression get disseminated online via forums, blogs, Facebook, and every other Internet-based outlet. The same galvanizing force is at play. And in the same sense, the Internet Age is crafting a new idea of a “public”: More niche-based but as broad as the old mass-market entity. History is repeating itself, with network servers doing today what printing presses did 400 years ago, and we’ll redefine ourselves accordingly.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/24/2009 04:20:25 PM
Category: History, Media, Society
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