On this, the ninth anniversary of WhatsUpNewp, it is easy to reflect upon Journalism’s evolution from the all-important town crier, the main source of news in what was a primarily illiterate world, to online publications, like WhatsUpNewp.
We have seen the development … and decline … of print publications, with circulations plummeting, staffs rapidly declining. We have seen electronic media – television and radio – influenced by broadband and the hundreds of outlets now available, and the lure of providing “opinion news,” where the broadcasters are far more willing to tell you what you should think, rather than urging you to come to your own conclusions.
So online has become increasingly popular, with news sites scattered in these United States and around the world. Rhode Island has a variety of sites, and WhatsUpNewp, we believe, is among its best.
WhatsUpNewp has been evolving too, from the early days when it was mainly about lifestyle to today, with a healthy mix of lifestyle and news, providing traditional written pieces with podcasts and videocasts.
It is a far cry from when elaborately dressed town criers, in their red and gold coats, white slacks and black boots, would appear in crowded streets in medieval England, ringing their bells, calling for silence and attention with a bellowing “Oyez” (hear ye).
Town criers were recognized as the main source of news for townspeople, not only in England, but throughout Europe and Africa. All dressed in elaborate clothing, depicting their culture, and calling their listeners using bells and drums and horns.
While town criers existed into the early 1900’s in America, it was the pamphleteers that evolved from the printing press, the Guttenberg press of the Renaissance era. It was, as James A. Oliver wrote in “The Pamphleteers: The Birth of Journalism, Emergence of the Press & The Fourth Estate, a time when pundits were “driven not merely by scandal and sensationalism, but by major historical events…”
It is generally believed that the first newspaper was The German-language Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, first printed in1605 in Strasbourg. In America, In 1704, the The Boston News-Letter became the first continuously published newspaper in the colonies.
Over time newspapers distinguished themselves with in-depth coverage of major issues, internationally, nationally, and locally, not only answering the who, what, where and when, but also the why.
In Rhode Island, the Providence Journal developed into one of the best regional newspapers in America, with news bureaus in every corner of the state, a Washington bureau, and a news staff of more than 300. Circulation rose well over 200,000 for the combined morning Journal and Evening Bulletin. Today, the Journal’s circulation hovers around 30,000, its news staff at perhaps 10 reporters.
Print publications fell victim, as Ben Bagdikian wrote in his many iterations of the Media Monopoly, to corporate ownership, shifting allegiance from communities to shareholders. And, of course, the rise of technology and online alternatives added to the demise of many print publications.
Through it all – the town crier, the pamphleteer, the newspapers, radio and television, and now online – the only thing that has really changed is the way the news is delivered. What has not wavered, is how we collect the news. Good journalists, no matter how their work is delivered, continue to adhere to the highest traditions of journalism.