More than 200 years ago, putting out a daily newspaper was a daunting task. Well, it still is now, but things have changed a bit.
Back then, pressmen had to set type by hand. It was an arduous task, and they didn’t have the presses we have now. It wasn’t a matter of pushing buttons and keeping the ink between the lines as hundreds or thousands of newspapers roll by each minute. Nope, they did it all by hand back then, and we can print more than 100 newspapers now in the time it took them to produce just one.
But the times are different. The technology is different. Also, the information people want from their newspaper changed over the years.
A few days ago a man walked into my office with a large box. Inside the box was a copy of the Independent Gazetteer dated Aug. 1, 1795. It was an original; it wasn’t a reprinted keepsake. I was afraid to touch it, although its owner suggested that I take a look inside. So I did. And right there was an original column by Ben Franklin. It wasn’t his best of work, it was a piece about a treaty between the United States and the Court of Great Britain. Kinda dull, I know.
But the topic of the article doesn’t take away from the fact that it was penned by Franklin, and I was touching a newspaper that rolled off Eleazer Oswald’s press.
I’ve always had great interest in newspaper history. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been intrigued by our nation’s earliest journalists and the impact they had shaping our young nation.
Before the Ernie Pyles, Bob Woodwards, Carl Bernsteins and Sam Lacys (all great journalists in their own time), there were the pioneers of American journalism. Franklin, Philip Freneau, Isaiah Thomas, Joseph Dennie and Ben Day made the newspaper a must-read, a staple of American society.
But the times were different. Unbiased reporting wasn’t even a concept. Each publisher’s paper was a platform of ideas — a medium used to persuade the masses to support this movement or that idea. That’s where a lot of today’s newspapers came from.
Boy, how things have changed.
While carefully scanning the 215-year-old paper I wondered how we got from there to here — and where we’ll be in another 215 years — long after our time in the industry.
Will there even be a print product in 2225? Who knows? By then, information consumers very well could have their daily news wirelessly transferred into their noggin without reading or visually "consuming" anything. (That’s a stretch, I know.)
What I do know, like Franklin, Freneau, Thomas and Day knew then, is that the backbone of a community is its people and their source of information. That always will be the case.
Although our business is changing every day as we harness new technology and find ways to blend that with our time-tested print products, the core of our business is the same two centuries later.
We’re here for you. We’re here to give you the information you seek, whatever that may be, to make an informed decision, to be in the know, to be a part of a thriving community. That’s as true today as it was 215 years ago.