Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fleet Street: The Surprising Origins of the Modern Newspaper

Matthew Green discusses Britain's first newspapers.

From the piece in the Telegraph...

The birth of the modern newspaper can be traced to a house that once stood on the eastern bank of the fetid River Fleet in London. From 1702, overlooking the sewage, dead dogs, and suicide victims that clogged up the waterway, England’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, thumped, clanged and squelched out the news to the city's eager citizens.
It was just one product of a media revolution at the dawn of the 18th century. For reasons that will become clear, England’s strict pre-publication censorship laws melted away in 1695 and within months a prolific newspaper press had burst into life. By the mid-1730s, 31 papers - six dailies, 12 tri-weeklies and 13 weeklies - were being hawked on the streets of London, with an average combined weekly circulation of 100,000. Contemporaries assumed that each issue was read or heard by 20 people in taverns, coffeehouses, barber shops and elsewhere, suggesting that by the mid-1740s, some 42 per cent of London’s 650,000-strong population consumed news daily.
The press boom triggered a new addiction, something the journalist Joseph Addison defined in 1712 as a ‘news frenzy‘.

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