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Newspapers

Newspapers

It is important to realize that “objective journalism” is a 20th Century concept. In the 17th through 19th Centuries all of the papers practiced an “advocacy” journalism. The papers were for or against a cause, or the government. It mattered greatly to its publishers and readers whether the paper was Tory or Whig. The Tatler intended to differ, as it would contain only “accounts of gallantry, pleasure and entertainment” according to its first issue in 1709, but of course a slant is and was shown by the choice of gossip printed. These editorial slants changed with the owners, editors, or the payments received to print stories. For example The Times, under its first editor, received stories and funds directly from the government, and all papers through the early 19th printed only favourable theatre review because they were written and paid for by the theater owners. In defence of The Times, they were the the first to do their own reviews, and found themselves in a battle with the theater owners.

A tax was first imposed on British newspapers in 1712. The tax was gradually increased until the 1815 Stamp Act increased it to 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes. Some radicals, such as Richard Carlile, ignored the law and continued to publish his newspaper, The Republicanwithout paying stamp duty. The tax remained high until 1855 when it was reduced to 1d.

Where did the British citizen get his news? What follows is a list of the better known newspapers with information about their inception and editorial slant.