“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” – Thomas Jefferson
One of the most insightful ways to view modern media is through the perspective of history. Throughout the history of journalism, new distribution methods – radio, TV, and now the Internet – have changed the way the news is distributed and consumed, but the demons of political bias that haunted early publications have continued to influence modern media outlets.
Pamphlets and Politics
When newspapers began in Europe, they were nothing more than handwritten pamphlets boasting a “political agenda.” Examples included The Weekly News of 1622 and The London Gazette of 1666. Pamphlets such as these were circulated among close friends, family, and merchants as a primary means of communication regarding important issues such as war, the economy, and social customs.
The Founding Fathers used the power of the pamphlet to incite the people to revolt against the British. Common Sense, a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine promoting independence, was widely distributed and in proportion to the colonial population outperformed many of today’s bestselling books. Common Sense, though it is perhaps the most prominent example, is just one of hundreds of pamphlets published and distributed in the colonies up through 1776.