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Traditionally, acquiring current information in a timely fashion was dependent on location: geography, time and space. We had to be near the report of the information to learn about it while it was still "new" and thus, news.

The information we find in newspapers includes local, national, regional, international news, although the type and extent of the news depends on:

the purpose of the newspaper
the politics or other agenda of the publisher or the owner
the advertisers
the subject content ("sexy", controversial, eyeball garnering)

Information about current news and events is sought and used for a variety of reasons, including:

personal interest: entertainment / recreation / curiosity
problem solving: competitive intelligence
strategic planning: proactive response
research: academic, commercial, criminal

News reports appeared first as verbal communications, passed by travellers. Depending on how you define a newspaper, its history can be traced back to early Rome and Beijing, but not until the seventeenth century, when the availability of the printing press was joined with a rise in literacy, did newspapers appear in their common and familiar form. The first daily newspaper (in English) was the Daily Courant which appeared in London in 1702. (See: a Concise History of the British Newspaper for more information on the history of newspapers.)

A remarkable old newspaper, The Belfast Newsletter, has been indexed and you can search it online through The Belfast Newsletter Index, 1737-1800.

Broadsides (or broadsheets) represent a particular type of newspaper. They were usually a single sheet of paper, printed on one side, that could be posted on a wall for those passing by to read -- always presuming they knew how to read. Historically, broadsides contained everything from speeches to songs to public notices to crime news. To experience a broadside, go to The Word on the Street, a collection of Scottish broadsides dating from 1650 to 1910, available through the National Library of Scotland. Find the Search & Browse link. When you see the list of subject headings, click on Marvels and look for the link to "Baby who was born with the ability to speak" (hmmm, that sounds a lot like a story you might read in National Enquirer or perhaps News of the World ...)

Broadsides and newspapers initially appeared in print. Any change in the reported information required a new edition of the paper. Newspapers might have had both a morning and evening edition and sometimes a special edition might appear for particularly momentous news.

With the beginnings of the telegraph in the nineteenth century, the Associated Press, a news service, was developed in the United States as a more cost-effective way for newspapers to gather news from Nova Scotia, Europe and elsewhere. (See History / Corporate Archives: Associated Press.) The Associated Press was soon joined by Canadian Press, Reuters, and other similar services and their various bylines appear on stories carried in newspapers from around the world.

Newspapers were also used as community meeting places, full of local announcements, notices and advertisements. As immigration from Europe to North America increased, families and friends moved and lost track of one another. Through most of the nineteenth cenutry and into the twentieth century, the Boston Pilot ran a "Missing Friends" column designed to help reunite loved ones. Those columns are now searchable through Information Wanted, a database of such advertisements. You can search by name, location, date of advertisement, gender and even by arrival port. Travel to this database and try a broad search by entering saint john in the Arrival Port text box.

Printed news was heavily influenced by the potential (local) market and attempted to provide relatively current information, though some newspapers were not particularly concerned about the truthfulness of their reporting. The "golden age" of newspaper publishing in the United States (1890-1920) was marked by "yellow journalism" as competition for readers was fierce. Men such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were famous (or notorious) for their sensational presentation of stories and have been accused of promoting the was between Spain and the United States in 1898 in an effort to garner more readers.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Canadian William Maxwell Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) turned Britain's Daily Express newspaper into what was, reportedly, the most widely read newspaper in the world with a circulation (in 1936) of over 2 million. Borrowing some ideas from his rivals and developing some of his own, he added a crossword puzzle, sports pages, special items for women and removed advertising from the front page. He would also found the Sunday Express and the Daily Standard. (See: Daily Express: A chequered history.)

When newspapers, and other types of news media became computer based, users could sometimes acquire multiple and simultaneous versions or editions, based on their geography or other factors. The news became capable of being truly current as it could be generated "on the fly", with no fixed, actual existence. Reporting the news could take place at the same time as the event being reported. Familiar newspapers and newsletters have even been joined online by personal publications from individuals. Determining or confirming the value and accuracy of the information is still a problem.

Common Elements of a Newspaper

Many newspapers are organized into sections which reflect the interests of their community of readers. For instance, in the Saturday/Sunday Coastal Edition of the Bangor [Maine] Daily News Section A includes lead stories, national and world news. Stories "above the fold" are usually designed to catch the attention of a potential reader. In the edition for 29-30 January 2005, the banner headline was "Woman shot dead; co-worker charged", a story about a shooting in Rockland, Maine. Having caught the reader with the placement of the story and the headline, the newspaper usually attempts to tell the rest of the story in a particular order: beginning with the most intriguing information in the first paragraph

A woman was shot death Friday and her husband dodged bullets outside their trucking business after a lunchtime meeting to end her romantic relationship with a company driver, police said.

following with who, what, when, and where in the second paragraph

The driver, Douglas Dyer, 31, of Friendship, fled in his pickup truck moments after Allison Small, 30, of Vinalhaven collapsed on a snow-covered parking lot outside the building at 61 New County Road.

and then filling in the descriptive details as the article continues. If the article continues inside the paper, the editor will often try to construct the story so the reader will feel compelled to turn to the next page, perhaps stopping in the middle of a sentence.

"I knew what it was. I knew it was a gunshot, but
See Shooting, Page A10

Though there is no advertising on the front page (other than for stories inside the paper), a variety of black and white and colour ads appear elsewhere in the paper. Some of the stories are illustrated with photographs, maps, charts and the like. Bylines appear for local reporters, designated as "Of the News Staff", for reporters from other newspapers, for example, "Edmund Sanders Los Angeles Times, and for news services such as the Associated Press. The Editorial pages tell readers how to get in touch with the paper, list the editors, present letters to the editor, as well as editorials and columns which may present personal opinions on events, often in essay form. Like many daily papers in the US and Canada, the BDN has an editorial cartoon and carries the Doonesbury comic strip on its editorial pages.

Other sections in the BDN include:

Business: stock market information, articles about local business, and a number of articles from Wall Street Journal Sunday;

State news: a mix of local, regional and state news articles, personal opinion columns; a religion section; obituaries; and the weather -- with the most details appearing about Maine;

Sports: a mix of personal opinion columns; sports news (focusing on local and regional teams such as the Maine Black Bears, the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, and covering high school sporting events as well); and Maine Outdoors (hunting, fishing, etc.);

Classifieds: advertisements for everything from cars to pets to help wanted, arranged by category;

Style: home and garden advice and news; album (which consists largely of engagement and wedding announcements and photographs); the occasional book review; and some personal opinion columns.

Scattered throughout are elements found in many daily newspapers: advice columns (such as Dear Abby and Dr. Donohue); crossword and other puzzles; horoscopes; movie listings; and the comics. The weekend edition also contains numerous special flyers (for local stores, car sales, coupons, etc.), USA Today Weekend, and a television schedule for the coming week.

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This page created and maintained by Linda Hansen.
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Created: 2005/01/30 Last updated: 2011/12/16
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