Which was the world’s first newspaper? When did it begin?

The newspaper in its modern form is usually regarded as beginning in 1566, when the government of Venice, Italy, issued written news-sheets and exhibited them in the streets. Anyone was allowed to read them on payment of a small coin called Gazetta. On this account the news-sheets were called gazettes, and they became so popular that they were printed. Soon after the date mentioned, gazettes were issued in most of the big cities of Europe. The first English newspaper was the weekly news, published in London in 1622. But in this paper and its successors down to 1641 only foreign news was printed.

Still, early civilizations were distributing news back in the day. For instance, in China, one of the early ways to spread and distribute news was through a medium known as qipao. These were created in early 202 BC and were basically reports or bulletins distributed by the government for bureaucrats. If there was a news that was intended for the public, it would be mentioned on what we today term as posters. 

In addition to that, in ancient Rome, Acta diurna was published prior to 59 BC. These were published and distributed by the government as news sheets and daily gazettes for the public. It consisted of information regarding politics, trials, executions, and military campaigns. Initially, the news was first chiseled on metal or stone and then handwritten to be distributed in public forums. 

The first true newspapers arrived when Johannes Gutenberg introduced his movable type printing press. It was introduced to the European world in 1440. Although the movable type printing press had already existed for around two centuries, it never managed to make it to Europe. Furthermore, Johannes’s version made the production of documents comparatively faster as well. By 1500, the printing press had stepped its foot in Europe, and the news sheets were distributed all around. 

With the passage of time, newspapers continuously improved and flourished during the industrial revolution. It significantly boosted the production of newspapers to up to 10,000 papers per hour since giant presses came into being. These giants provided a huge contribution to the massive growth of the newspaper industry, from 2,526 newspapers in 1850 to more than 11,000 newspapers in 1880. Not only did the industrial revolution helped with the production, but it provided improved technology to feature detailed illustrations as well. Reporters would sketch the images, and then, the illustrations were printed from woodcut engravings, which was another revolution in the world of newspapers. 

While newspapers in the modern sense are thus less than four centuries old, something corresponding to the newspaper was found in the ancient world. Accounts of the doings of the imperial armies of Rome were sent to generals in command in all parts of the empire. These Acta Diurna, or Daily Doings as they were called, were communicated by the generals to their officers. Farther back still, items of news, generally about kings or battles, were carved in stone in prominent places in Babylonian and Assyrian cities. 

These may almost be regarded as the origin of the news paper as a record of events. Probably the oldest newspaper in this sense is the Siloam Inscription, discovered in 1880 in the rocky aqueduct of the Pool of Siloam at the southeast end of Jerusalem. The characters are those of an early form of the alphabet used by the Phoenicians, Hebrews and Moabites. The language is Biblical Hebrew. The inscription is of the period of the Hebrew monarchy. It dates back to at least 700 B.C., and is one of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions known. It may be called the Jewish newspaper of Isaiah’s time, and perhaps even of Solomon’s time.

Newspapers Today

Today newspapers have taken the form of digital media. Social media platforms and online news websites are not only free to visit but provide news on the go. Regardless of your location, you can get hold of the latest news through emails and subscriptions, etc. However, still, the production of newspapers remains relevant as people belonging to previous generations might be reticent to adapt to new ways of reading news online. 

Additionally, the production of newspapers is also important for those who do not have access to the internet. Apart from the fact that even governments today make use of online platforms to distribute news, but there seems to be no point in deleting newspapers from the surface of the earth. Some things remain relevant regardless of how far technology has progressed, and this is one of them.

More reading:

Newspaper (Wikipedia)

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