A Brief History of Newspapering

James Franklin, Ben’s older brother, was a printer in Boston and in 1721 he had the big idea to start a newspaper, The New-England Courant.

The Courant, which sold for four pence, was a good way to keep the press busy and bring in some extra income. It didn’t take long for James to get into trouble with the authorities, and they threw him in jail the following year for writing “scandalous libel.”

Thus modern journalism was born.

At some point, people figured out that newspapers could be a stand-alone enterprise, rather than just a sideline for commercial printers, and this gave way to the business model of newspapers owning a printing press — not the other way around.

Fast forward to 2013.

Our local paper, the Times Union, just installed a new printing press, which might seem like a bad idea as newspapers are biting the dust all over America. What next, are they going to go back to using kids to distribute their product? But amid the much ballyhooed coverage about serving the customers better and spitting in the face of the print’s downward spiral is this single line from an AP story:

The new press also will allow the newspaper to perform commercial print jobs.

Well, there you go. I’m not suggesting that the newspaper will be just a sideline for a printing operation (even though I joked about it on Twitter), but it will sure help to have some extra money coming in. And if that means keeping journalists and photographers on the job, then it’s a good thing.

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