History of Print Media and Its Role in Society

Topics: Newspaper, Mass media, Printing press Pages: 7 (2294 words) Published: April 28, 2013
Adrian Radomski

Dr. Cusumano



The History of Print Media and its Role Among Business’, Government and Society  In an age when innovation is constantly adding to how we define mass media, print media has seemed to maintain its role and presence in our society. In a basic and simplistic way, businessdictionary.com defines print media as “the industry associated with the printing and distribution of news through newspapers, magazines and books”.   Collectively, books, magazines and newspapers are some of the oldest and most basic forms of mass communication. Each one of these sources individually play’s an important role in our daily lives by providing readers with news, entertainment and information. Additionally, cultural, social and political change in the U.S. can largely be attributed to print media and how the government and influential big business companies have used it in the past or are currently using it. In this essay, we will also trace the history of print media, its contemporary role in our society and what the future holds. Throughout history, print media has withstood a long and rocky road of trials and tribulations to come to the point where it’s at today. Early American newspaper publishing began as the colonist’s anger over England’s attempts to control them grew intensely. Colonists found it to be an active vehicle in early progressive reform. Print media in the form of pamplets and newspapers was used to unite the colonies against the British and eventually lead to the revolution. It helped to bridge the gap between economic and political interests and enabled the birth of the American nation. By the early 19th century, newspapers had become the dominant force of mass media. The Commercial Press, Partisan Press and Penny Press made their rise as the top newspaper formats of their day. Commercial Press newspapers mostly reported on business dealings and trade. Partisan press on the other hand, fed the political interests of society. It served as the voice of American political parties and to this day is recognized as a power vehicle in maintaining democracy in America. The introduction of steam-powered printing allowed for a frugal and fast way to mass-produce newspapers, eventually giving birth to penny press newspapers. Of the three formats, the Penny press could be single handedly viewed as the most influential catalyst in the rise of print media. Unlike its newspaper predecessors who were costly and only reached the hands of upper class citizens, the penny press de-exclusified newspapers, as it was now affordable for citizens of low social classes. Rather than discussing politics and business, these newspapers tended to feed the appetite of a growing literate audience and focused more on entertainment and knowledge. Increasing immigration during the industrial revolution only contributed to the success of the penny press. Immigrants wanted to read and learn more about the new world that they had come to make their home. With the rapid rise of literacy rates as a result of the penny press, the newspaper industry had reached a golden age and solidified its influential role in society.

As more and more people became literate, the demand for reading material had staggered to an all time high. Magazines had made their way to the print media scene, and rapidly grew in popularity. Although early magazines were expensive and were only subscribed to by the wealthy, the modernization of the printing press again contributed to its success. In addition to cheaper production costs, shipping and postage rates dropped with the emergence of railroad transportation. As magazines grew in popularity, national advertising of products and companies made it cheaper to produce and gave publishers more of an incentive to print from a profit standpoint. What set aside magazines from newspapers was the specialization in style and topics of each magazine. Rather than being a...
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