london germany news journalism press france
NEWSPAPERS, the authenticated history of newspapers begins in Germany. The earliest plainly periodical collection of the " news of the day," as distinguished from the isolated news-pamphlets (of which there is at least one example of as early a date as 1498, and in Germany alone about eight hundred examples, all dating before 1610, still to be found in existing libraries), is the Frankfurter Journal, a weekly publication started by Egenolph Emmel in 1615. Antwerp follows, with its Nieuwe Tijdinghen of 1616. Six years later came the establishment in London, by Nathaniel Butter and his partners, of a like paper, under the title of The Weekly News. All of these were the enterprises of " stationers," undertaken in the ordinary way of their trade, and hawked about the streets by itinerating " mercuries." The foundation in Paris, in 1631, of a journal which eventually attained fame as the Gazette de France, and which still exists, had a very different origin and different aims. The scheme of Theophraste Renaudot, a busy projector, unconnected with trade, who in certain points of his character and talent may be described as a born publicist, it appeared under the patronage of Richelieu, in the shape and with the limitations which it pleased the chief statesman of the day to mark out for it.
The history of the " leading article," as a great factor in the shaping of public opinion, begins with Swift, Defoe, Bolingbroke, and Pulteney, in the many newspapers, from The Review and The Examiner to The Craftsman, by which was waged the keen political strife of the years 1704-40. There is no counterpart to it in France until the Revolution of 1789, nor in Germany until 1796 or 1798. It was a Frenchman who wrote - " Suffer yourself to be blamed, imprisoned, condemned; suffer yourself even to be hanged; but publish your opinions. It is not a right ; it is a duty." It was in England that the course so pithily described was actually taken, in the face of fine, imprisonment, and pillory, at a time when in France the public had to depend upon foreign journals illicitly circulated, when its own chief writers resorted to clandestine presses, to paltry disguises, and to very poor subterfuges to escape the responsibilities of avowed authorship, and when in Germany there was no political publicity worthy to be named.
When the Jlercure de France, after a long period of mediocrity, came into the hands of men of large intellectual faculty, they had the most cogent reasons for exerting their powers upon topics of literature rather than upon themes of politics. True political journalism dates only from the Revolution, and it then had a very brief existence. It occupied a cluster of writers, some Of whom have left an enduring mark upon French literature. A term of high aspiration was followed quickly by a much longer term of frantic licence and of literary infamy. Then came the long rule of a despotic censorship ; and cycles of licence followed by cycles of repression have revolved, with varying periodicity, from that day to this. Germany has to some extent its parallelisms ; but German journalism, if it never soared so high, never sank so low. Journalism in Germany has made steady advances onward ; and in one grand feature - that of far-gathered information from foreign countries, not merely of incidents, but of the growth of opinion and the state of social life - the leading newspapers of Germany keep much ahead of their best French contemporaries. In France, too often, the journals that gain the largest circulation are precisely those of most conspicuous frivolity. Sometimes they are much worse than frivolous. In 1871 newspapers issued from Parisian presses which were as base and as brutal as those of 1794. In 1870 the democratic Government at Bordeaux issued against journals of high aims and of unspotted integrity, but opposed to its pretensions, edicts as arbitrary as the worst acts in that kind of Napoleon I., and unparalleled in the whole course of the government of Napoleon III.
In all the other countries of Europe political journalism, in any characteristic sense, is a thing of the present century, - somewhat earlier in the century in northern Europe, somewhat later in southern. The Ordimtrie Post-Tidende of Stockholm dates indeed from 1643, but until very recent times it was a mere news-letter. Denmark had no sort of journal worth remark until the foundation, in 1749, of the Berlingske Tidende, and that too attained to no political rank. The Gazette of St Petersburg - the patriarch of Russian newspapers - dates from 16th December 1702, is a Government organ, and nearly synchronizes with the first successful attempt at a newspaper in the British colonies in America. But the Boston Gazette was, in its degree, a better journal in the last century than the Wiedomosti now.
Journalism in Italy begins with the Diario di Roma in 1716, but in politics the press remained a nullity - for all practical purposes - until nearly the middle of the present century, when the newspapers of Sardinia, at the impulse of Cavour, began to foreshadow the approach of the influential Italian press of the present day. In Spain no rudiments of a newspaper press can be found until the last century. As late as in 1826 an inquisitive American traveller records his inability to lay his hands, during his Peninsular. tour, upon more than two Spanish. newspapers.
It may be useful to bring these chronological notes of the origin of journalism into view, at a. glance, conjointly with the dates of some of the chief existing journals of Europe, by tabulating them thus : - The development of the modern newspaper is due to a union of causes that may well be termed marvellous. A machine that from a web of paper 3 or 4 miles long can, in one hour, print, fold, cut, and deliver 24,000 or 25,000 perfected broadsheets is after all not so great a marvel as is the organizing skill which centralizes in a London office telegraphic communications from every important town in Europe, Asia, America, and Australia, and which then (whilst re-transmitting thither the news of London) distributes those communications - directly or indirectly - to thousands of recipients simultaneously, by day and by night, throughout all Britain. And but for unusual mental gifts, conjoined with high culture and with great " staying-power," in the editorial rooms, all these marvels of ingenuity - which now combine to develop public opinion on great public interests, and to guide it - would be nothing better than a vast mechanism for making money out of man's natural aptitude to spend his time either in telling or in hearing some new thing.
Julius Renter's enterprise grew immediately out of the thoughts of an observant Prussian Government-messenger on the extraordinary excitement of this natural aptitude which he witnessed as caused by the revolutionary movements of 1848. In 1849 he established a news-transmitting agency in Paris, with all the appliances that were then available. Between Brussels and Aix-la-Chapelle he formed a pigeon-service, connecting it with Paris and with Berlin by telegraph. As the wires extended, he quickly followed them with agency-offices in many parts of the Continent. When he came to London, his progress was for a moment held in check. The editor of The Times listened very courteously to his proposals, but (on that first occasion) ended their interview by saying, "We generally find that we can do our own business better than anybody else can." He went to the office of The Morning Advertiser, which had then the next largest circulation to that of The Times, and had better success.' He entered into an agreement with that and afterwards with other London journals, including The Times, and also with many commercial corporations and firms.
The newspapers, of course, continued to employ their own wires and to extend them, but they found great advantage in the use of Reuter's telegrams as supplementary. His enterprise grew apace. Within a few years it is said to have yielded the founder some £25,000 a year. In 1865 it was transferred to a limited company. In 1868 the London Press Association was formed. It contracted with Reuter's company to supply their telegrams exclusively throughout the United Kingdom, London only excepted. The cost yearly to those newspaper proprietors who are members of the association is £294, to nonmembers £323. In connexion with the intelligence department of the post-office, the Press Association supplies parliamentary, juridical, and market news. The office of the Association is kept open during twenty-one hours of the twenty-four. The enterprise was organized by Mr John Lovell, now editor of The Live'pool Mercury. London has now at least nine other press and telegraphic associations ; Paris probably has almost as many.