How the Monster Grew: A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian looks at the origins of modern media

The first American newspaper, Paul Starr tells us in The Creation of the Media, was published in Boston in 1690 under the title Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick. In the four–page debut edition, publisher Benjamin Harris stated his intention to publish monthly, “or if any Glut of Occurrences happen, oftener.”

Three centuries later, inundated as we are by the news crawls of 24–hour cable channels and instant headlines on our Palm Pilots, we may regard Harris’ statement as signifying an Eden of media, an innocent age of journalistic temperament that has since been corrupted by compulsive urgency. By now, cable news has disposed of the notion of “the news of the day” in favor of “at this hour,” and some channels have replaced “Live” on their onscreen graphics with the even grabbier “Right Now.” Starr doesn’t say it, but “the creation of the media” was the creation of a monster.

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