Listen to part of a conversation between a student and her history professor.
So I definitely wanna write my term paper on American journalism in the eighteenth century.
That old copy of the New York Daily Gazette you showed us, the one printed from the library's microfilm... just seeing a newspaper that was published in 1789, that was really cool.
Yes, reading old newspapers can be a powerful experience, especially to a budding historian like yourself.
As a resource for scholars and researchers, I don't think any form of publication really captures the day-to-day life of a community better than a local newspaper.
Yeah, I mean I knew that the number of newspapers exploded in the eighteenth century, but I figured they all deteriorated before the technology was invented to preserve them, or y'know, make copies.
Well, actually, before the mid-1800s, newspapers were printed on fairly sturdy paper made from cotton fibers. Those that survived are in surprisingly good shape.
Are there many more copies of the Gazette on microfilm.
Yeah, we've got a great microfilm library on campus. You'll find it invaluable, I'm sure, as you research your paper.
Um, but also talk to the librarians, because they're creating an online archive of their microfilm collection.
I'm not sure of the project's status, but if it's done, it'll probably save you time.
[getting back on topic] So, um, eighteenth-century journalism; you must realize that that topic's too broad for this assignment.
I do. So one idea I had was like, looking at an important world event, like maybe the French Revolution of 1789, since we just finished a unit on it.
The readings you had given us were incredibly vivid; I loved them. But they were translations of French writers...historians.
So, I thought it'd be interesting to pick the Gazette and one other American newspaper to see how each covered the Revolution, how the journalists reported it from America's perspective...
Hmm. Interesting approach. But remember, I'll be grading your paper based on the details you include.
And at some point in your paper, you'll want to focus on a particular event of the Revolution, like maybe the storming of the Bastille prison?
How 'bout the formation of the French National Constituent Assembly?
Sure, that would work.
And since I'm gonna look at newspapers from two cities, I could read the editorials, the opinion pieces, to find out what each community thought about the National Assembly.
[warningly, not excitedly] OK, but... y'know, I once attended a history conference where a professor presented a paper on the American press in the French Revolution.
She was discussing the development of democratic ideals here and in France at the time.
[cautioning student against overgeneralizing] But, ah, she also pointed out that using old newspapers as primary sources... to be aware that they reflected the values of only a segment of society and should not be used to draw conclusions about all Americans.
[no regrets] I don't think I held onto her paper, but it was subsequently published, so you'll have no trouble tracking it down on the Internet. Let me give you her name...