"'Plain and Certain Facts:' Four Episodes of Public Affairs Reporting in 18th Century Boston."
Professor David Nord, School of Journalism
Wednesday, February 9, 4pm
Ernie Pyle Lounge (2nd Floor)
Ernie Pyle Hall
Was there such a thing as serious, systematic news reporting in eighteenth-century America? Not in the newspapers. Journalism historians have often noted that while newspapers of colonial America carried a great deal of local news, the news-gathering work was haphazard. News found its way into the print shop and into the paper, willy-nilly; even the best newspapermen rarely strove to reach out and gather it. But some writers did. This talk is about four episodes of public affairs reporting in Boston in the 1730s and 1740s. These episodes involved painstaking efforts to collect, verify, and publish up-to-date factual information about occurrences of current public importance in New England. The writers were from different professions, but all were major players in the public life of Boston and in the eclectic realm of eighteenth-century publishing. As print entrepreneurs and men of letters, they understood their civic duty to include reporting and publishing information on current public affairs. And they pioneered methods for doing that. Though the chief aim of the talk is to shed light on the history of news reporting, it also might prompt some thought about the condition of journalism today—another era in which news reporting is performed by all sorts of people who don’t fit the traditional definition of “reporter.”