MOUNT VERNON — The evolution of the American newspaper is a story in and of itself, and very reflective of today’s “fake” news revolution.
Benjamin Harris edited the first American newspaper on Sept. 25, 1690. “Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick” was three printed pages (one was blank) and quickly stirred the pot with “gossip” about the king of France and events of the French and Indian War. It proved to be the one and only edition of the paper, as it was “suppressed by the authorities,” according to the November/December 2004 edition of PaperAge.
Was Harris’ published account real news or was it fake news created to cast a poor light on French leadership? That question may never be answered, but as newspapers evolved, as did the country and the Constitution, the term “freedom of the press” took on a unifying spirit that continues centuries later.
As newspapers across the country join together for National Newspaper Week, they find themselves on the defensive, as the country debates what is “real” and what is “fake” news. The reality, however, is that it is the newspaper that provides the answer to the fake versus real question.
“Within the first three words of any of our stories is the name of the writer,” said Kay Culbertson, News publisher. “This brings accountability front and center — there is nothing fake about that. We are dedicated to providing facts to our readers and that can only be done through responsible journalism.”
Tom Newton, chair of the 2017 National Newspaper Week, agrees.
“Do American have the tools necessary to decide for themselves what is real, what is factual and what is necessary for self-government to endure and the country to prosper,” Newton asked. “I submit they do. The tools are American newspapers, dailies and weeklies, printed and delivered to American doorsteps and accessed on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Real newspapers in all their formats are created by real journalists, and that’s the key.”