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British contributions to and effects on American journalism

Posted by: | November 4, 2009 | No Comment |

The American colonies learned a lot about journalism from their mother country. Early colonial newspapers contained many articles from English newspapers. These were widely circulated in the 18th century.

With the expiration of the British Licensing Act in 1695, England’s press experienced a newfound freedom. The public had access to a variety of different opinions. American journalists in the colonies borrowed this style. Bejamin Franklin set out to imitate British writer Joseph Addison. Americans also became more politically aggressive, like the British. Of course, some British writers like Danial Defoe spent time in jail for their opinions.

Americans inherited the freedom to criticize. But in 1765, the British imposed a Stamp Act. It required printers pay for a stamp on each sheet of paper they used. English newspapers had been paying a stamp tax since 1712. Protests by Americans using their newfound freedom of opinion sprang up.

American newspapers reacted harshly to the Stamp Act.

In 1767, the Townshend Acts were imposed. These compulsory taxes were on American imports of glass, lead, paint, tea and paper. After much American protest, all duties except tea were removed in 1770.

Charles Townshend proposed the Townshend Acts, which were repealed before too much damage was done.

Although a lot of British contributions to journalism angered the colonies, it helped spur early America into action. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, coffeehouses helped stimulate conversation in England. By the 18th century, there were perhaps thousands of coffeehouses in London. People could sit, have their coffee and share news. In fact, conversation in coffeehouses were often more reliable and less speculative.  Runners were sent to each coffeehouse to pass on the latest news.

Each coffeehouse had it’s own character. Some featured political topics, others discussed trade with the colonies. During the later part of the 18th century, tea became more popular and women began to pressure for inclusion. Spoken news was on it’s way out.

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