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The New Coffeehouse

Posted by: | September 15, 2010 | No Comment |

Let’s face it: coffee and news go great together. It’s an iconic image of the working world to see a newspaper or magazine laid next to a hot cup of black coffee. When a person picks up the paper with one hand, what do they usually have in the other?
A cup of coffee.

Until the 17th century had hit its halfway mark, news had been conveyed by way of “spoken word”. In other words, reporting the news was as simple as someone stepping out onto a street and shouting. When the first few coffeehouses were opened in the mid-17th century, people sought out these coffeehouses as a┬ámore intimate setting in which they could talk about the latest news, debate popular politics, and conduct business.

There were nouvellistes (or, professional news tellers) that were paid to know and convey the latest on politics, war or culture; there were groups of well-organized people that funneled in the information they wanted.

Less than 15 years after the first coffeehouse had been opened in Oxford, England, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in the country. By 1739, there were 551 coffeehouses in London alone, and each attracting a specific crowd of people (Whigs, Tories, merchants, lawyers, people of every occupation and attitude).

Coffee shops house a variety of conversations that are quite different from those in the past and that are no longer motivated by professional nouvellistes.

Coffee shops these days are not meant to be where heated discussions about political issues are debated and where social reform is sparked, they’re actually places where teenagers might come to hang out after school or where adults go to retreat into a private space.

But the essence of what coffeehouses traditionally were in history is not about be lost.

The candid discussions of what’s happening in the world today is not taking place in a setting where a person goes for a coffee. Instead, it’s taking place in the digital world of internet social media. Where once there were coffeehouses, cafes and taverns, now there is Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and countless other programs, the new hosts of “spoken news”.

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