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Journalistic opinion not always found in a typical medium

Posted by: | September 5, 2011 | No Comment |


Opinion and journalism.

These two words are generally frowned upon when both are involved in the same piece.  That is why an entire separate section was created in newspapers just for opinions.

However, there was not always an opinion section for journalists and other professionals to get their points across.  Some of the earliest American opinion pieces can be traced back to just before and just after the American Revolution.  The most prominent of these opinions are not always found in historical newspapers, but rather collections of essays by some of the greatest thinkers of the age.

Below are just some of the opinion publications that made an impact:

  • Common Sense: This pamphlet by Thomas Paine was published in the heat of the debate for colonists to decide whether to fight for their freedom or continue living under British rule.  Paine adamantly argued for America breaking off from British rule and establishing itself as its own nation.  In a time when town meetings and gathering occurred frequently, another journalism tool, word of mouth, is what helped make this piece one of the most revered works of the American Revolution.
  • The Federalist Papers: A collection of essays, a majority of which are credited to Alexander Hamilton, that were written not long after the American Revolution had ended.  In the wake of victory, Americans were searching for how to best govern their newly fought freedom.  Hamilton wrote these persuasive essays anonymously and had them published in newspapers throughout the colonies.  The essays argued that state representatives and the people as a whole should adopt what eventually became the Constitution of the United States.
  • Gazette de France: Revolution was not only happening in America in the late 18th century.  France took the American revolution to another level by supplanting and executing their monarch, King Louis XVI.  According to, “A History of Journalism” by Mitchell Stephens, the Gazette expressed its opinion by doing nothing.  The storming of the Bastille and the meetings that took place thereafter went without mention.  In contrast to the previous two works, the Gazette made a political point by completely ignoring one of the most important periods of history, rather than interject itself into it.

While the written word was a profound influence, it was spread through word of mouth for those who could not read.  As depicted in the video from the HBO miniseries, “John Adams” above, word of mouth is how opinion spread through the colonies.  It could take days, weeks, even months at a time for word to reach certain colonies, not the five seconds it takes to send a text message.

It is drastic changes in technology such as texting that took opinion from where it was, to where it is today, and where it is heading in the future.

UPDATED Sept. 7, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.

under: Comm 455
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