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Lincoln and the news.

Posted by: | October 25, 2011 | No Comment |

With our Super-Blog themes hanging over our heads, this semester’s crop of burgeoning printed news historians would be well served to continue seeking out the “little known facts” of history that never got much pub.

These lesser known knowledge nuggets are usually small pieces of larger stories that defined history.

Like the story of Abraham Lincoln!

… wait, wait wait where are you going? Hands off the mouse… there’s a point I’m getting to, I promise.

While there are large populations of people that have been, throughout history, on or outside of the national media fringe, larger and more well-known stories like Abe’s that are even taught in text books  in some nations have never, and may never, ever reach the consciousness of an Amazon rainforest native.

Conversely, to those persons who have never seen a smartphone, or a television; or a radio… the largest stories they’ll likely ever know of are the ones that the rest of the 99.999% of the global population will never even be aware of.

The question then becomes, which type of story should be considered more important?

The larger, commonly-held piece of information?

Or the smaller, more concise piece of information that, due to the smaller number of people able to tell its details, has likely held to the validity of its story for generations?

I think the answer is clear.

Which means that the smaller, lesser known aspects of the larger story should — collectively — be used to paint a better overall picture of it than the larger, collectively-held bits of general information that tend to sacrifice details for whimsy.

And since I’ve recently taken a vested interest in Mr. Lincoln, I figured I’d share a little tidbit about his run to the Republican nomination in 1860 that was heavily aided by the printed news media.

Despite being an unknown and long-shot candidate, Lincoln was still known in some political circles in the early going due to his superb natural skills as an orator and raconteur.

Those circles expanded during his Illinois Senate debate with democrat Stephen Douglas, and his speech to Republican party leaders at Cooper Union in New York City.

Both were highly-publicized in newspapers across the country due to both Lincoln’s aforementioned prowess in front of a crowd, and the highly intelligent speeches he delivered at each event, which created a grassroots following that blossomed in 1860 into a 489,495-vote win over Douglas in the Presidential election.

Which begs another question. How would Lincoln have held up in the Information Age?

Would he have maintained his reputation as a spellbinding speaker after traversing the YouTube/Facebook/Twitter jungle?

Or would he have fallen out of favor since his muted features and solemn face made him, according to multiple accounts “ugly” and “melancholy-looking,” and certainly not President material?

Food for thought, kids.

under: Comm 455
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