Welcome to www.comprofessor.com a.k.a. Lynch Coaching: Media and Communication Prof's News and Views from Art Lynch. This blog exists to stimulate critical thinking, provide information on communication and media, stimulate discussion and share ideas. For additional media and other news see also sagactoronline.com. Thank you and tell your friends. - Art Lynch
Time has a way of condensing major historical events into a few
key moments, with one-dimensional, legendary figures at the forefront.
In his new book, author and archivist Todd Andrlik gives life and depth
to one such event — the American Revolution. He uses newspaper reporting
from that era to provide a sense of the Revolution as it actually
unfolded. The book includes eyewitness accounts, newspapers and
battlefield letters — the kind of primary sourcing that's increasingly
rare in our Wikipedia world. It's called Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News.
"It's not just newspaper clippings, it's the entire newspapers,"
Andrlik tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "These newspapers are not like we
think of today, they're quite different in that they're only four pages
in length, and only about 10 by 15 inches tall." Andrlik says
he went on a quest for 18th century newspapers that might contain
accounts of the Revolution, sourcing them from people who'd found them
in attics or in the walls of old homes. "They're available on the open
market much like fine art or any other type of historical collectible. "It's
completely different," he continues — not just in size but in content.
"There's no headlines. Back then, they used datelines because they were
mostly printing news from other newspapers. So today we have AP and
Reuters; back then they had a news exchange system where as soon as a
printer finished typesetting his edition of the week, he would then send
issues to other printers around Colonial America, and those newspaper
printers would take extracts, often verbatim." Andrlik keeps
his antique newspapers carefully in acid-free Mylar folders, but he does
take them out for display occasionally. A New Hampshire Gazette
from April 21, 1775, has breaking news: the battles of Lexington and
Concord. "This is only one of two Colonial American newspapers to print
the news on its front page," he says. Newspapers from that era typically
reserved their interior pages for important news "because that's what
was typeset later in the week so it could be most current."
The Virginia Gazette of Aug. 26, 1775, is another notable
newspaper, featuring an eyewitness account of the Battle of Bunker
Hill. "And alongside that account is an engraving, or an illustration I
should say, of the entrenchment on Breed's Hill [where most of the
battle was actually fought]," Andrlik says. "This is one of a kind ...
in the sense that this is the only known newspaper illustration to
depict a current event during the entire American Revolution." There's
a lot more in those old newspapers than in your high school and college
textbooks, he adds. "The Boston Tea Party, it was not universally
celebrated in America. The 'Shot Heard Round the World,' well, it came
very close to happening four months earlier, in New Hampshire. Benedict
Arnold, he actually revitalized the American Revolution. The fact that
Paul Revere was one of thousands of people caught up in the Battles of
Lexington and Concord, and that he really wasn't mentioned in the
newspapers of the period because they didn't want to let out how they
had alerted the countryside." Andrlik has some tips for readers
looking for historical treasures in old newspapers. "It's an exciting
kind of real-time adventure, but at the same time, you have things that
you're not used to seeing, such as the old English 'S,' which looks like
an 'F.' " The old papers pre-date standardized English, so there are
frequent run-on sentences. "I think I counted once in a paragraph there
were 40 commas and 22 capital letters," he says. If he had to pick one favorite document from the time, Andrlik says he'd choose the Continental Journal
from Jan. 23, 1777, which has George Washington's personal account of
the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton. "Each newspaper
has exciting material and new discoveries. ... These newspapers are to
me, the way to make the American Revolution real. Without newspapers,
there would have been no Revolution."