Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. So wrote Thomas Jefferson to a friend in January 1787. The concept of the newspaper that the founding father of the American Declaration of Independence, so obdurately spoke of, had rested on a foundation that has lasted six hundred years. The modern newspaper, in comparison to that which had been forged from the pamphlets distributed by churches across the United States during the Renaissance, acted under a notion that still exists today. This notion is that the newspaper was the easiest method to educate the masses on issues that needed to be addressed, while making the deliberation of such announcements far easier to comprehend. There has been a great debate on the nature of these announcements. Thomas Jefferson, who was an active participator in such debates, was not the first to distinguish the difference between freely gathered news and news which was managed. Managed news had always acted in favour of those releasing the news to the public, serving as a propaganda machine. By having freely gathered news, which is a constitutional right, Thomas Jefferson had given Americans the right to freely collect information and make intelligent decisions based on the information they had collected.
Though the concept of the newspaper saw harsh opposition during its infant stages of development, it has slowly become an integrated part of modern society. The newspaper acts as a watch dog on democracy making sure that the government is run in a fair and just manner; while at the same time informing citizens when its not allowing them to intelligently debate on what to do. Without the modern newspaper, not only would democracy falter, the loss of an information medium would be devastating to Canada
The concept of the newspaper was founded during the 1400’s in the form of privately circulating letters and pamphlets. These papers contained wild stories and tales, but were passed on as legitimate “news”. The invention of the printing press allowed the average citizen the opportunity to read the news first hand. Though forms of daily news were available as far back as 59 B.C, when the Acta Diruna (Daily Events) was published by Julius Caesar and placed in prominent places, the average citizen either did not take the time to read it or did not have the opportunity to do so. The same approach had been made by the Chinese during the 6th to 20th Century.
Though, the newspaper took on many forms since the birth of its fundamental concept, the modern newspaper did not come into existence until the invention of the printing press. Richard March Hoe, the inventor of the first factory printing press built the foundation for a cultural revolution. The printing press allowed for the mass production of modern newspapers, which created an easily accessible medium of communication to the general public. The sole combination of the printing press and the modern newspaper caused the literacy rates to drastically increase during the industrial revolution.
Unfortunately, as soon as the first true newspaper was printed, and along with the emerging of domestic affairs came censorship. Thomas Archer, the original king of publishing was imprisoned and all foreign affairs soon too followed in the list of censored news. The “news” was left as nothing more then a collection of scrap paper with words on them, as the truth that journalists saw was censored.
The concept of censorship had begun to develop in the Americas. When the first amendment was introduced, the world finally fully understood the importance of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The First Amendment, forbids Congress from enacting laws that would regulate speech or press before publication or punish after publication. At various times, many states passed laws in contradiction to the freedoms guaranteed in the 1st Amendment. This was a very important concept, as it allowed the citizens of the United States to be, in theory, fully aware of the events that have occurred that may impact society in some way. It gave citizens of the state the right to make educated judgments on how various situations should be handled. Public officials and all official acts, including the existence of government itself, may be openly criticized and attacked by speech or publication, provided only that the words used are not of such a nature and are not used in such circumstances as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress [or the state] has a right to prevent” This prevents a person publishing an article within a newspaper to incite a group to become rebellious for any reason. Similar statutes were passed within Canada, allowing the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedom to mimic certain sections of the United States.
The concept of the “freedom of the press” within Canada has always been upheld by publishers and journalists of various Canadian newspapers. The publishers of such newspapers not only act as an economic asset but as the moral and democratic watch dogs for Canada. Newspapers such as “The Toronto Star” have profoundly impacted the way Canadians perceive how the government is running as well as their current status. The power of the press is immense, as they are the true representatives of democracy; making sure that the truth is always accessible.