The history of the United States is inseparable from the history of its journalism. Newspapers played a pivotal role in the American Revolution. By 1775, when the Revolution began, 37 newspapers were being published in the colonies. These newspapers generally backed the struggle for independence. Newspapers then, and for the next century, deliberately took sides in the struggles between political parties. Readers who supported the fight for independence bought a Whig newspaper, and readers who were loyal to the British Crown bought a Tory newspaper.
When the Constitution of the United States was ratified, it contained no provision for freedom of the press. However, when the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, it guaranteed a free press with the words "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
After the Revolution, the newspaper industry grew rapidly. Even small towns had newspapers. Early American newspapers featured mainly opinion rather than news. This changed with the 1833 founding of the New York Sun, which was filled with news and sold for a penny. This was the beginning of the "penny press," considered the forerunner of today's newspapers. The late 1800s saw the era of unethical and irresponsible journalism known as yellow journalism. This brand of journalism involved hoaxes, altered photographs, startling headlines, and misrepresentations of the truth.
New technologies have greatly influenced the growth and evolution of the U.S. media over the years. The telegraph allowed reporters to transmit their stories quickly from a distance. Radio and television have brought major changes to journalism. The Internet has made the transmission of information amazingly quick and efficient, but its ultimate impact on journalism is not yet known. No matter how information is delivered to the audience, however, the fundamentals of good journalism still apply.
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