"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution enshrines a basic U.S. belief: A free press nurtures democracy. Freedom of the press is essential to democracy because it empowers the citizenry and holds governments accountable.
But a free press cannot be effective without efficient mechanisms to deliver the news. From the earliest printing press to modern-day satellite transmissions, advances in technology have enhanced the power of the press by increasing the speed and reach of information distribution.
1769 – The Printing Press
Robert Hartmann operates a reconstructed version of Johann Gutenberg’s printing press in the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.
The first printing presses are made in America in 1769. By the Revolutionary War, printing presses will be publishing dozens of weekly newspapers and pamphlets such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which encouraged the revolt against the British. In 1776, more than 20 newspapers will publish the full text of the Declaration of Independence. (© AP Images)
1846 – The Telegraph and Wire Services
Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee and James Langley (left), publisher of the Monitor-Patriot in Concord, New Hampshire, view election returns on an Associated Press (AP) teletype on March 11, 1952.
The AP was formed in 1846 when newspapers created a new service to supply news via telegraph from around the world for distribution to U.S. newspapers. It will become common to run special telegraph lines to major sporting events so newspapers can receive up-to-the-minute reports.
The journalist’s inverted pyramid — with the main points in the first paragraph following by increasing levels of detail — was developed to ensure the basic news was received even if telegraph service was interrupted. (© AP Images)
1861 – The Photograph
Wearing a Union Army uniform, a former slave serves as mess corporal for Army pay at federal headquarters in Belle Plain, Virginia. This undated photograph was taken by photographer Matthew Brady, who was among the hundreds of photo-journalists issued press credentials in 1861 to cover the Civil War.
Photographs will not begin to appear regularly in newspapers until the 1880s. In the early 1900s, photographs will be joined in the newspapers by other illustrations: political cartoons. (© AP Images)
1873 – The Typewriter
Robert Novak, Associated Press staff reporter, is shown at work in the Senate Press Gallery in Washington on August 18, 1958.
In 1873, E. Remington & Sons began manufacture of its first typewriters, which for the first time allowed journalists to generate news stories more quickly than they could write the story by hand. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, typewriters and telephones will bring significant changes to the way work is done in the newsroom.
(© AP Images)
1893 – Color in Publishing
The New York Journal’s colored comic supplement is published October 15, 1893, marking one of the earliest uses of color in newspaper comics and parts of the Sunday editions. This development lays the groundwork for later innovations in newspaper and magazine layout and use of color in publishing. (Library of Congress)
1920 -- Radio
A Pittsburgh radio station broadcasts circa 1920. KDKA is credited with the first radio news report when it broadcast Associated Press election returns in 1920, as Warren Harding defeated James Cox for the U.S presidency.
During the 1920s, radio and motion picture newsreels begin to compete with newspapers for audience time and attention. However, newspaper circulation remains high, with approximately 2,600 daily papers and nearly 14,000 weekly papers published in the United States. (© AP Images)
1933 – Linotype Machines
Albert Einstein sits at the keyboard of a linotype machine in the composing room of the Jewish Daily Bulletin, New York, on January 15, 1933.
Technical innovations like the linotype machine and larger, faster printing presses allow publishers to print more newspapers in less time to meet ever-tighter deadlines and serve an increasing number of readers. (© AP Images)
1939 – Television
A television camera covers Fordham University and Waynesburg College in NBC’s first telecast football game on September 30, 1939.
Television did not become widely used in the United States until the 1950s, but in 1937, nearly 9,000 English households watched the televised coronation of King George VI and the French began construction of a powerful television transmitter in the Eiffel Tower. U.S. networks did not add news to their regular programming until 1948. (© AP Images)
1954 – Network Television News
A U.S. serviceman watches television with his family at the Limestone, Maine, military base on July 1, 1954.
The medium’s importance as a news source was growing: President Harry S. Truman made the first nationwide U.S. telecast on September 4, 1951, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his 1952 campaign for the U.S. presidency, used television advertising. In 1954, some 370 television stations are operating in the United States; another 202 are preparing to go on the air. (© AP Images)
1956 – Reliable Global Communication
News reporters talk to London as the $42 million trans-Atlantic telephone cable opens officially in New York City on September 25, 1956. In its first 24 hours of operation, the cable carries 588 calls between London and the United States and 119 calls between London and Canada.
The increasing reliability of worldwide communication allows reporters access to more sources and increases the speed with which reporters can file stories from around the world. (© AP Images)
1980 – Cable News Network
Mainstream media were skeptical when broadcast entrepreneur Ted Turner launched a cable television network devoted to 24-hour news coverage. The fledgling news operation will grow steadily and eventually trigger the launch of similar operations by established news networks.
Within a quarter century, CNN will be available in nearly 90 million U.S. households and almost 1 million American hotel rooms. Globally, CNN will become available in some form to more than 1.5 billion people. (© AP Images)
1990s – Satellite Communication
Dish antennas mark the New Delhi skyline on October 10, 1996. Foreign channels, which arrived in India in the early 1990s, supply news from around the world to Indian homes.
Computers and satellite communication systems allow journalists to file stories from virtually anywhere in the world and have those stories quickly transmitted to newspapers, radio stations and television networks to reach a global audience. (© AP Images)
21st Century – Mobile Journalism
Mobile phones allow professional media as well as “citizen journalists” to provide instantaneous reports — via voice, text messaging, still photo and video — at fast-breaking events. Mobile phones with broadband Internet access are promising even more powerful communication possibilities. (© AP Images)