Friday, October 27, 2006

Weblogs and newspapers are really nothing new, editor writes


Friday, October 27, 2006

Online weblogs can trace their roots to colonial press opinion publications

By Carl Sampson
Capital Press Managing Editor

Carl Sampson is managing editor of the Capital Press. His e-mail address is Capital Press is an independent farm and ranch newspaper that serves California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and other western states. It is published every Friday by Press Publishing Co., 1400 Broadway St. NE, Salem, OR 97303. Phone: 503-364-4431

The advent of weblogs - known as blogs in the language of the Internet - is seen by many as a revolutionary invention. It is, but not in the way they think. In the 1700s, every American newspaper was a collection of letters and opinions. In short, they were blogs that were printed and distributed by enterprising publishers. People wrote their feelings and opinions about the British government, the king, the colonial governors and other issues of the day and newspapers printed those opinions verbatim. There were no news stories as such, only opinions.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the first "bloggers" of that era. He wrote some of his articles under pen names such as "Poor Richard." One revolutionary blogger, a printer named John Peter Zenger, was arrested and put on trial for sedition for his criticism of the governor of New York. His trial, in 1735, marked a milestone for American journalism. It set the precedent that established the truth as an absolute defense against libel lawsuits. Even today it is the legal cornerstone upon which every editor, writer and blogger relies.

More than commentary was printed in early American newspapers. Their "blogs" mentioned such radical ideas as "no taxation without representation" and the right to life, liberty and property." Pamphleteers such as Thomas Paine and orators such as Patrick Henry further stirred the embers of freedom with "Common Sense" and statements such as "Give me liberty or give me death." The ultimate result was the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, which cut the chains of servitude that had bound Americans to Britain and its king.

Yes, blogging is nothing new in America. If anything, it is among many great American traditions, one to which all of us in great part owe the freedoms we enjoy. Today, in addition to the articles they write, some Capital Press staffers post blogs on our website on issues and events that relate to agriculture. To find them, go to the left side of our homepage,, and click on "Blog." There you will see the posts along with readers' comments about them.

We at Capital Press hope to continue the tradition of a free and unfettered press by also continuing to provide a variety of forums for our readers to express their opinions. Letters to the editor, opinion pieces, comments on the articles on our website and on the blogs we post offer our readers that opportunity. We ask that comments being posted be done in good taste and refrain from personal attacks and profanity. Letters to the editor may also be edited for length.


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