Historically, print media played an important role in the social and cultural life of the USA. Today, their role has probably decreased because of the emergence of visual media and development of new media such as Internet. Nevertheless, print media are still important and renowned newspapers and magazines are still respectable in the USA. In the past, their role was even more significant, though it is obvious that newspapers of the colonial period were consistently different from modern newspapers. The difference is determined by substantial social and cultural changes as well as economic ones, which make modern newspapers to be more concerned with their profitability. In order to understand what colonial newspapers used to be, it is possible to refer to The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 2, 1750.
Basically, the newspaper contains news issues and information related to the local life of Pennsylvania. In addition, the newspaper has some advertisement which promotes different services, including shipping and transportation services, which were apparently essential at the epoch. It is important to stress that shipping services offered indicate to the main sea routes which existed at the epoch and which linked the USA with Great Britain, which actually had its colonies in America, and other parts of American continent, such as Barbados.
Consequently, the newspaper reveals the existence of strong links between American colonies and Great Britain. At the same time, it is also obvious that the trade with Great Britain was probably very important at the epoch.
On the other hand, it is important to point out that the newspaper is very concerned with local news issues. To put it more precisely, the paper focuses on the local people and events that are significant for the local community. At the same time, the newspaper mainly contains information of commercial nature. What is meant here is the fact that the paper mainly contains information which was apparently useful for local businessmen, merchants, etc.
In actuality, the colonial newspaper the Gazette of Pennsylvania has not fully met my expectations. In fact, I expected to find important issues concerning the political situation in colonies, which uncover the relationship of the local population with Great Britain. I supposed that there should be some tension in their relations, taking into consideration the superior position of Great Britain and inferior position of American colonies at the epoch. in addition, I expected to get more information about routine life of people at the epoch, which could be covered in articles and editorials dedicated to the life of people living in Pennsylvania.
Instead, what the newspaper offers is business-like information and very little information of socially significant events and burning issues which disturbed the local population and encouraged them to oppose to the domination of Great Britain. The lack of such information and the focus on business information is particularly unexpected, taking into consideration the fact that the newspaper was edited and printed by Benjamin Franklin, the US founding father. In such a way, the newspaper seems to be not a powerful tool or medium which influences the public opinion, but rather a commercial tool used by local population for their business purposes.
In this respect, it should be said that the presence of business information and advertisements was absolutely unexpected because I believed that commercial issues were not really important for newspapers of the colonial epoch. At any rate, many newspapers were edited and owned by liberal people, who were forced to leave Europe because of their progressive and liberal ideas. Nevertheless, as the Gazette Pennsylvania proves, colonial newspapers were not as politically and socially oriented as I expected them to be. Moreover, it was even a bit disappointing to find routine information and advertisements in the colonial newspaper, though it seems to be quite natural since people at the epoch should be concerned with issues that were important for them. However, the Gazette Pennsylvania seems to be not really concerned with politics and important social issues.
At the same time, it is possible to speak about certain similarities of modern newspaper and colonial newspapers in regard to advertisement and commercial information. To put it more precisely, both modern and colonial newspapers contain advertisements which allow businessmen to promote their goods and services. In addition, modern and colonial newspapers are traditionally concerned with local news issues and events.
However, it is obvious that modern newspapers are substantially different from colonial ones. Modern newspapers have become mass media which are capable to influence the public opinion, while colonial newspapers, such as the Gazette of Pennsylvania could influence the local population, but it could hardly influence the population of colonies en mass. In fact, it was just a local newspaper created specifically for the local population to meet its current, routine needs. In addition, modern newspapers use visual images in abundance, while the colonial newspaper has just a few images of a poor quality, though this difference is the result of technological differences of present and past epoch.
Thus, colonial newspapers were important for the local population of colonies, but they did not have the power of modern newspapers and were mainly oriented on the local population than on the mass audience.