Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Telegraph

It is time once again for me to update my readers about what has historically happened during this week in history. Now, while history is my passion, I do have another major that I am pursuing while in college: journalism.

This last semester I was able to take a media history class, learning about the way media has evolved over time in America. Because of this I was excited to see that in my research January 6 marks the day that Samuel Morse demonstrated his telegraph system in 1838.

The telegraph was revolutionary because it allowed information to be transmitted quickly over great distances. The telegraph was the first real modern information system, and allowed the nature of news to change forever.

Before the telegraph was invented, information took weeks to reach people, and with the creation of mores code information could be distributed much faster. The AP was created to spread news on a national level via the telegraph.

But really why was the telegraph so influential? It was the first mass media that was able to travel across the nation, and eventually the world. It was the first media to be electric even, paving the way for radio later, then TV and now the Internet.

Another interesting tid-bit about the telegraph: because it was a new technology, it was expensive to use. Just like the satellite when it first became available to TV, information cost a lot to transmit, so reporters had to choose what they sent back to headquarters to be included in articles. A long story cost a lot of money to send via telegraph, so usually only facts were sent, and the reporters at headquarters usually added the details later. But since these reporters did not see first hand, a lot of these details were false, which may have led to the rise of sensational reporting in America.

Along with the rise of the telegraph came the rise of mores code, used in the states for 160 years, although now it is pretty much extinct except for historical reenactments.

So that’s the news for this week; the telegraph, something everyone knows about, but may not give the credit it deserves. Like many things it paved the way for communication today, leading all the way up to the Internet and the information you are reading as we speak.

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