Tag Archives: journalism

America’s Oldest Newspaper: The New Hampshire Gazette


The masthead of the Gazette’s first issue in 1756: “New-Hampshire Gazette, With the Freshest Advices Foreign and Domestick.”

     The New Hampshire Gazette is America’s oldest running newspaper, with it’s first issue being printed in October of 1756. From that very October 7 issue, printer Daniel Fowle wrote an introduction to his newspaper informing the new readers of it’s goals and expected content. Fowle specifically brings up the topic of the freedom of the press, writing:

 “…as the press claims liberty in free countries, it is presumed that none will be offended if this paper discovers that Spirit of Freedom…”

     This quote is interesting, mainly because of Fowle’s not-so-brilliant history with free-speech while printing in Boston. The year before he created the Gazette, Fowle was arrested on seditious libel charges in his native Boston for printing an anti-British pamphlet, “The Monster of Monsters.” After his release from jail, Fowle wrote another pamphlet in response to his arrest, “A Total Eclipse of Liberty,” and then moved to Dartmouth to start printing the Gazette. Fowle further sets a list of precedents in the first issue:

“But as Liberty ought not to be abus’d, no encouragement will be given by the publisher to any Thing that is apparently designed to foment Divisions in Church or State, nor to any Thing profane, obscene, or tending to encourage Immorality, nor to such Writings as produced by private Pique, and fill’d with personal Reflections and insolent scurrilous language.”

Here, the printer stresses his lack of obvious bias towards the promotion of the government and church. Fowle also prohibts any articles that are slanderous and personally charged without a sufficient basis to do so publicly. True to his word, Fowle effectively maintained a sense of neutrality and fairness throughout his years as printer of the Gazette, even during the trying and polarized time of the Revolution. In fact, the paper printed British letters and personal accounts frequently throughout the war. Whether or not the Fowle was trying to give the colonists a different perspective in their news, or to promote the Gazette’s neutral position- I’m not sure.

I found some examples of Fowle’s neutrality throughout his tenure as printer. For instance, a 1765 issue contained an article criticizing the recently enforced Stamp Act. Rather than print something that directly criticized Parliament, Fowle came up with something that wouldn’t directly slander the British government; a letter to the editor questioned the effectiveness of the Stamp Act with the concern that the Gazette had nowhere to apply for stamped paper and no one to deliver it. I found this to be quite humorous considering the fact most colonists were outraged that they personally had to pay a tax, yet the author of the said letter was more concerned with the welfare of his beloved weekly newspaper. Ironically, the Stamp Act was indeed a failure because most tax collectors were intimidated out of their positions.

Another interesting example of neutrality practiced by Fowle was in the Gazette’s last 1776 issue before it took a hiatus for over a year. The article in question was written under the pseudonym Junius and made an argument that the Continental Congress didn’t have the ability to declare independence and maintain it. The name Junius is in fact the middle name of Lucius Brutus, one of the founders of the Roman Republic (not the famous assassin of Caesar.) Junius wrote:

Every step towards INDEPENDENCY I said would be ruinous and destructive in it’s Consequences: now I will prove it. The Question turns to two points. 1st. Can we gain independence? 2nd. If gained, can we support ourselves in it?” 

Aside from neutrality in printing, Fowle held up many of his other promises including the publication of news from other parts of the world (especially Great Britain,) various “extracts from the best authors on points of the most useful knowledge,” and the prevention of “writing as produced by private Pique.” Nearly every issue contained news from around the world, with correspondents in locations as varied as London, Hague, and Ghent.

An aspect of the paper I found to be very retrospective was it’s advertisements:

“Yesterday, while my Family was at a Meeting, some evil minded Person or Persons got into my house, broke open two Locks in my Desk, and stole from thence about Two Hundred and Eighty Continental Dollars; and about the Value of seventy Dollars in Gold and Silver…P.S. If the their will speedily return the same, he shall be forgiven.” – Samuel Lane

Other advertisements proved to be just as informative about the demographics of New Hampshire. Like today’s newspapers, almost two pages of an issue were filled with advertisements that entailed job offers and the sale of property, lost horses, and negroes. While the sale of human beings as slaves is illegal in the United States today, newspapers still advertise houses, plots of land, and lost dogs, cats, etc.

During the Revolution, the Fowle changed the paper’s masthead to read: The New-Hampshire Gazette. or, State Journal, and General Advertiser. Some wartime advertisements were in support of troops, asking for extra supplies and food. Fortunately for residents of the New Hampshire area there was no actual fighting throughout the entire war, resulting in a majority of advertisements entailing typical day-to-day services and offers.

Much like today’s heated online arguments on Youtube pages or posted articles, the Gazette wasn’t short of debate. An article published shortly after the war’s end on September 6, 1783 questioned whether or not colonists were citizens in relation to the date of July 4, 1776. This article asked the question: if you were born or moved to America after July 4, can you still be considered a British subject? In the following issue, a letter to the editor was on the front page criticizing the article. Just as today’s internet “trolls” stress out over specific details, this author argued that the cutoff date was actually April 19 1775, when the British marched Lexington.

 “I assert that after the 19th of April 1775, there was not a man born in America that owed him (King George III) allegiance. From the moment the British tyrants first stained the plains of Lexington with our blood…the still voice of reason, convinced us of it more clearly than could a thousand formal declarations.”

In it’s beginning years, the New-Hampshire Gazette was a paper founded on keeping a neutral position (most likely due to Fowle’s bad history in Boston.) At the very core, it’s sole purpose was simply to tell the news. By including articles and letters from all viewpoints, Fowle’s Gazette was quite neutral and in my opinion, relatively tame compared to other printers of the time. Fowle sold the paper to two others at the end of 1784 and died shortly after in 1787. The New Hampshire Gazette continued it’s unbiased oath even after the sale. Here is an article from a 1785 issue under the new printers, “Melcher and Osbourne:

Printer to the Public 1785

In today’s issues of the Gazette, New Hampshire’s state motto is printed in the masthead: “Live Free or Die.”



Filed under Class Work, Historical Context, Journalism, My Reporting, News

A Loyalist Newspaper, 1775

For my second semester at UMass, I decided to take challenge myself and take another journalism class to add to my mix of courses. The course is called “Readings in Journalism,” where we discuss other journalists’ work, some dating back to my favourite time period: the American Revolutionary War! For an assignment, I was tasked with researching Loyalist newspapers and whether or not they survived through the tumultuous era.

One Loyalist paper I discovered was The Massachusetts Gazette and the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser (this is just one of the many ridiculous titles it had through it’s history.) Known now as the Boston Weekly Advertiser, the paper initially supported the British government until it’s later years where it correspondents became increasingly pro-American. Like almost every other Loyalist publisher, the paper stopped print in April 1775 shortly before the start of the war.

Through the use of the Boston Public Library and Newsbank (an online collection of historical texts) I was able to find a January 1775 issue of the Advertiser that shows it’s change of opinion.


Under it’s final title, the paper’s front page is littered with pro-American opinions vying for independence and ultimately, revolution. A front page piece, addressed “to Massachusettensis” accuses Britain of deceiving the colonists by exercising the right to assert power over them. Ironically the piece was written by “A British American.” The author continues to stress the colonists’ struggle by comparing them to slaves; he uses the word “slavish”. Perhaps the most shockingly anti-British statement is in a poem at the end of the article, in which the author urges the colonists not to “bow down to haughty, accursed tyrants.”

Another anonymous front page article highlights the strained relationship between the colonists and British government. The author discusses the lack of effectiveness in having the British and American governments coexist. He argues that the colonial government is pointless because it is only limited to what the British government will permit it to do. While not as controversial as “A British American’s” article, it again questions Britain’s role in the colonies.

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Photographs: A Journalistic Neccessity

Photojournalism has never really interested me personally. I’m a huge fan of film, yet pictures don’t captivate me in the same way: in most cases. While this may be due the fact that I’m color blind, it’s mostly due in part with the quality of pictures taken nowadays. It seems today’s journalists have focused their cameras on more artistic and abstract pursuits rather than doing what they should: effectively sum up a situation in one groundbreaking shot.

Some images in the news have really stuck with me, especially those of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. While these shots weren’t even taken by photojournalists, (they were taken by US soldiers who sent them around in messages) the intentions behind taking them were for journalistic purpose, to bring an injustice to attention.

The images effectively sum up the situation: prisoners were tortured in inhumane ways all for the amusement of the ones carrying the acts out. I was appalled to see smirks of satisfaction on the faces of United States soldiers and was even more disgusted by the fact that the humor was a result of such morally perverted acts of abuse. One image that really stood out when I saw it was this one:


In a photo with a backdrop reminiscent of a “Saw” film, one is easily unsettled by the look of the detainee standing on a cardboard box. Donned in all black, his personage is like that of the “grim reaper.” With a soldier standing to the right with a camera in-hand, the image is even more disturbing: who would get pleasure out of taking such an eerie and disturbing picture?

By seeing just one photo, my interest in the story increased and I immediately wanted to see and learn more about it. This is how photojournalism should be used: to instantly appeal to viewers with shocking or captivating photography.

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