, Newburyport, MA


September 27, 2013

Newburyport's history, told through newspapers


“Predecessor” has a special significance because this newspaper, born in 1887, included the Herald as part of its Newburyport Daily News masthead until it was dropped by the late Phillip S. Weld in 1952 when he acquired it and The Gloucester Times.

It’s difficult to imagine just how important newspapers became to a society when the only means of written communication had been by letters, and official broadsides.

Government has never been comfortable with them since the first appeared in Boston where “Public Occurrences Foreign and Domestic”, was published in 1690. Only one edition was distributed before it was shut down immediately by British authority.

Only one copy of it remains.

Of the 35 newspapers published in the city between 1773 and 1854, many did not last for more than a year. In some years, more than one newspaper appeared, suggesting needs for contrary voices to be heard.

History is told in many ways, but from its very beginning, the purpose of newspapers has been to bring information of interest sufficient to sustain publication. Failures were not uncommon.

Consider then, the importance to referencing local history of what has been reported upon by this newspaper since 1887, and what has been recovered of the Newburyport Herald.

It is said by many that newspapers are a dying breed of information presenters. There’s no questioning what has happened to the drain upon them, but there is much to question as to what could replace them.

In all that uncertainty, the library’s archive is an active sanctuary of the past and present and will be for whatever the future unfolds.


Bill Plante is a staff columnist.

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