Monday, February 20, 2017

Who Controls the Press?,204,203,200_.jpg

Andrew Steuart was an Irishman brought from Pennsylvania by a committee from North Carolina, and who established his press in Wilmington before the Revolution. He was named “printer to His Majesty in this Province” in 1763 by Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs, but lost his appointment three years later after printing political tracts against the British Stamp Act. Steuart had discovered who actually controlled the press.Bernhard Thuersam,   The Great American Political Divide

Who Controls the Press?

“To ask “who says” is to wonder who controls the press. Although the immediate answer would seem to be the printers who compiled the newspapers, the question is complicated by pressures upon the men who decided what and what not to print.

At times, especially in the earlier colonial period, material might be sufficiently scarce to preclude much choice, and printers printed virtually everything available. But increased trade, better communications, and the intensifying prerevolutionary debate permitted – in fact, demanded – greater selectivity and by the 1760s printers were regularly postponing or excluding items on the basis of length, character, or political priorities.

Ironically, the increased freedom of choice involving sensitive materials imposed constraints of its own. Like Linus in the comic strip “Peanuts,’ many printers learned that “life is full of choices, but you never get any.”

Referring to himself in the third person, Andrew Steuart, who published the North Carolina Gazette at Wilmington, expressed the essence of the resulting dilemma when he asked, “What part is he now to act?”. . . Continue to keep his Press open and free and be in Danger of Corporal Punishment, or block it up, and run the risque of having his Brains knocked out? Sad Alternative.”

Ironically, once again, navigating the tricky political waters between Scylla and Charbdis was usually more difficult for men whose monopoly of local printing would superficially appear to have placed them in a strong position.”

(The Last of the American Freemen, Robert M. Weir, Mercer University Press, 1986, excerpt, pp. 163-164)

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