Odd Thoughts: New look draws on news evolution

We’ve treated ourselves to a bit of a face-lift.

Newspapers do that from time to time, partly to shake things up a bit for our readers, partly to update the overall appearance so we don’t look like we’re all old codgers working here, and partly to reflect the changing reality of how we do what we do.

This is not the first “redesign” that I’ve gone through in my 38 years at the Langley Advance (geez! really!?? 38 years!?? and I just tried to convince you I’m not an old codger? sheesh!).

When I started reporting news in Langley, colour pictures in the paper were a rare thing – usually only for the Christmas edition. And here’s the reason why: when I was assigned to take my first Christmas cover photo… it was in October. It took that long to send the colour slides to Toronto to be developed, get them back, and then send them out again for colour separations – separate plates were made of each basic colour in the picture, to be remixed on the press.

Naturally, the fashions governing newspaper production then were a little different than they are today.

And when I started, the Advance was already nearly 50 years old. All the lead-type equipment was still stored in the back, but I was already in the photo-typsetting era – one step from computers.

When I think of the old platen press gathering dust in the back shop then, I can’t help but marvel that when the Advance got underway in 1931, the Halifax Gazette – still published today – had been running through the presses for 179 years.

In fact, the global newspaper industry was already more than three and a quarter centuries old.

The world’s first newspaper was the Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historian. Published in German, it was printed in Strasbourg in 1605, for distribution throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Now a part of France, Strasbourg is the official seat of parliament for the European Union.

I’m not sure that first newspaper led to Strasbourg’s rise in importance, however. Consider the Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historian’s first competitor.

Avisa Relation oder Zeitung, the world’s second newspaper, hit the streets in Wolfenbüttel in 1609. At that time an artistic centre with one of the world’s first lending libraries and a place where really important people liked to hang out, Wolfenbüttel’s tourism information now notes that people still like to go there for all the really old stuff, like the rest of Germany and Europe – but the world’s second newspaper never seems to be mentioned in the literature. Wolfenbüttel’s main claim to fame today appears to be that it’s the most southerly town of northern Germany’s more than 170 towns whose names end in “büttel.” 

But newspapers weren’t the first means of bringing local and regional news to communities. 

The local pub was often a preeminent clearinghouse for important local information, and there were town criers to shout out the time and the government’s propaganda. (A daring crier who dodged the royal missives might be putting his head on the block, depending on the current royal sensitivities).

The way the news is gathered and presented has evolved throughout time.

When you think about it, the 15,000-year-old cave drawings at Lascaux in France might really be one of the first community news stories – perhaps outlining the exploits of a local hunter, or maybe a how-to guide for beginners.

Today’s new look is just another reflection of the evolution that we’ve experienced over the millennia.

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