Monday, September 5, 2011

Map of the Week 9-5-2011: Growth of U.S. Newspapers 1690-2011 Visualization

The Growth of Newspapers Across the U.S.: 1690-2011
Data visualization by the Rural West Initiative, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University.  Credits: Dan Chang, Krissy Clark, Yuankai Ge, Geoff McGhee, Yinfeng Qin and Jason Wang 

I have decided to start a new feature on my blog, called Map of the Week, which will come out at the beginning of each week, hopefully by each Monday evening, schedule permitting, and will highlight a map, data visualization, or geographic image that I find interesting and noteworthy.  These maps might be something I discover on the Internet, in the journals or newspapers, or even created by students enrolled in our GISc Program.  If warranted, I will offer a brief discussion of the map or further information about it, when available.  If any of you have any outstanding, humorous, unusual, thought-provoking, or otherwise share-worthy maps, please send them to me (with or without your comments, but including the source of the map), at

So: here is the first map image for this inaugural week of September 5th, 2011.  

The Growth of Newspapers Across the U.S.: 1690-2011
With American newspapers under stress from changing economics, technology, and consumer behavior, it’s easy to forget how ubiquitous and important they are in society.  For this data visualization, we have taken the directory of US newspaper titles compiled by the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project – nearly 140,000 publications in all – and plotted them over time and space. 
Some Important Considerations:
It would be fairer to call this a ‘database’ visualization than an omniscient creator’s-eye-view of the growth of American newspapers.  There are known (and surely unknown) omissions from this list, as well as duplicate entries, and entries that are similar and can appear duplicative.
The data originates from many state-level libraries and scholarly institutions that are actively collecting, scanning, and cataloguing American newspapers.  These records are sent to the Library of Congress for aggregation in the newspaper directory.  In many cases, publication start and end dates are uncertain.  Where possible, we have calculated minimum run dates of publications, based on dates within which copies have been catalogued.

First listing, 1690’s:
Appearing in Boston on September 25, 1690, ‘Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick’ was intended as a monthly by the former London bookseller Benjamin Harris.  But it was shut down after only four days by the colonial governor, who denounced it as ‘Without the least Privity or Countenance of Authority.’  It would be 14 years before the Boston postmaster John Campbell would found the ‘Boston News-Letter,’ the first continuously published American newspaper in 1704.
1774 - 61 listings:
At the eve of the American Revolution, newspapers were published up and down the colonies. Toiling under the 1765 Stamp Act, newspapers were required to pay heavy taxes on paper and advertisements; some folded entirely, while others printed a skull and crossbones on their masthead, declaring themselves ‘dead.’  Called a ‘hotbed of sedition,’ Boston was home to both Patriot newspapers like the pro-independence Boston Gazette and loyalist Tory sheets.” Text from: 

You can read details about all the rest of the time periods at the Stanford University website above.  The website has some really interesting information on it, and looking back and also viewing the present situation certainly gives us pause today in thinking about new concerns dealing with Freedom of the Press and the role of the media, including social media, in our lives.  

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