Atlantic subscribers can read this entire tour of the magazine's coverage of media debates over the past 130 years, and you really should subscribe, but let me just break you off one paragraph of F. B. Sandborn defending the newspaper business against its detractors and sounding an awful lot like a blogger:

Journalism in America is something, has been nothing, and aspires to be everything. There are no limits, in the ambitions of enterprising editors, to the future power of the American newspaper. It is not only to make and unmake presidents and parties, institutions and reputations; but it must regulate the minutest details of our daily lives, and be school-master, preacher, lawgiver, judge, jury, executioner, and policeman in one grand combination.

Of course, newspapers back in the day were in many ways closer to blogs than are contemporary newspapers. They operated in highly competitive markets, were full of a feisty spirit of partisanship, weren't particularly professionalized, etc.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to