America's Newspaper History Gets Mapped

Stanford researchers put together a map charting journalism's progress west

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The Internet is killing newspaper reporting. That's the consensus understanding among many media watchers at least. But what a new interactive map from a group of Stanford University researchers shows is that the number of newspapers in the U.S. had been on the decline for decades.

Using a publications listing from the Library of Congress, the researchers plotted the number of newspapers in each American city since 1690, when Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick published its first (and only) issue. Users can scroll through the years to track journalism's geographic progression from the East Coast through the Midwest until finally reaching the Pacific. The more interesting take-away from the data, though, is how the number of publications has been declining for most of the 20th century.

Source: Library of Congress

The number of newspapers in the U.S. peaked in 1913, during the heyday of yellow journalism. Since then the industry has faced plenty of pressures that made it more difficult to found new publications and sustain existing ones. During World War II, for example, newsrooms had trouble hiring reporters as able-bodied men were drafted into the war. In the '60s, many newsrooms went on strike. And perhaps most importantly, newspapers have always had to compete with emerging media, such as radio in the 1920s and television in the '50s. The take-away: it's not just the Internet. Newspapers have battling to survive their whole lives.

Here are a few static shots from the site--they illustrate the tremendous growth between 1850 and 1900 and the slow decline since then. Check out the full feature on Stanford's site.




And 2011 (also shown at the top of this post):

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