The First Multingual Communications Agency
Avisa Relation oder Zeitung (1609)

We were able to agree that it was an essential element of impartiality that when a matter was controversial the viewer or listener would be able to make a judgement based on a fair assessment of all the relevant arguments and information. Relevant information should not be excluded nor should the presentation clearly favour one view over another. We recognised that this requirement had to meet the familiar point that it was not necessary to be impartial between sense and nonsense.The Budd Commission on BBC Business Journalism.

Publishing: Newspaper publishing: ORIGINS AND EARLY EVIDENCES. I was re-reading Warren Chappell and Robert Bringhurst’s A Short History of the Printed Word recently and came a across a brief description of the first English-language newspaper, the Corante, which the authors report put out six issues in 1621.

The first printed European newsletter was the [trilingual, apparently] Avisa Relation oder Zeitung of 1609.

Britain. The British press made its debut–an inauspicious one–in the early 17th century. News coverage was restricted to foreign affairs for a long time, and even the first so-called English newspaper was a translation by Nathaniel Butter, a printer, of a Dutch coranto called Corante, or newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France, dated Sept. 24, 1621. Together with two London stationers, Nicholas Bourne and Thomas Archer, Butter published a stream of corantos and avisos, including a numbered and dated series of Weekley Newes, beginning in 1622. But a number of difficulties confronted a prospective publisher: a license to publish was needed; regular censorship of reporting was in operation from the earliest days; and foreign news no longer appeared because of a Star Chamber decree in force from 1632 to 1638 completely banning the publication of accounts of the Thirty Years War.

This means it took 162 years — Gutenberg “invented” movable type in 1447 — for the technology to discover its killer app.

In any event, this seemed like a useful factoid to have on hand: That the first English-language newspaper was a collection of news in translation.

News in translation being the racket into which I seem to have fallen into working at.

The online publishing project at Corante — parts of which I always enjoyed reading, and should start reading again — says it took its inspiration from the subversive, incunabular Protestant project of our Mr. Butters.

See also

HBO’s Rome miniseries shone an interesting light on the grandaddy of them all, the Acta Diurna, read aloud daily by the Neil Cavuto or William Bonner of the day before the Roman Senate.

What I always wonder is when the Romans first found it necessary to produce an edition using vulgaris eloquentia, much as that American broadcasters have found that it pays to communicate to Hispanic audiences in Spanish.

I read a very interesting — and bizarre — argument last year from some Brazilian “neo-journalists” to the effect that all the woes of contemporary journalism can be traced back to the Acta Diurna — an effort by the Roman civil administration to control the spread of rumors and disinformation by issuing official bulletins. See

In other words, that familiar argument from the evangelists of Journalist 2.0 that it is undemocratic for information services not to give equal time to lies, nonsense and disinformation.

Which is sort of a crackpot theory, do you not think?

This is, for example, essentially the theory of “freedom of expression” practiced at Brazil’s Veja magazine and RCTV in Venezuela.


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