Civic Media

A brief history of some of the technologies, organizations and uses and forms of media that shape civic media, journalism, community and citizen journalism and democracy. Inclusionist.

Media Use

The use of forms of media and developments related to existing technologies and mediums.

Postal Service Subsidies of Publications

1792 - 1960

The Postal Service's subsidizes the mailing costs for newspapers and magazines in colonial America.

Era of 'Muckraking' Journalism

1800 - 1902

The period from 1800 till 1902 saw an increase in the kind of reporting that would come to be called "muckraking."

Rise of the London Times

1841 - 1860

The influence of the London Times rises, especially in politics and amongst the City of London. The increased circulation and influence of the paper was based in part to its early adoption of the steam driven rotary printing press. Distribution via steam trains to rapidly growing concentrations of urban populations helped ensure the profitability of the paper and its growing influence

London Times Creates Shared Identity

1850 - 1860

The London Times played in creating a shared sense of identity and fraternity across at least segments of the British empire (Anderson in Imagined Communities)

First cable transmission of European news through the trans-Atlantic cable.

1858 - 1859

The ever-growing demand for urban newspapers to provide more news led to the organization of the first of the wire services, a cooperative between six large New York City-based newspapers led by David Hale, the publisher of the Journal of Commerce, and James Gordon Bennett, to provide coverage of Europe for all of the papers together. What became the Associated Press received the first cable transmission ever of European news through the trans-Atlantic cable in 1858.

American Civil War sets journalistic standards.

1861 - 1865

The American Civil War had a profound effect on American journalism. Large newspapers hired war correspondents to cover the battlefields, with more freedom than correspondents today enjoy. These reporters used the new telegraph and expanding railways to move news reports faster to their newspapers. The cost of sending telegraphs helped create a new concise or "tight" style of writing which became the standard for journalism through the next century.

Yellow Journalism

1895 - 1898

William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer both owned newspaper chains in the American West, and both established papers in New York City: Hearst's New York Journal in 1883 and Pulitzer's New York World in 1896. Their stated missions to defend the public interest, their circulation wars and their embrace of sensational reporting, which spread to many other newspapers, led to the coinage of the phrase "yellow journalism." While the public may have benefitted from the beginnings of "muckraking" journalism, their often excessive coverage of juicy stories with sensational reporting turned many readers against them.

Upton Sinclair publishes the Jungle.

1906 - 1907

Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906, which revealed conditions in the meat packing industry in the United States and was a major factor in the establishment of the Pure Food and Drug Act.

Early practical use of television, broadcasts of olympic games in Germany.

1929 - 1936

The first practical use of television in Germany. Regular television broadcasts began in Germany in 1929 and in 1936 the Olympic Games in Berlin were broadcast to television stations in Berlin and Leipzig where the public could view the games live.

NPR airs first broadcast.

April 1971 - 1972

NPR airs its first broadcast covering the United States Senate hearings on the Vietnam War. Shortly thereafter, the afternoon drive-time newscast All Things Considered began.

Zapatista Army of National Liberation Reaches out with new media.

1994 - 1995

Since 1994, when they declared war "against the Mexican state," The EZLN has made communication with the rest of Mexico and the world a high priority. The EZLN has used technology and new media, including cellular phones and the Internet, to generate international solidarity with sympathetic people and organizations.

The term "weblog" is coined, blogs increase in popularity.

1997 - 2010

While the first blogs had been around for a few years in one form or another, 1997 was the first year the term "weblog" was used.

First new story to be broken online instead of traditional media

1998 - 1999

In 1998, the first major news story to be broken online was the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal (also referred to as "Monicagate" among other nicknames), which was posted on The Drudge Report after Newsweek killed the story.

Estimates of public-notice billings account for 5-10% of Newspaper Revenue

2000 - 2001

The National Newspaper Association estimated that public-notice billings accounted for 5-10 percent of newspaper revenue

OhmyNews becomes popular in South Korea

February 2000 - 2002

In South Korea, OhmyNews became popular and commercially successful with the motto, "Every Citizen is a Reporter."

Myspace becomes most popular social network

2003 - 2005

Also in 2003, MySpace opens up its doors. It later grew to be the most popular social network at one time (thought it has since been overtaken by Facebook).

Popularity of Podcasting

2004 - 2006

Podcasting began to catch hold with the public in late 2004, though during the 1998–2001 dot-com era there were multiple "podcasts" done by major companies, such as Real Networks and

Web 2.0 Coined, Era of Web 2.0

2004 - 2010

Though coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci, the term "Web 2.0", referring to websites and Rich Internet Applications (RIA) that are highly interactive and user-driven became popular around 2004. During the first Web 2.0 conference, John Batelle and Tim O’Reilly described the concept of "the Web as a Platform": software applications built to take advantage of internet connectivity, moving away from the desktop (which has downsides such as operating system dependency and lack of interoperability).

First 'Internet Election'

2008 - 2009

The first "Internet election" took place in 2008 with the U.S. Presidential election. It was the first year that national candidates took full advantage of all the Internet had to offer. Hillary Clinton jumped on board early with YouTube campaign videos. Virtually every candidate had a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, or both.

Ron Paul set a new fundraising record by raising $4.3 million in a single day through online donations, and then beat his own record only weeks later by raising $4.4 million in a single day.

The 2008 elections placed the Internet squarely at the forefront of politics and campaigning, a trend that is unlikely to change any time in the near future.


Invention of the Printing Press

1456 - 1457

The invention of the movable type printing press is attributed to Johannes Gutenberg in 1456

Baltimore-Washington Telegraph Opens

May 1844 - 1845

"What Hath God Wrought" opens Baltimore-Washington telegraph line

Telegraph Connects East and West

October 1861 - 1862

Telegraph connects east and west coast of the United States, end of Pony Express

Marconi was awarded the British patent 12039 for the Radio

1896 - 1897

In 1896, Marconi was awarded the British patent 12039, Improvements in transmitting electrical impulses and signals and in apparatus there-for, for radio. In 1897 he established a radio station on the Isle of Wight, England. Marconi opened his "wireless" factory in Hall Street, Chelmsford, England in 1898, employing around 50 people.

First working television system.

1927 - 1928

In 1927, Philo Farnsworth made the world's first working television system with electronic scanning of both the pickup and display devices, which he first demonstrated to the press in September 1928.

First Bulletin Board System

1978 - 1979

The first bulletin board system (BBS) was developed during a blizzard in Chicago.

First webcam is developed.

1991 - 1992

First webcam is developed and deployed at Cambridge University lab.

First webpage created, WWW

1991 - 2010

Following finalization of World Wide Web protocols the first web page is created.

Google Goes Live

1998 - 1999

Google goes live, will become self aware approximately 20 years later.

VOIP becomes 'mainstream'

2003 - 2004

In 2003 Skype is released to the public, giving a user-friendly interface to Voice over IP calling.

iPhone renews interest in mobile web.

2007 - 2008

The iPhone is released, which becomes responsible for renewed interest in mobile web applications and design.


John Dewey publishes "The Public and its Problems"

1927 - 1928

Dewey espouses his belief that the public was not only capable of understanding the issues created or responded to by the elite, but it was in the public forum that decisions should be made after discussion and debate. When issues were thoroughly vetted, then the best ideas would bubble to the surface. Dewey believed journalists should do more than simply pass on information. He believed they should weigh the consequences of the policies being enacted. Over time, his idea has been implemented in various degrees, and is more commonly known as "community journalism."


First colonial newspaper, Publick Occurrences both Foreighn and Domestick.

1690 - 1691

The first printer in Britain's American colonies was Bob Night in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who began in 1658. The British regulation of printing extended to the Colonies. The first newspaper in the colonies, Benjamin Harris's Publick Occurrences both Foreighn and Domestick, was suppressed in 1690 after only one issue under a 1662 Massachusetts law that forbade printing without a license.

Rapid Expansion of Newspapers in the Colonies

1750 - 1780

By the 1770s, 89 newspapers were published in 35 cities. "Most papers at the time of the American Revolution were anti-royalist, chiefly because of opposition to the Stamp Act taxing newsprint." Though the tax was imposed on newsprint, not publication itself, Colonial governments could suppress newspapers "by denying the stamp or refusing to sell approved paper to the offending publisher."

First 'modern' newspaper, the New York Herald.

1835 - 1836

The first newspaper to fit the modern definition of a newspaper was the New York Herald, founded in 1835 and published by James Gordon Bennett. It was the first newspaper to have city staff covering regular beats and spot news, along with regular business and Wall Street coverage. In 1838 Bennett also organized the first foreign correspondent staff of six men in Europe and assigned domestic correspondents to key cities, including the first reporter to regularly cover Congress.

Investigative journalism begins: Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

March 1871 - 1872

James Bennett's Herald sends Henry Stanley to find David Livingstone in Africa, which he did, in Uganda. The success of Stanley's stories prompted the hire of more of what would turn out to be investigative journalists.

Incorporation of the BBC

October 1922 - 1923

The BBC, the world's first national broadcasting organization is formed as the British Broadcasting Company Ltd. It incorporates the motto "Nation shall speak peace unto Nation".

Bowling Leagues

1950 - 1970

Bowling leagues represents a commitment which citizens made to their neighbors, that they would come together socially at regular moments to play and that around the sport, a range of other significant conversations would occur which help sustain their investments within their community (Jenkins paraphrasing Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone)

Formation of National Educational Television

May 1952 - 1953

National Educational Television, an American educational television network is formed.

Formation of National Public Radio

February 1970 - 1971

National Public Radio is founded to replace the National Educational Radio Network.

Formation of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

October 1970 - 1971

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) replaces NET

Formation of Project Gutenberg

1971 - 1972

Formation of Project Gutenberg and the birth of the eBook.

Development of the WELL Begins

1985 - 1986

The development of The WELL (short for Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), one of the oldest virtual communities still in operation.

Indymedia Project Starts.

1999 - 2000

The first Indymedia project was started in late November 1999 to report on protests against the WTO meeting that took place in Seattle, Washington, and to act as an alternative media source. IMC collectives distribute print, audio, photo, and video media, but are most well known for their open publishing newswires, sites where anyone with internet access can publish news from their own perspective.

Wikipedia Launches

2001 - 2002

With the dotcom collapse still going strong, Wikipedia launched in 2001, one of the websites that paved the way for collective web content generation/social media.

Social Media instantiated with Launch of Digg

2004 - 2005

The term "social media", believed to be first used by Chris Sharpley, was coined in the same year that "Web 2.0" became a mainstream concept. Social media–sites and web applications that allow its users to create and share content and to connect with one another–started around this period.

Digg, a social news site, launched on November of 2004, paving the way for sites such as Reddit, Mixx, and Yahoo! Buzz. Digg revolutionized traditional means of generating and finding web content, democratically promoting news and web links that are reviewed and voted on by a community.

Youtube brings streaming video to the masses.

2005 - 2006

YouTube launched in 2005, bringing free online video hosting and sharing to the masses.

Launch of Twitter

2006 - 2007

Twitter launched in 2006. It was originally going to be called twittr (inspired by Flickr); the first Twitter message was "just setting up my twttr".