English press: then & now

"The mass media are here, the mass media are there, the mass media are all around..."
We are surrounded and deeply plunged in the media world: we get all the information about
what is happening everywhere on earth from TV, radio and newspapers. But do you really know everything about them?




This website is the result of a collaborative on-line project
among some Italian schools and supported by
Webscuola, the virtual community of the Italian schools.
Our purpose was educational.

Our workshop, based on a crosscurricular module,
is certainly an excellent example of "edutainment",
that is "education and entertainment"!

  We worked all together on our project that aimed at creating a Web site about the rise and development of the English press. So, each class had to surf the Net to find information about the topic they have chosen, such as journalism in the past or now. They started visiting the sites suggested by the tutor on each subject ( you can see the list of the selected sites in the "resources and links " page). Then they wrote down their own texts about the chosen topic and sent it to the tutor, who eventually put all the material together.

A very stimulating part of our project was also the chance to talk together, that is, we had two chats (in English, of course) so useful in order to practice the language. Moreover, we were always in touch by email or through the forum message board.

  • to practice the English language ( in particular, language skills like reading and writing, spoken interaction)
  •  to do researches for information and select the most relevant one, to explore the web
  • to create our own hypermedia, with original texts, photos, charts, etc.
  • to improve some important competences, such as to contextualize the birth of a genre and to trace the chronological development of it, to compare texts by different writers, to gain knowledge and critical awareness, to plan and build mind maps, to collect and select data, to analyse and write synthesis (all these competences are also essential in order to prepare any research project, for example for the final exam)
  Our methodology was based mainly on:
  • a collaborative learning, working together as a team and getting into contact with students and teachers all over Italy
  • the learning potentialities of Internet ( find information, join chats, read/write email and forum messages)
  • an in-depth analysis of texts, historical periods and so on
  • the production of written texts, the creation of a hypertext
  The initial project  
  • The XVIIIth century witnessed the origin of modern-day journalism. The Tatler and The Spectator are the forerunners of modern newspapers and magazines: greatly admired in Britain, they became popular in the rest of Europe and in Italy, too. You could read them in coffee houses, as now. Which factors favoured the boom of journalism? Which were the main aims of Steele and Addison as journalists? What kind of articles did they publish?
    The rise of the novel is also strictly linked to the proliferation of journalism: almost all the novelists of the period started their careers as journalists. D. Defoe published The Review, as well as J. Swift wrote for The Examiner and H. Fielding edited some periodicals. As a consequence, the genre of periodical essay was created and anticipated the editorials of our modern-day newspapers; advertising became a means of survival for dailies and in 1785 The Daily Universal Register, which became The Times in 1788, was founded.
  • In the Victorian age this strong relationship between journalism and fiction went on. In particular, novels, for example, those by C. Dickens, were serialized by instalments in newspapers and magazines, even if the immense popularity and demand of fiction increased the gap between "good" and "bad" literature. Moreover, W.M.Thackeray contributed to various newspapers, such as Punch, and became editor of the Cornhill Magazine, while G. Eliot ( a woman writer) was assistant editor of the Westminster Review. Forster's Education Act of 1870 created a new reading public whose taste appreciated the popular press. While the XIXth century periodicals discussed literature alongside politics, economics and social comment, the XXth century ones became more specifically literary ( the "little magazines") and addressed to an Úlite, so that, among intellectuals, hostility to popular newspapers and mass culture was widespread.
  • Between 1937 and 1947 the circulation of newspapers and Sunday newspapers increased by about 50 per cent. But, at the same time... be careful! BIG BROTHER is watching YOU! G. Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948) presents a nightmarish futuristic London, ruled by "the Party" whose slogans are :" War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength". Winston Smith, the protagonist, has to re-write past issues of the Times in order to make them conform to later developments. "This applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs...". Disinformation and the distortion of news for propaganda were frequent in wartime Britain. Do newspapers and TV always provide accurate and politically neutral information?
  • What about nowadays? What's happening in the information age? In Britain there are two kinds of newspaper: popular, or tabloid, and quality, such as The Times. In USA the only really national newspapers are the serious The Wall Street Journal and the more popular USA Today. But how has Internet changed journalism? Do newspapers have a future or they are about to disappear? Don't forget that now you can read thousands of newspapers and magazines from all over the world... thanks to the Web