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CMNS 210 (3)

W7 Reading Notes: McNairn (2000)

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CMNS 210
Stuart Poyntz

‘The Most Powerful Engine of the Human Mind’: The Press and Its Readers (McNairn, 2000) 128  1820s: Upper Canadians got most of their political information from colonial newspapers -> central to the public sphere  Chronicles would lessen isolation by allowing participation in debate: society’s existence depends on reciprocal communication of sentiments  Exchange of opinion takes place in cultural institutions and practices that promote it, instead of monarchical court or church who don’t, e.g. coffee house 129  Four positive consequences of colonial press 1. Sparking curiosity 2. Defining issues of common concern 3. Encouraging emulation 4. Political role: create and reflect public opinion  Political role threatened to engulf other three: newspapers became political weapons  Although newspapers could substitute for face-to-face conversation, differences remained o Conversation: Identity of speaker influences how words are received, immediate response is demanded o Print: opinions abstracted from identity of author, more people reached 130  Publication predominantly in newspapers rather than books o Critical distance between reader and text, more sceptical towards text o Choice between publications was possible and required o Communication no longer authorized by social superiors for passive consumers o Integrated readers into a common political community  1793: First newspaper printed in Canada ‘Upper Canada Gazette’ – organ of government  1798: First privately owned paper ‘Canada ‘Constellation’  number of communities with newspapers increased, number of papers within communities increased -> competition increased 131  figures can be misleading: readers not restricted to place of publication, # of titles not # of readers, expansion driven by demand,  demand -> competition -> broadened market  expansion and decentralization of newspapers to non-metropolitan centres (although amount of local material remains small) -> local source of information, sense of connectedness to larger community, books/papers produced locally -> “village enlightenment”  small communities -> news are known before they can be printed -> newspapers need to provide what is not readily available (non-local news, often long documents/commentary)
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