The newspaper is a comparatively modern invention. It was introduced in England in the 18th century, but it was in the 19th century that it became such a power for good and for evil. Today every country is flooded with newspapers great and small, good, bad and indifferent. The spread of education has created a very large reading public in every civilized land, and every educated person finds his newspaper a daily necessity.
As its name implies, the first object of a newspaper is to give news. We want to know, day by day, what is happening, not only in our own country but all over the world. And thanks to the modern inventions of the telegraph, the submarine cable, and wireless, we can read in our morning paper all the notable events which occurred in even distant lands the day before.
But a newspaper is more than a mere news sheet. While there are special papers entirely devoted to different departments of life, such as religion, sport, literature, art, music, farming, and mere amusement, most newspapers are the organs of political parties and, their main interest is politics.
Members of political parties look to the leading article of their favorite newspaper for guidance on political questions, and the object of each paper is to educate public opinion in the political views and aims of the party it represents.
Besides this, the press affords a platform from which advocates of social reform can press their causes on public attention, and people and communities, who think they are unjustly treated, can air their grievances there.
It is evident that the press has enormous power, because it can profoundly influence public opinion. The proprietors and editors of newspapers have therefore a heavy responsibility. A clean, earnest, truthful, and moral paper can do a tremendous amount of good; but a newspaper that misrepresents the truth, that panders to the lowest tastes, that influences public opinion to passion and violence, and corrupts public morals with indecencies and sensationalism, is a terrible power for evil.