Boston recognized for journalism history

July 24, 2014

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has named the city of Boston a National Historic Site in Journalism, in large part due to the city’s nomination by Professor Manny Paraschos of Emerson’s Journalism Department.

Paraschos “As a journalism historian, I have found Boston to be so woven into American journalism that I think it richly deserves the honor of being recognized as the birthplace of American journalism,” Paraschos said.

The first three and five of the first seven newspapers in North America were published in Boston.

The Boston Post is remembered for uncovering Carlo Ponzi’s financial scheme, and for being the first newspaper to print the word “O.K.”

Boston Gazette editors coined the word “gerrymandering,” while the Boston Globe printed the first full-page newspaper advertisement.

Paraschos’s journalism students have created The Boston Journalism Trail website, an interactive map that highlights where major moments in Boston’s journalism history took place around the city.

One notable location is “Newspaper Row,” along Washington Street where Downtown Crossing is today, which had approximately eight newspaper offices located there at one time. The last to leave the Row was the Boston Globe in 1958.

Boston Journalism Trail

Among other journalism-related accomplishments for the city: Boston was home to The Liberator, an abolitionist paper; a reporter for The Boston Daily Mail used carrier pigeons to send news before carrier services existed; and Boston editors fought against the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798–1801.

Boston has also been home to a lot of firsts for women in journalism: The first female newspaper editor, Cornelia Wells Walter of The Boston Evening Transcript; the first female publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science Monitor; the first African American female journalist, Maria W. Stewart of The Liberator; and the first female magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale of Boston’s Ladies’ Magazine.

WASN Radio in Boston was the first all-female station, and The Woman’s Journal in Boston was the first national newspaper to be staffed by and aimed solely toward women.

The city also made strides in race and religion as pertaining to journalism by being host to the first English-language Jewish newspaper, the nation’s oldest Roman Catholic newspaper, the first Methodist Episcopal newspaper, and the first Greek American newspaper.

A plaque will be placed at a location in Boston to distinguish it as a National Historic Site in Journalism.

Since 1942, the Society has honored the people and places that have played important roles in the history of journalism through the Historic Sites program. Some honorees include the Associated Press offices in Washington and New York City, and Freedom’s Journal, the first black newspaper published in the United States. Last year, SPJ named Mt. Zion Old School Baptist Church and Washington Square in Newport, Rhode Island, as National Historic Sites in Journalism.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

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