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Monday, May 17, 2021

The importance of free press: From print to digital media 

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Old wooden printing press

 

I am Chris L. Kenny, and this is the second installment of the Founder’s Folio. As founder of Delaware LIVE, I created the Founder’s Folio series to talk directly to our audience and share my thoughts on what our goals are as a locally-minded news platform. In this editorial I look at historical references to understand how we can advance the media landscape, adapting to reflect the needs of our community. Exploring the history of free media in America provides us a powerful beacon for how today’s digital media has the ability to engage, empower and hold truth to power. 

In the first Founder’s Folio, I looked at the importance of how keeping the people informed through free media led to a unified Unites States of America that was able to come together and defeat British rule to gain independence. In this second segment, I take a look at how the cutting-edge technology of the time—printing, allowed innovators like Benjamin Franklin to realize the true power of communication, media and informing the people.  As our society continues to progress, we too can learn from critical reflection on the prevailing communication technology of our time: the internet and digital communication. We can learn from how our forefathers used the new technologies of their time, appreciating that evolution in communication is not only natural and inevitable but that it can also present new circumstances, opportunities and even unforeseen consequences.

Like many of life’s unexpected journeys, Benjamin Franklin’s knowledge of printing technology was borne from both accident and necessity.

In 1724 Franklin traveled from Philadelphia to London to purchase printing equipment at the behest of the Pennsylvania Gov. William Keith. However, the governor was unable to provide the letter of credit for Franklin, so Franklin was forced to make ends meet on his own in London taking jobs in printing shops.

He learned all about the latest in printing technology as he saved up for his return trip back to America. Franklin soon returned, equipped with a wealth of printing knowledge that would prove valuable and in high demand back in Philadelphia. 

But for Franklin and his business partner in America, printing was not easy labor. Their operations often involved late nights and tight deadlines and like many fledgling businesses: ongoing issues with creditors. Franklin eventually turned things around and gained sole ownership of The Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper that under Franklin’s leadership would become the most successful in the colonies. 

Chris L. Kenny
Chris L. Kenny

Franklin’s Gazette was popular and unique for the time because it featured engagement with readers including letters and essays from the readership. The newspaper included written experiments, including Franklin’s famous Kite Experiment published under an alias.

At a time when political dissidence was dangerous and tensions with British rule were high, Franklin did not shy away from using The Gazette as a tool to empower the American people against unjust treatment from the King. Famous phrases like “Join or Die” were first coined in The Pennsylvania Gazette, eventually to be used as the symbol for American rebellion during the Revolutionary War. 

Franklin recognized the power of print media and empowered his community through a newspaper that encouraged active participation and an informed readership. At a time when the technology of print media was new, Franklin and other American printers and writers of the era used that technology to communicate important ideas and advocate for free thought.

We too are in an era where our media leaders should reflect critically on our roles in using digital communication to help progress our communities.

At a time of ever-increasing polarity in national journalism and media narratives, our media sites and platforms should be providing for a breadth of perspectives. There is value to enabling plurality of opinion at a time when singular visions are increasingly dominating public discourse. 

In Delaware we have a diverse population made up of many kinds of people and our state media should too represent localized, diverse stories. My goal with Delaware LIVE is to bring you, the people of Delaware, a media platform that does not neglect nor shy away from the important topic and issues that matter most to our state and to our local communities.

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”  Benjamin Franklin

 

Chris L Kenny, Esq. is a Delaware business leader and philanthropist with a mission to provide the Delaware community with engaging, action-oriented thought leadership on the greatest issues affecting life and business in the state. President and CEO to one of Delaware’s largest chain of supermarkets, Chris Kenny is a current and former board member for over a dozen nonprofits in the state and offers unique insights into the Delaware business climate, economy, food industry, its people and community.

Read Chris Kenny’s personal blog The Sword in The Stone here and visit his personal website here. Contact the Delaware Pigeon by visiting here or by calling or texting 302-223-9982. Chris is on social media and can be followed at:

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