By Eric Burns
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Extra resources for Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism
The Post lasted longer than Harris’s previous venture did, but it won him no more friends and might have lost even more money. ” It had taken the American colonies eighty-three years to get their first newspaper. Another fourteen would pass until the second, and it would be a publication of a very different kind. 33 c h a p t e r t wo Publishing by Authority H istorians are not enamored of John Campbell either, although for virtually the opposite reasons that they disdained his predecessor. Harris was bold, Campbell squeamish; Harris was a rebel, Campbell a bootlicker; Harris was a blackguard, Campbell a bore.
This kind of gilded language was more common then than it is today; still, there must have been times when the yawns were as audible in Boston as the sounds of commerce and industry. The News-Letter never had more than 300 subscribers, although such a tiny circulation may be as much a reflection of the novelty of journalism at the time, and on the fact that people had not yet found newspapers to be a necessity in their lives, as it is of the uninspiring nature of Campbell’s story selection and prose.
And he had been told that it was even more especially true when the enterprise was a newspaper, since the news, as often as not, was a record of the government’s actions, or at least had an effect on people’s perception of government. Harris would have none of it. He was not the type to go through proper channels, and in fact the very notion of a proper channel struck him as an imposition, an indignity, a denial of his rights as a citizen of the New World. He was about to be denied even more. Four days after Bostonians got their hands on Publick Occurrences, the colonial government, with the support of Boston’s Puritan clergy, published a document of its own.