Some of the first news circulations occurred in Renaissance Europe. These handwritten newsletters contained news about wars, economic conditions, and social customs and were circulated among merchants. The first printed news appeared by the late 1400s in German pamphlets that contained content that was often highly sensationalized. The first newspaper written in English was The Weekly Newes, published in London in 1621. Several papers followed in the 40's and 50's. In 1690, the first American newspaper was published in Boston by Richard Pierce and Benjamin Harris in Boston. However, it did not have permission from the government to be published and was immediately suppressed.
In 1729, Benjamin Franklin began writing a new form of newspaper that was more satirical and more involved in civic affairs than previously seen. In 1735, John Peter Zenger was accused of seditious libel by the governor of New York, William Cosby. Zenger was found not guilty, largely in part to his attorney Andrew Hamilton, who later wrote a paper in which he argued that newspapers should be free to criticize the government as long as it was true. Later, with the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, freedom of the press would be guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In the 1830s, newspapers started seeking commercial success and turned toward reportage. This began with the New York Sun in 1833. Advancements in technology made it cheaper to print newspapers and "penny papers" emerged. These issues sought out local news and coverage of society. Later, news-gathering became a central function of newspapers. With the invention of the telegraph in 1945, the "inverted pyramid" structure of news was developed. Through the latter half of the 1800s, politics played a role in what newspapers published. By the end of the century, modern aspects of newspapers, such as banner headlines, extensive use of illustrations, "funny pages," and expanded coverage of organized sporting events, began to appear. Also, media consolidation began with many independent newspapers becoming part of "chains".
The early 1900s saw Progressive Era journalists using a new style of investigative journalism that revealed the corrupt practices of government officials. These exposing articles became featured in many newspapers and magazines. The people who wrote them became labeled as "muckrakers". They became very influential and were a vital force in the Progressive reform movement. However, after 1912 muckraking declined. The public began to think the exposés were sensationalized, but they did make a very influential impact that would impact future policies.
During the 1920s, radio became a news medium, and was a significant source of breaking news. Although, during World War I, radio broadcasts in America were only given information about Allied victories because Great Britain had a monopoly on the transatlantic radio lines. For the newspapers, the government suppressed any radical or German papers during and after the war.
With the introduction of the television came The Communications Act of 1934. It was an agreement between commercial television and the people of the United States that established that: The airways are public property; Commercial broadcasters are licensed to use the airways; The main condition for use will be whether the broadcaster served "the public interest, convenience, and necessity." During the Vietnam War, the media reporting directly challenged the government, drawing attention to the "credibility gap" — official lies and half-truths about the war.
Television news continued to expand during the 1970s, and by 1990, more than half of American homes had cable systems and nationally oriented newspapers expanded their national reach. With technological advancements in the newsroom, notably the Internet, a new emphasis on computer-assisted reporting and a new blending of media forms emerged, with one reporter preparing the same story in print, online, and on camera for a newspaper's cable station.