Alicia Sheerwood—From Print to Digital

Analyzing the way Baby Boomers are influenced by printed news.

From 1946-1964, over 76 million babies were born in the US alone. This post-war optimism inspired a sense of stability, opportunity and prosperity—values commonly held by the middle class. With increasing racial tensions in the United States, the emergence of the Vietnam War, as well as the self-exploration and peace movement, sending and receiving information played a pivotal role in the early lives of Baby Boomers. During these transitional moments in America’s history, printed media shaped race and equality, awareness and social opportunities. The most commonly circulated form was newspaper.

Lets backpedal, even though China printed the earliest book known is the “Diamond Sutra” with their movable clay type invention, Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing to Europe. His invention of mechanical movable type printing started the Printing Revolution and is widely regarded as the most important event of the modern period. During the centuries, many newer printing technologies were developed based on Gutenberg’s printing machine. Example, newspaper printing.

The earliest newspaper date back to 17th century Europe when printed periodicals began rapidly replacing the practice of hand-written circulars. As paper and printing technology advanced newspapers quickly became available in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. The first multi-page newspaper published in America was the Publick Occurrences. The first edition was published September 25, 1690, in Boston, Massachusetts, and was intended to be published monthly, or as anything thrilling happened.

As efficiency and productivity stood at the forefront, Isaac Doolittle of Connecticut facilitated a large operation where he made American Printing Presses. By 1830 715 newspapers were published in America costing a penny per paper.  The aspects of newspaper continued to grow by the thousands and soon were delivered daily by train during the mid 1880’s. The Royal Baking Powder Company even becomes the biggest newspaper advertiser in the world striking more buys and subscriptions.

By the time baby boomers appeared on scene, most newspapers begin to include entertainment; political column personalized or “gossip” columns. As racial tension rose, positive and negative scenes of the civil rights movement progressed throughout America. Long-standing papers such as the New York Times, News and Observer, Times (London), Wall Street Journal and Washington Post uncovered information and interpretations of the events that happened during this time. Before the Supreme Court transformed desegregation into a national imperative, black Americans had long been virtually invisible in the pages of the nation’s daily press. By and large, blacks were not mentioned in most white-owned newspapers unless they committed a crime or died a violent death. As the Civil Rights progressed, blacks included in media had begun to improve by degrees. The New York Times echoed the complaints of black and omitted racial designations. Maturely reporting on the progress on race within our nation—shaping Baby Boomers perception on race and equality.

Although black and white TVs were available in most homes during the baby boomer era, newspapers were the only printed media that could go into more depth on a story than the evening news could; Sourcing of information about events around the world and local communities. Take the Vietnam War for example, studies from he Washington Post suggested the Vietnam War has been said to be the war most boomers and their families experienced right in their living rooms. The images of combat were projected daily on newspapers. During the war in Vietnam, the American military gave the press unprecedented freedom of access to combat zones. This allowed newspaper reporters and photographer’s crew’s firsthand opportunity to document a war involving American parents and siblings on the other side of the world.

Direct media access and display eventually lead to Anti-War Activism in the US. Opposition to American involvement in Vietnam would bring about a coalition of various groups. Newspaper reporting on the anti war movements captured the hearts of men and women born during the baby boomer era while also changed the political climate of America during the late 60s and early 70s. Many peaceful and militant demonstrations we reported in newspapers across the US. Through newspaper, approximately three-quarters of a million—protesting against the Vietnam War became a major part of their everyday lives, increasing awareness on The Vietnam War and mounting participation in peace movements. Even 6 column newspapers like the Leominster Enterprises emphasized the movement, publishing headlines reading “March Against Death’ Proceeds Solemnly In Capital” in the mid 1960. Reporting on the anti Vietnam War march in Washington DC that accumulated to over 200,000 people.

Since the baby boomer era, has rapidly developed and turn out to be one of the most creditable and accessible platforms for news, politics and entertainment.  Fortunately, baby boomers don’t shun todays printed presentation of news. An increasing number of baby boomers own smartphones and belong to social networks, especially the older ones. While printed newspaper will soon expire, ladies and gents from 1946-1964 are briskly adapting to the “new media” culture. Reports over the last 3 years show that boomers have spent millions on laptops, smart phones, and tablets accessing printed news online. Boomers are adopting the millennial concepts on sending and receiving news.

Digital printed media will continue to take on many forms online giving boomers and millennial the opportunity to conveniently stay up to date with local, national and international news. Influencing race and equality, awareness and social opportunities.


One comment

  1. Patrick · March 18, 2013


    This is very relevant today. I am going to be moderating a panel on print to digital this coming April. The issues are why are traditional magazines and newspapers declining so rapidly? What is happening? Why did this occur?
    My belief s that since these vehicles cannot be immediate then the vehicles that can be immediate beat them out for viewership, ala tv over newspapers. The real question is what is lost? Is validity lost? Are we feeding the beast so quickly we almost don’t care if the content is valid? Is this the main reason why traditional vehicles have lost their position? Did immediacy beat out validity and quality?

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