It was a little before 9 a.m.
I was chatting with two students.
Another student came in, and asked if we had heard a plane had hit a building in New York City.
We hadn't, but I assumed it was a light private plane, and the pilot had mechanical difficulty or problems with wind turbulence.
A minute or so later, another student came in. It was a passenger jet, she said.
The first student had read the information in a text from a friend, who had received it from another friend, who may have heard it somewhere else. The second student had read it while surfing a news site on the Internet. In a few moments I became aware of how news dissemination had changed, and it was the youth who were going to lead the information revolution.
A half-hour later, in an upper division journalism class, we were flipping between TV channels, and students were texting with friends on campus and in other states.
By 12:30 p.m., the beginning time for my popular culture and the media class, every one of the 240 students heard about the murders and terrorism that would become known as 9/11. Most had not seen it on TV nor heard about it from radio. There was no way I was going to give that day's prepared lecture. The students needed to talk, to tell others what they heard, to listen to what others had heard. To cry; to express rage. And, most of all, they needed to hear the conflicting information, and learn the facts.
For the first century of colonial America, news was transmitted at the pace of a fast horse and rider. But even then, most citizens read the news only when they wandered into a local coffee shop or tavern and saw the information posted on a wall. The first newspaper, Boston's Publick Occurrences, lasted but one issue, dying in 1690. The next newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, wasn't published until 14 years later. Fifteen years passed before there was another newspaper. By the Revolution, the major cities along the eastern seaboard had weekly newspapers, with news from England taking up to three months to reach the American shores and be printed. News from one colony to another might take a couple of weeks or more. All of it was subject to censorship by the colonial governors.
By the Civil War, reporters in the field could transmit news by telegraph-assuming that competitors or the other side didn't cut the wires. Even the most efficient operation took at least a day to gather, write, transmit, and then print the news.
Radio brought World Wars I and II closer to Americans. Photojournalists-with film, innumerable developing chemicals, and restricted by the speed of couriers, the mail service, and publication delays-gave Americans both photos and newsreel images of war.
Television gave us better access to learning about wars in Korea and Vietnam.
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