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A Data Visualization of U.S. Newspaper History

A few weeks ago, I shared a link to the coolest way to visually see what’s news around the world. Now, here comes an interesting way to see what was news. Well, rather, who was covering the news and when in the U.S. It’s a data visualization of newspapers past. And it’s pretty cool, if somewhat depressing.

The Rural West Initiative at Standford University created the map by plotting the U.S. Library of Congress catalog of newspapers (140,000 publications??) over time and space. These are the results (click to see the real maps).

Through the sidebar content as you scroll through the timeline, you get a feel for the different “eras” of newspapering, from the colonies to the frontier to yellow journalism and merger mania. It’s actually somewhat encouraging to read about the journalism crises of decades/centuries past. Being a journalist these days can see like you’re in the worst of times, but really, newspapers and journalism is just constantly evolving, and as you see in the map, it ebbs and it flows.

If nothing else, you’ll find interesting bits of local history when you zoom in and discover who was covering your town. You might be surprised how many newspapers small cities used to support.

(Found via Freakonomics blog.)

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