Sunday, February 10, 2013

Social Media - In 1898?

I'm sharing my "Way Back When-sday" blog post today, because I have a special post reserved for this Wednesday!
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Last week I had the awesome privilege of taking a couple hours all to myself! What did I do with that time? I went to our local historical society to do some research for my current work in progress (WIP), of course.

My computer behind me and the (awesome & new)
 microfilm reader beside me
For two hours I immersed myself in 1898 newspapers. I read the paper from January to the end of April and I could have continued, if no one needed me at home.
This was the first time I used the new microfilm reader! I
know I'm a bit of a dork, but this was awesome. :)
Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
What I love about newspapers from that time period is how personal they were. One of my favorite sections is the "Come And Gone" column where they reported who went where, who visited who, who came to town, who left for good, who is now employed where, etc.

Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
Another section of the paper was reserved for news specifically about local citizens. Who hosted a dinner party (and who was invited), who has been ill, who is going in for surgery, who has had a fire, who is constructing buildings and homes, who is filling in at the post office for the postmaster as he's been ill, and on and on and on! It paints a thorough picture of life in our town in 1898 - and it's wonderful fodder for a novel.

Image courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
As I read through the newspaper, I was struck with the realization that Social Media is not a new invention. As humans, we're a curious lot of people, and we like to know what's going on with the people in our community. Whether that community is our neighborhood, our town, the blogosphere or Facebook/Twitter, we enjoy learning about people's lives.

The important thing is to use that information well. Social media can be a great tool - or a scary weapon.

What about you? Would you enjoy sitting in a museum and reading newspapers from 1898? Would you like if your local newspaper kept tabs on your every move? :)


  1. Wow, I never realized what it was like in 1898! Communication has REALLY changed over the years! It's amazing how far we've come in technology and I love it!

  2. You came to the same conclusion I did, Gabrielle, that the Local Items columns of yesteryear are just like Twitter and Facebook updates of today. I keep wondering how the journalists of yesteryear kept up with the minutia of local citizens' lives. I did hear from one researcher that he and his siblings were told not to talk to a local newspaper writer because the parents were afraid of what would show up in the paper.

  3. Livia - it is fun to see how far we've come - but there's nothing quite like those old newspapers!!

    Mary - I've often wondered how much information was gleaned from nosy reporters and how many people (especially those interested in climbing the social ladder) offered the information freely - especially if it was something they were particularly proud of. :) I also wonder how many people were happy when they read in the paper that their upcoming surgery was being reported?!?! At least with Twitter and Facebook we're responsible (to some extent) about what's being "reported."

  4. That's so cool! I like history, so I'd definitely find it interesting. I don't think I'd like having to do that much research for a novel, though. I'd get distracted way too easily and never feel like I knew enough about the time period to really start writing. ;)

  5. I have a feeling I would *love* hanging out in a museum reading old newspapers. Maybe it's the former reporter in me, but I could probably spend hours...

    Actually, at the newspaper where I worked up in NW Iowa, they were still running a "who visited where" column up until like 20 years ago! :)

  6. I've always said sharing stuff on Facebook is not a new idea! Only instead of the reporters having to keep up, we offer up the info ourselves. Hardest part of my research is getting distracted - went in last weekend looking for influenza and kept finding Lindbergh stuff. Good and bad doing thesis and work research all at the same time. Good thing I'm salaried!

  7. I don't want anyone keeping tabs on me. But I might like keeping tabs on others! LOL

  8. Ooooo, how fascinating!! I've never read newspapers quite that old. How very cool that they were so personal. It reflects how much people's lives and relationships comprised a caring community. With reporting like that, we would know if our neighbors may have been serial killers and such. How interesting that the first "neighborhood watch" movement started with journalism. Thanks for sharing this today!

  9. I echo your thoughts about the thrill of reading old newspapers, Gabrielle. Our local library houses microfilm versions of the Mountain Democrat, California's oldest newspaper, with issues dating back to the 1850s. I learn so much about the life and times of this area's early residents. Makes this historical writer very happy.


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