This is a book in progress. Go here to read the previous chapters.
Chapter 6, Part 3
Backing up a little bit, we’re headed back to 1571 amid the European wars to see how news and printing changed Europe from medieval to almost modern. When we get to the modern (next chapter), we’ll track an explosion of formats and products into the near past.
Meanwhile, though Martin Luther was the first true media star, the reports of a far off war 50+ years later sparked the first serious efforts to actually widely distribute news throughout all of Europe quickly. That ability to widely distribute was driven by growth in new postal services coupled with increased ability to reprint dispatches.
Almost every step forward in media has changed either time or space. While content has evolved into almost every conceivable aspect and manifestation of information and entertainment, the conduit has changed by allowing for the transfer of content more quickly and the shortening of the time lapses before information can be shared. That is, the time between the creation of content and the consumption of it has shortened with each new development. Multiple copies also allowed consumers in different places to access the same content. Print coupled with better roads made the biggest difference since medieval times.
The catalyst that drove the faster and wider distribution of news revolved around the confrontation that began between the Ottoman Empire after the fall of Constantinople and the Christian West. Despite the fractured religious and emerging nation state conflicts in the West, the threat from the East worried all of Europe. After all, Vienna fought off a siege in 1529. The Turks captured Tunis in 1535. Algiers fell in 1541. Malta was attacked in 1565 … but repelled by the Knights of St. John. But in 1570, Cyprus fell to the Sultan. In September of 1571, a Christian fleet composed of 208 galleys from Venice, Spain and the Pope (the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states) sailed eastward from Venice.
Each of those historic events was covered in mostly localized pamphlets.
But nothing was heard from the massive fleet until the ship Angelo Gabriele sailed into Venice harbor on October 19, 1571 with the news the 230 shipTurkish fleet had been decisively defeated in the Gulf of Lepanto (now the Gulf of Corinth) off the Greek coast.
The news spread across the whole of Europe in a matter of days via distribution of the “Aviso to Sultan Selin, of the rout of his fleet and the death of his captains” as it was printed and reprinted in almost every capital and major market city. Much of the early distribution was via the various postal operations that had been recently set up.
The official messenger from the victorious fleet, Don John, didn’t arrive in Venice until November 22nd … thoroughly upstaged by the earlier arrival.
But the apparent unity among the various branches of European Christianity had a short shelf life. Less than a year later, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre of over 5,000 Huguenots on August 22, 1572 by French Catholics in Paris reignited the religious differences in Europe leading eventually to the Spanish Armada’s 1588 failed attack on England.
The Armada failure ended King Philip II’s dream of putting down a revolt in the Netherlands and returning England and Europe to Catholicism.
News of something like the Armada would be hard to keep secret. In fact, an English sortie into Cadiz uncovered many of Philip’s plans two years before the Armada sailed.
In a burst of false reports like Fox News assertions of Muslim “no-go” zones, the surviving Armada galleys scattered around Ireland and headed back to Spain after being beaten by the English while Catholic Europe was celebrating the success of Philip’s plans. In Rome, the Spanish postmaster was forwarding every positive rumor to the Pope. In France, the Spanish ambassador had a report that 15 English ships in a battle at the Isle of Wight had been sunk published and sent to Madrid. The Senate of Venice voted to send congratulations to Philip on his great victory.
Meanwhile, English printers blanketed the nation with victorious pamphlets including one that re-listed all of the Spanish ships working from a pre-Armada boasting pamphlet.
Next week: Chapter 7 – Revisiting and Revising the “C’s” of Media
In a 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill. Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an almost 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill.
Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to him at email@example.com. He has a new Web site coming soon!
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