One of the better parts of this book was how during the Civil War and thereafter, telegraphic news became something that was revolutionary more than evolutionary. In fact, for the first time in the history of man, people could get news round the world in seconds.
People would wait for up to the minute news, mesmerized at the new communications method and speed
What was really interesting is how some would try to float stories that would cause a Stock Market swing and then they could benefit from the fallout of that. The Associated Press and other press agencies were formed so they could pool resources and pay Western Union for telegraph time and news. This has parallels with today – the control of the news and the manipulation of the news were problems – both from the finance sector and the political sector.
The common man did not walk around with their own news device – like our Smart Phones, but instead, went to public places, (especially hotels where they had telegram news set up to lure customers to their restaurants and bars) to get their daily news. Newspapers had to really hustle to get and print telegraphic news in a timely fashion. Because telegrams were expensive, and Western Union had a stranglehold on this medium, compressed messages were sent, and a new form of writing was devised – the “Inverted Pyramid”, with a terse beginning stating the facts, and then building out a more detailed story. People became addicted to knowing what was happening in such a fast and up to the date manner – its truly was the “Victorian Internet”.
Information is a very powerful thing – as is disinformation, and plenty of this went on in early telegraph times.