Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Names Matter

Note: When published [bracketed material] was deleted for space reasons from the column as submitted.

Newspapers and Libraries Outgrow Names
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, March 21, 2023, p. A5
A rose with onion for its name
Might never, never smell the same --
And canny is the nose that knows
An onion that is called a rose

[Photo credit: Wikimedia commons. Sniff the photo of this onion. See. It doesn't smell like a rose now, does it?]

Names matter. Especially for new things, skills, or institutions that tend to be labeled by what’s gone before.

When people and plows were moved by horses, what were the first locomotive and automobile called? The “iron horse” and “horseless carriage.” And how do we still measure cars’ get up and go? In “horsepower.”

The same fate fell upon “libraries” and “newspapers.”

The word “library” came from the Latin “liber,” for “book,” and could refer to either the collection or its physical location. Today a walk through the essential community centers we call the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City public libraries reveals how many of the services they provide don’t involve “books.” They offer equipment loans, meeting rooms, events, voting, assistance with tax returns and local services, a cup of coffee and so much more.

But no community institution is more essential than what we persist in calling “newspapers.”

“Communication” is a central requirement for any successful organization, whether a corporation, family, or urban community. A multibillion-dollar portion of the military budget goes to C3 -- “Command, Control, and Communications.”

Having gone from drums, smoke signals and couriers, then conversations on the commons and broadsides on the walls, it was a short hop during the 1600s to create multiple copies of “news” on “paper.”

Newspapers, like libraries, have outgrown their 400-years-old moniker. [They are no more limited to “news” on “paper” than libraries are limited to “books.”]

Consider The Gazette. There have been changes over 140 years in its range of content; technology of reporting, printing, and delivery; and ever increasing societal contributions.

Content. International, national, state and regional news now supplement the local. There’s a “Kids Gazette,” comics, TV schedule, and puzzles. Sections for sports and business, plus [157] magazines or special sections like “Healthy You” and “Her.”

Technology. From a hand-fed press to a 386-ton full color printing press. Early ownership of radio and television stations and a telephone news service. Today’s Web site, Green Gazette, and 18 single-focus emailed newsletters like "On Iowa Politics" and "Today’s Business News."

Community contributions. The Gazette, like most newspapers, provides a range of coverage needed by many community segments of its diverse readership – voters, parents and teachers, shoppers, public officials, business owners, taxpayers.

And consider the expanding range of community benefits that don’t involve paper. The Insight page, annual and multiple week-long Iowa Ideas, are like a think tank, or university program. Its newspaper archives and Time Machine supplement the Iowa Historical Library. Pints & Politics is its version of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update -- with facts. [The Business Breakfasts. The Her Events.] The Gazette Gives Back -- $500 thousand worth of advertising for non-profits.

Once literally library and newspaper, they are now two essential institutions that require our support – and more descriptive names.

Nicholas Johnson is the author of What Do You Mean and How Do You Know? mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

Note: Today (May 21) is "World Poetry Day," https://www.unesco.org/en/world-poetry-day.

An Onion that’s Been Called a Rose. Author not identified; quoted in Wendell Johnson, Your Most Enchanted Listener, 1956, p. 5 (“A rose with onion for its name Might never, never smell the same -- And canny is the nose that knows An onion that is called a rose”)

Iron Horse, Horseless Carriage, Horsepower. “Travelling by Stagecoach,” Discovering Historic Milestones, Iowa Department of Transportation, https://iowadot.gov/histbook.pdf (“Despite its popularity, many problems plagued travel by stage. Mud and plank roads, winter blizzards, prairie fires and robberies added up to discomfort and long delays. Stages gave way to the railroad or the “Iron Horse” when smaller communities received rail connections. The last coach of the Western Stage Company left Des Moines on July 1, 1870. p. 5. . . . The first automobiles displayed in Iowa were shown at a fair in Linn County in 1899. In 1905 there were 799 horseless carriages or motor cars in Iowa. At first they were merely regarded as a curiosity, and few people saw the practical application of such contraptions. However, by 1915 Iowa ranked first in the nation in the number of automobiles per capita (147,078 registered vehicles). By 1927 there was one motor vehicle for every 3.31 persons, and automobiles were responsible for 85 percent of total highway traffic in the state. p. 12) . . . Miller House Museum . . . 1857 home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Miller, interprets Victorian lifestyle and economic development of Iowa’s Half Breed Tract from horsepower to aviation, especially hydroelectric power. Special exhibits include the building of the dam and powerhouse.”

Origin of “library.” “Library.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/library (“1a: a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale 1b: a collection of such materials Etymology Middle English, from Anglo-French librarie, Medieval Latin librarium, from Latin, neuter of librarius of books, from libr-, liber inner bark, rind, book First Known Use 14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a”) [Note “libr-, liber … book] Google translate from English “book” to Latin “liber”]

“Definition of a Library: General Definition,” American Library Association, https://libguides.ala.org/library-definition (“In The Librarian’s Book of Lists (Chicago: ALA, 2010), George Eberhart offers this definition: "A library is a collection of resources in a variety of formats that is (1) organized by information professionals or other experts who (2) provide convenient physical, digital, bibliographic, or intellectual access and (3) offer targeted services and programs (4) with the mission of educating, informing, or entertaining a variety of audiences (5) and the goal of stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole." (p.1) This definition is in turn compiled from: (1) Heartsill Young, ed., The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science (ALA, 1983) (2) Robert S. Martin, "Libraries and Learners in the Twenty-First Century," Cora Paul Bomar Lecture, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, April 5, 2003. (3) Deanna B. Marcum, "Research Questions for the Digital Era Library," Library Trends 51 (Spring 2003): 636-651.”)

Vicky Chilton, “A Brief History of Libraries,” Oxford Open Learning, Jan. 18, 2022, https://www.ool.co.uk/blog/a-brief-history-of-libraries/ (“The First Libraries It is believed that the first libraries appeared five thousand years ago in Southwest Asia’s Fertile Crescent, an area that ran from Mesopotamia to the Nile. The world’s oldest known library is believed to be The Library of Ashurbanipal. which was founded sometime in the 7th century B.C. for the “royal contemplation” of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal. Located in Nineveh in modern day Iraq, the site included a trove of some 30,000 cuneiform tablets organized according to subject matter. The library, named after Ashurbanipal, in fact the last great king of the Assyrian Empire, is a collection of more than 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing contemporary texts of all kinds, including a number in various languages.”)

Cedar Rapids Public Library, crlibrary.org The top six categories on its website reveal the range of resources and services: Calendar of Events, Digital Resources, Ebooks & Streaming, FAQ, Reserve a Room, Support the Library

“More to Borrow,” Iowa City Public Library, icpl.org (Adventure Pass, Art to Go, Equipment (e.g., laptop, DVD and CD players), Games, Toys, Kits (Discovery, Book Club, Read With Me); “Community Resources,” Meeting Rooms, Local Assistance Resources [12])

“Iowa City Public Library,” City of Iowa City, https://www.icgov.org/city-government/departments-and-divisions/iowa-city-public-library (“The Iowa City Public Library is a center of community life that connects people of all ages with information, engages them with the world of ideas and with each other, and enriches the community by supporting learning, promoting literacy, and encouraging creativity.”)

“The Iowa City Public Library – Celebrating 125 Years,” [1896-2021] Our Iowa Heritage, https://ouriowaheritage.com/iclibrary-125/ (history of public library in Iowa City with pictures; emphasis limited to books)

Population in Cities. “68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN,” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, May 16, 2018, https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html (“Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. . . . The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018.”)

C3. “Command, Control, and Communications,” https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2003/budget_justification/pdfs/01_Operation_and_Maintenance/overview/23_C3.pdf (“Command, control, and communications (C3) resources provide seamless base level and worldwide communication networks for voice, data, and imagery traffic of sufficient quality, reliability, and flexibility to ensure responsive support to U.S. forces. This information infrastructure contains communications networks, computers, software, databases, applications, data, security services, and other capabilities that meet the information processing and transport needs of DoD users. . . . The FY 2003 budget request of $4,246.5 million includes price increases of $70.1 million and a net program increase of $246.0 million (6.1 percent) above the FY 2002 funding level.”)

Early communications. “History of Telecommunication,” Mitel, https://www.mitel.com/articles/history-telecommunication (“From prehistoric man with their signal fires to the smartphone-wielding high-powered executives of today, communication still remains a key for survival and success. . . . Prehistoric Era: Fires, beacons, smoke signals, communication drums, horns: Man's first attempts at distance communication were extremely limited. Prehistoric man relied on fire and smoke signals as well as drum messages . . . History of Communication 6th century BCE: Mail: Cyrus the Great was a Persian emperor . . . credited as having established the first postal system in the history of the world. on. Cyrus the Great 5th century BCE: Pigeon post: Persia and Syria are credited with establishing the first pigeon messaging system around the 5th century BCE . . . . The Pigeon Post 4th century BCE: Hydraulic semaphore: In the 4th century BCE, the hydraulic semaphore was designed in ancient Greece as a method of communication . . .. Hydraulic Semaphore Circa 490 BCE: Heliographs (shield signals): The heliograph or shield signal . . . involves the shining of the sun on a polished object like a shield or mirror. . . . 15th century CE: Maritime flag semaphore: The ability to communicate between ships was very difficult before the 15th century. At that time, flag semaphore, a special code involving the positions of two hand-held flags, was introduced. . . .”)

Broadsides. Broadside (printing), Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadside_(printing) (“A broadside is a large sheet of paper printed on one side only.[1] Historically in Europe, broadsides were used as posters, announcing events or proclamations, giving political views, commentary in the form of ballads, or simply advertisements.”)

Origin of “newspaper.” David Mikkelson, “Etymology of ‘News,’” Snopes, April 26, 2001, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/news-etymology/ False: “The word news is an acronym formed from the words north, east, west, and south.” “news . . . is the plural of the word ‘new.’” "Notable Events, Weather, and Sports" “North, East, West, South, Past and Present Event Report." True: “A newspaper is so named because it is literally paper on which has been printed information about recent events (i.e., 'news').”

“newspaper,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/newspaper (“a paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly and that contains news, articles of opinion, features, and advertising”)

Amy Tikkanen, “newspaper,” Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/newspaper (“Forerunners of the modern newspaper include the Acta diurna (“daily acts”) of ancient Rome—posted announcements of political and social events . . ..Rudimentary newspapers appeared in many European countries in the 17th century, and broadsheets with social news were published in Japan in the Tokugawa period (1603–1867). The first English corantos appeared in London in 1621. By the 1640s the news book had taken the form of a newspaper—the title page being dropped. . . . The first newspaper in the United States, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick (Boston, September 1690), was suppressed by the colonial governor after one issue. . . . Freedom of the press was advanced in a landmark case in 1735 when John Peter Zenger, a New York City newspaper publisher, was acquitted of libel on the defense that his political criticism was based on fact. Press freedom in the United States was further secured by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1791). . . . By the mid-19th century, there were 400 dailies and 3,000 weekly papers in the United States. . . . Early in the 20th century, the number of American papers reached a peak (more than 2,000 dailies and 14,000 weeklies).

The Gazette’s Content, Technology and Community Contributions. Numerous sources; among them the following. The wide and lengthy variety of the content at the Gazette’s website, https://www.thegazette.com/

“Celebrating 140 Years of the Gazette,” Jan. 10, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/special-sections/celebrating-140-years-of-the-gazette/ (full digital edition)

“Highlights of The Gazette’s 140 years; First edition published Jan. 10, 1883,” The Gazette, Jan. 10, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/news/highlights-of-the-gazettes-140-years/

Zack Kucharski, “A past to remember, a future to report; Gazette’s 140th anniversary prompts reflection of how local news operations benefit communities,” Jan. 9, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/news/a-past-to-remember-a-future-to-report/

Zack Kucharski, “Strengthening Connections to the Community,” The Gazette, June 28, 2015, https://www.thegazette.com/guest-columnists/strengthening-connections-to-the-community/

Special sections, https://www.thegazette.com/special-sections (13 pages of 12 each = 157; 2017-2023 = “6 years”)

The Gazette offers a variety of daily and monthly newsletters covering a variety of topics. https://rewards.thegazette.com/newsletters/8K8oN6B3QaM6CYNNg4iEB8ga (18 newsletters)

Podcasts, https://www.thegazette.com/gazette-news-podcast/

Historical Museum. “The State Historical Museum of Iowa,” State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, https://iowaculture.gov/history/museum (“The State Historical Museum of Iowa is in the State Historical Building of Iowa, just west of the State Capitol in Des Moines. The building also houses one of two State Historical Society of Iowa Research Centers, including the State Historical Library and Archives.”)

Saturday Night Live. “Saturday Night Live,” https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live

Weekend Update, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weekend_Update (“Weekend Update is a Saturday Night Live sketch and satirical news program that comments on and parodies current events. It is the show's longest-running recurring sketch, having been on since the show's first broadcast . . ..”)

The Gazette Give Back Non-Profits. https://rewards.thegazette.com/nonprofits

Give Back FAQs, https://rewards.thegazette.com/nonprofits/faq

The Gazette Gives Back, https://rewards.thegazette.com/givesback (“In 2023, The Gazette Gives Back and program sponsor Collins Community Credit Union will provide area nonprofits with $525,000 in free advertising credit.”)

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