Newspapers And Periodicals
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
But the printed book is not the greatest power in the intellectual world. There is an implement more powerful still for both good and evil, and that is the printed sheet that goes to every breakfast table and visits every evening fireside. The newspaper is, without doubt, the greatest intellectual force of the nineteenth century. As an educator it takes precedence over all other instrumentalities ; as a recent writer has remarked: "It is book, pulpit, platform, forum, all in one." There is no interest social, religious or political of which it does not assume the control and guide for good or ill. Every institution can be made to quake before the terrible power of the newspaper. It is indeed the highest exponent of our present civilization.
It is at once the strength and weakness of the present age that the mass of the people are no longer the readers of books, but of newspapers. It is the strength of the age because the newspaper brings a wide and varied knowledge each morning and evening to the eye of the reader. The entire field of literature, science, art and industry is reviewed each clay. There is no source of information so great, so easy of access and, upon the whole, so accurate as the daily newspaper of the better sort. It is the weakness of the age because this knowledge, being of so great variety and upon so many subjects, is necessarily diluted, so to speak, and not very deep and thorough. The result of an exclusive reading of newspapers generally is that a man's mind is filled with stray bits of knowledge, covering a very wide range of subjects, but that he knows nothing thoroughly well. The exclusive reading of newspapers is apt to result in a habit of superficial reading. But a wise use of news-papers, in connection with the reading of good books, is of the highest value to the scholar, and to the judicious reader there is nothing of so great an educational value as the daily newspaper.
We thus see that books and reading have a most important bearing upon life and character. A bearing that is not fully appreciated by the men engaged in the affairs of everyday life. We could wish that all classes of our people might be led to the reading of good books. We could wish that every home in the land had its library, great or small, and that the books which it contained might be carefully read and pondered by all the members of the family. We believe that if this were once realized that all classes of our society would be immediately benefited and ennobled. We are not so enthusiastic in our confidence in books and education as to believe that they are a universal panacea for all the intellectual and moral ills of the people, but it goes without saying that the book in the home is the very best ally of the preacher and the schoolmaster. Indeed it may be a question whether the book should not be placed first in the intellectual and moral culture of the reader. Books in the family are cheaper than extravagant habits of dress. They are cheaper than the patronage of saloons. They are cheaper than the pipe and cigar. They are cheaper than the indolence and frivolities of society. They are ennobling and furnish a source of strength and power, while these things which we have named tend continually to pull men down. Let us enshrine the book as one of the household gods, and let the library be its inner sanctuary.