(Second Monday in July)
Posted on July 10, 2017
Before there were smart phones and computers, "social media" was town criers. These were the guys who did the essential work of keeping city people and townsfolk informed and up-to-date on the news and who made official announcements.
Of course, town criers gave out the news that the ruling class wanted to be given out. They were officers of the court, and they made public announcements that were deemed fit by the court.
In other words, ordinary men and women could not direct the town crier to inform everyone of the colonial governor's corruption, the king's temper tantrum, or their own excellent day at the races. It was not a "free press" - which insists that journalists must be quite separate from rulers and government.
Nowadays, of course, with social media, literally anybody can break a news story - although the tough part for those of us who are not celebrities is to get attention / eyes / clicks when we do so!
And...the wonders of social media are accompanied by a downside: the fact is, literally anybody can ALSO write a completely bogus story with no evidence at all that it is true.
Unfortunately, we have seen such fake news spread far and wide, because many people seem unable to figure out what news is factual and what news is lies and propaganda!
Anyway...back to town criers -
Here's some interesting stuff:
Town criers were sometimes called bellmen, because they commonly carried a large bell that they would ring before making an announcement. The bell's ringing would cause people to pause in their routine, gather round the crier or go to the nearest door or window, and listen.
Many criers would also make an initial cry such as "Hear, ye, hear, ye!" Or "Oyez, oyez, oyez!" Once again, such an attentional-getting call gave people a chance to stop, gather, or move to a spot where they could hear.
Some of the things communicated by the town crier were proclamations from various governing bodies, the reading of local bylaws, the announcement of market days, and even the sharing of advertisements. They might share news of a tax increase or announce the closing of hunting or fishing seasons.
Because some of the news that they shared would be very unpopular, criers were protected by law, and people who attacked them were considered to have harmed the king himself. You know that old saying, "Don't shoot the messenger?" Well, for reals! Don't, because they aren't the ones who make decisions - plus, if you do, you'll be punished for treason!
Other, sadder, jobs the towns criers often did included leading poor people to the workhouse, putting minor criminals into stocks, flogging people, and even cutting down the people who were hanged, once they were well and truly dead. Horrible, huh?
Even though I used the word "bellmen," some town criers were women.
And in some places, instead of a bell the criers used a hunting horn, a drum, or a gong.
As you might imagine, the town crier was important partly because most people could not read.
After making an announcement, town criers generally would attach the written message to a door post at the local inn. And that's why many newspapers came to take the name "the Post," it's why we say we "posted a notice," or we call a bit of writing on Facebook "a post."
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