For a long time, the phrase "the press" has been used to describe the news media. How long has it had that meaning? I have the impression that in the 18th century "the press" meant the printing press, a technology for making multiple copies on paper.


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According to etymonline, the press in the sense of media is from 1921. This usage was gradually replaced by media with the advent of television:

  • Specific sense "machine for printing" is from 1530s; this was extended to publishing houses by 1570s and to publishing generally (in phrases like freedom of the press) from c. 1680. This gradually shifted c. 1800-1820 to "periodical publishing, journalism." The press, meaning "journalists collectively" is attested from 1921 (though superseded by media since the rise of television, etc.)

Wikionary cites the following 1918 usage:

1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 22, in The Mirror and the Lamp:

  • From another point of view, it was a place without a soul. The well-to-do had hearts of stone; the rich were brutally bumptious; the Press, the Municipality, all the public men, were ridiculously, vaingloriously self-satisfied.
  • "Freedom of the Press" was in common use by the later 1700. The US Constitution uses the phrase.
    – ttw
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 4:51
  • @ttw : You couldn't miss the point more completely. What evidence can you cite to show that that phrase meant the news industry rather than the printing press? Commented Jan 2, 2022 at 19:45

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