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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 The press, meaning "journalists collectively" is attested from 1921 (though superseded by media since the rise of television, etc.)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.
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  • "Freedom of the Press" was in common use by the later 1700. The US Constitution uses the phrase. – ttw Dec 12 '17 at 4:51

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