The information reformation
“The press is not only free: it is powerful. That power is ours. It is the proudest that man can enjoy. It was not granted by monarchs, it was not gained for us by aristocracies; but it sprang from the people, and, with an immortal instinct, it has always worked for the people.” Benjamin Disraeli
Recently I was traipsing around Europe, re-visiting my old stomping grounds from when I had lived in England and Germany, while tying in long-awaited reunions with good friends.
During this trip I took the time to see some new cities that I never had the chance to see while living over seas.
One such place was the magnificent and historically-rich city of Vienna, Austria. It of course offered the stereotypical tourist experience of giant pretzels, delicious beers and ancient history of roman walls to ogle at.
In my wanderings across Vienna on a rainy afternoon, I happened upon a square that had a statue that locals passed by without a second glance.
As it continued to rain down on this monument forgotten in the historic city of music and culture, I took a closer look - it was a bronze statue to commemorate printing press inventor Johannes Gutenberg. How incredible that during my vacation from my job as an editor at a newspaper, I happened upon this reminder of how far we have come with the opportunity to express our selves and share thoughts via the written word. It is incredible how we can use words to educate the mass population, and how we should never forget the power of free press.
The stage of world politics is growing increasingly uncertain with trade tensions between Canada and the US, and an unstable future of freedom of press in our neighbouring country, I reflect on what the invention of the printing press means.
The invention of the printing press made information available to a much greater amount of the population. It facilitated the preservation of information and knowledge to advance science, technology and scholars, and stimulated literacy of the people.
With this progress and push for literacy and the impact of spreading knowledge, the people were well informed and it initiated an information revolution, much like how the Internet changed the way and speed in which we receive information.
Standing there in the light rain under the skies of a Viennese afternoon, staring at this monument celebrating a man who impacted the world in one of the most positive ways, I realized that moment was quite serendipitous.
A writer, a journalist, an editor, standing at the feet of a monument for the man who changed the course of how we receive information and created an opportunity for the freedom of press to publish. We must never forget the importance of the power of words, especially during this time when there are cuts to local newspapers and our neighbouring journalists have been threatened by their leader.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to impact the community through the newspaper, whether it is a press release, an opinion piece, or giving a voice to the community through Letters to the Editor.
Perhaps encountering that statue meant more to me due to the line of work I’m involved in, but it should mean something to everyone Gutenberg’s invention brought forth a force of knowledge and education, made by the people for the people. In a time of cuts and uncertain future for the press, may we be grateful for the opportunity to continue the tradition that began in the 15th century. It is our right to continue to inform, educate and use words from an unbiased forum to impact our communities, our countries and our world.