Three important events happened 300 years ago. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father was born. Daniel Defoe’s novel about Robinson Crusoe, the seafarer from York, was published. And the first Czechlanguage periodical newspaper was printed in Prague. Which is a great excuse to commemorate this anniversary by holding an exhibition on newspapers and magazines.
Did you know that, since 2000, in their speech Czechs have been using the word “media” more frequently than “the press”? Why is that significant? It showed that internet (new) media – news servers and social networks – had joined the press, radio and television (the old media) as a source commonly used by people to look up current information. However, this situation does have its downsides. In particular, when there is such a surfeit of information, it is difficult to tell what is true, what is partly true, and what is a downright lie. This labyrinth of information and, sadly, disinformation can be a problem for us.
By organising this exhibition on newspapers and magazines, we want to show how periodicals have evolved and changed over the centuries. And that the trustworthiness of their content always depended on those who wrote and published them. Over the years, having grappled with all the experience of censorship, political manipulation and the commercial competition for readers, journalism has been honed into a professional activity abiding by professional rules of ethics. Journalists are aware of their responsibility. While no one is under any illusion as to how they may discharge that responsibility, the fact is that they are not anonymous. Unlike the legions of information sources in the internet jungle. In the Czech Republic alone, it is estimated that some forty significant websites engage in systematic disinformation.
Besides Czech and foreign newspapers and magazines covering the period from the 18th century to 1989, the exhibition also has unique items on display that once belonged to Václav Matěj Kramerius, Karel Havlíček, Jaromír John and Arne Laurin. Touch a printing-matrix used to print from a rotary printing press, watch a 1939 film on contemporary journalism, and discover clearly ordered facts and figures about publishing today.
If you leave the exhibition feeling nostalgic about the old days when everything was on paper, don’t be sad. The printed pages you have seen are wondrous witnesses of the past, but print itself has not been consigned to history. The press is still alive with thousands of regularly published newspapers and magazines produced to inform, educate, and entertain you, or provide you with specialised knowledge useful for your work or hobbies, all to a high-quality, trustworthy and responsible standard.
The exhibition is being held in cooperation with the Publishers Union, a professional association of newspaper and magazine publishers in the Czech Republic.