Exhibit of Franklin’s impact on journalism

In Benjamin Franklin’s teenage years, he published a series of letters pretending to be a widow in order to make a commentary about life in Maine.

Sally Renaud, associate professor of journalism, said Franklin published these letters as part of his work as a printer and early American journalist.

Booth Library will give students a chance to learn about Franklin’s work with journalism at 4 p.m. today in the library’s conference room on the fourth floor.

Renaud’s part of the exhibit will focus on Franklin’s earlier works, but there will also be a focus on Franklin’s work in creating the postal service.

Renaud explained that Franklin was taken out of school at a young age to become an apprentice at his brother’s printing press. She said Franklin never completed his apprenticeship, but his brother and friends influenced him.

“He had to continue his education on his own,” Renaud said. “He had to create himself. That’s like the American dream.”

Renaud also said Franklin had other journalistic works, such as creating the first editorial cartoon. The cartoon depicts a snake above the words “Join, or Die.” The snake is divided into eight pieces to symbolize the division of the colonies.

“It’s his work with journalism that I find exciting,” Renaud said. “I hope people are inspired by hearing this story about a great American to do things that are inspiring in their own lives.”

James Tidwell, chairman of the journalism department, said he is glad his faculty can work so closely with the library.

“Anytime we can highlight our expertise is great,” Tidwell said. “The Booth staff does an excellent job with these exhibits, they’re first class. We are glad we get to work with them.”

Tidwell explained that Franklin’s role as a newspaper printer and editorial writer was important to early American journalism.

“Let’s face it, journalism played a major role in the development of the country. I don’t think people really think about that,” Tidwell said. “How they reported on things helped change thoughts.”

Tidwell explained that Franklin’s principles can apply to non-print forms of media.

“You hear people say journalism is dying. I don’t think that, I think it’s changing,” Tidwell said. “Journalists have to learn about the audiences wants or needs, they have to be trained with ethics. You don’t get that with some clown with a blog.”

Seth Schroeder can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].