If, as it has been said, that journalism is the first
draft of history, then newspapers are the original history books.
Because of the close relationship between reporters and scholars, it is
particularly appropriate that the Clarke Library celebrate the 200th
anniversary of Michigan’s first newspaper’s publication. On August 31,
1809 the The Michigan Essay: or the Impartial Observer
appeared on the streets of Detroit. It was a small paper of only four
pages, one of which was printed in French, and, in the end, a very
short-lived enterprise. But those few pages opened one of the most
important windows on Michigan and its people. Americans, then and now,
learned about their world, exercised their democratic rights, discovered
what was happening in their community, and planned their weekly
shopping trips all from the same source at the same time. And when the
rush of daily life past by yesterdays paper, it was taken up by
historians, who continued to use it for their own purposes.
As part of this celebration the Clarke Library has
published a history of our state’s newspapers. We hope those who read
this history will find it as informative, lively, and interesting as the
best in local journalism.