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Critical Review


The evolution of media and the role of news in social life are highly relevant issues nowadays. However, there is no consensus among scientists and experts regarding these problems. The current paper deals with the analysis of ‘The History of Tidings’ by Margaret Simons written in2007. The author uses the term “tidings” as a predecessor of the modern notion “news” in order to demonstrate the long history of this concept. The strengths and weaknesses of Simons’ position will be evaluated.


Simons shows that the history of news is very long, and it is closely related to the development of trade and commerce. During some historical periods, they were very interrelated and fulfilled similar functions. However, news has value only when it is shared with other people, and this feature distinguishes it significantly from other material goods or services. The author also suggests that the development and influence of the Roman Empire were impossible without the appearance of some ancient forms of media. The tendency of the increasing role of media was observed in the following centuries as well. Any European revolution would have been unfeasible without the corresponding influence of news on the population. Therefore, various national governments tried to establish a universal control over media. Even in the 21st century, such countries as China try to supervise it.

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However, the development of civilization should be based on free media, and the rights of journalists are guaranteed and protected in all democratic countries. With the appearance of new technologies and the Internet, it is necessary to ensure the freedom of media (and freedom of speech in general) in this sphere as well. The same challenges may be observed in modern Australia. Another important issue in this context as outlined by Simons is the value of information. Nowadays, people face a massive flow of information, but the largest fraction of it has no interest for the recipient.

Thus, the author highlights several key problems regarding the current state of affairs. The majority of arguments are well-supported. In particular, Simons provides empirical facts from the history of the Roman Empire and the Medieval Empire. Additionally, there is some relevant statistical information about the present situation in China. However, some claims seem to be unsupported. For example, Simons suggests that governments play an important positive role in the spreading of news as it was in the situation with the Roman Empire (p. 42). At the same time, the purpose of news is providing useful information for another party, and it may be considered as a form of mutually beneficial exchange (even if no monetary transactions take place). In the case of governments, they try to use information for distribute their ideas increasing the loyalty of the population and, ultimately, maximizing their power. Thus, there is no mutually beneficial exchange in this regard.

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It seems that Simons recognizes her imprecise position as she also writes that “European governments were beginning to worry that the spread of information was out of control” (p. 43). This situation is typical not only for Europe but for all countries and continents. The important thing is that some nations have realized that freedom of the press satisfies the interests of the population as a whole, and it is highly beneficial for the long-term development of the state. However, some governments still prefer to control media for the accomplishment of their short-term political objectives. Osakue Omoera explains that media play a large role in emerging democracies (2010, p. 33). Therefore, the general liberalization in the world is impossible without the corresponding role of media.

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The idea about the spreading of low-quality information is well-supported. With the appearance of the Internet, almost everyone has an access to all sources of data. The main problem is classifying it and selecting the most reliable one. The interpretation of information may also constitute serious difficulties nowadays. Fattahi and Afshar propose to examine it as a product that has its added value (2006, p. 13). This position is useful as it may help to evaluate the actual and expected value of various sources of information. It may be necessary both on the individual and national levels.

There are some areas where the significance and reliability of the information are extremely high. In particular, healthcare experts should have access to the most solid data as it directly affects the results of their work (Myers et al. 2012, p. 3). As various health management decisions are made under the conditions of uncertainty, it is reasonable to be able to objectively compare and evaluate available sources of information (Yokota & Thompson 2004, p. 637).

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In general, Simons provides a deep analysis of and raises several important issues about the role of media in social life and current problems in this sphere. Her position about the role of the government in this process is not strictly formulated and may lead to confusion. In relation to other aspects, numerous empirical examples and theoretical considerations support the author’s position. Therefore, the general presentation and recommendations are correct. It is reasonable to implement these principles into the actual practice. It is obvious that the adequate classification and verification of information are especially relevant for the medical care where it may improve the health of many people. However, the freedom of the press should be maintained in all countries (both developed and developing ones). Only in this way, the interests of all parties may be balanced, and the peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation may be encouraged.

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