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In a world with no TV, radio, or newspapers, how does news travel?

How has it ever traveled? Gossip, of course. As long as language has existed, there have been metaphors about the fast travel of talk. Human beings like to hear about their neighbors almost as much as they like to talk about themselves.

So are there any official news venues? Yes. This is the first duty of Heralds, besides record keeping. Most cities everywhere (with some exceptions) have Heralds whose specialty is shouting the news. They have different names (and nicknames) depending on where you are. (The Town Crier and its equivalent might be official names, but King's Wagging Tongue and like nicknames are at least as common, and more persistent, even if they are never entered as official payroll designations.)

To generalize, there will be a designated place where news that the government wants to be heard is shouted. Many places then post summaries. In the countryside, news can be carried by traveling heralds, scribes, or traders (the latter paid or just wanting to astonish people with the latest rumors). People also generally know whom to go to when rumor is spreading across the countryside and they want to find out if it's true.

These official organs are paid for by the crown, or by the city (which makes a different agreement with the local government, if it's a Free City), and they can be trusted to have the news that said government wants everyone to know. Magic is used to send communications, though as always, magic is not easy, or constant, or free. It takes someone's physical and mental effort to send a physical piece of paper (or chalk marks on a special slate) through space and time. Yes, time: nothing is truly instantaneous: a paper is not both here and there. It is there 'after' it is here, though less than a heartbeat separates the times. There are spells for sending objects through time, but those are tremendously taxing and dangerous. And they tend to be historically explosive, perhaps in ways the senders had not intended. (See 'Ship Without Sails' for just one example, and the most famous of the past century is detailed in 'A Chain of Braided Silver')

So what about unofficial news? Well, just as the government has to organize its news organs, so do dissenters, enemies, gossips, and whoever else wants news going out counter to the official venue. History is full of secret societies, codes, signs, and methods of conveying news or at least signals. During the Norsunder war, 'Quests' goes into the signal method used in Marloven Hess, where any kind of communications was punishable by death.

News in courts doesn't need but a mention: whatever the rank, people gossip, though the court of Colend required the method of gossip to be as least as entertaining as the content, or one could--even in retailing intensely interesting news--lose style rep if one were blunt or clumsy. But this gets into privacy, face, boundaries, court masks, and the like.

News could also be embedded in art, if someone wanted the news to spread, and to be remembered. Decoding news in plays and art forms is a favorite game of scribe and herald scholars, and promotion and diplomatic careers have been made (and broken) through discovery, and exposure via this venue.

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Page last modified on January 18, 2008, at 08:16 PM