My name is Michael Scherer, and I’m a former audiobook narrator.
As I used to read books throughout the day, I would often wonder what was worth reading. With limited time and endless books, where should one concentrate?
While exploring this question, I came upon the Chronicling America website, which is an online archive of American newspapers, going back to the year 1777. Being familiar with the Federalist Papers, and Casey at the Bat, which first appeared in newspapers, I wondered what other great writing may have appeared and then been forgotten in the daily churn of newspaper printing in early America.
There was more interesting, inspiring, funny, and insightful writing in these early newspapers than I had anticipated. The newspaper archive is an incredible treasure trove of American thought and culture.
At first, I began narrating articles, advice columns, and stories, sharing them in an audio podcast. But I found that people responded better to the text itself, so I switched from a podcast to a blog format. Gradually the material began to include more poetry than prose, and finally the blog moved entirely to historical newspaper poetry.
Why 108 years?
At first, I shared writing from 100 years ago. But that is really an arbitrary time to look back upon. I began exploring natural cycles, and time spans, and tried using multiples of the Metonic cycle (19 years), and the times required for various planets to orbit the sun. I tried 108 years, because that is the number of prayer beads in many Eastern meditation practices. I thought that prayer beads exemplify a type of continuing cycle, so I tried that.
Comparing the results of going back into the archive for these various timespans, 108 years seemed to be a kind of sweet spot. The material there seemed particularly rich, and so that became the timespan used for Newspaper History.