You can read all about it online, blog by blog, where the digital gloom over the death of an industry often veils, if thinly, a pallid glee. The Newspaper Death Watch, a Web site, even has a column titled “R.I.P.” Or, hold on, maybe the newspaper isn’t quite dead yet. At its funeral, wild-eyed mourners spy signs of life. The newspaper stirs! The last time the American newspaper business got this gothic was 1765, just after the first gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto,” was published, in London, and, in an unrelated development, Parliament decided to levy on the colonies a new tax, requiring government-issued stamps on pages of printed paper—everything from indenture agreements to bills of credit to playing cards. The tax hit printers hard, at a time when printers were also the editors of newspapers, and sometimes their chief writers, too. The Stamp Act—the “fatal Black-Act,” one printer called it—was set to go into effect on November 1, 1765. Beginning that day, printers were to affix stamps to their pages and to pay tax collectors a halfpenny for every half sheet—amounting, ordinarily, to a penny for every copy of every issue of every newspaper—and a two-shilling tax on every advertisement. Printers insisted that they could not bear this cost. It would spell the death of the newspaper.
more from The New Yorker here.