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Deaf History - Silent News

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Updated June 27, 2014

In January 1969, deaf history was made when the Silent News launched. The first issue, dated January 1, 1969, proclaimed in its headline, "Silent News is Born." Silent News reprinted stories from the media about deafness, and carried original content as well. The paper struggled to survive, and finally ceased publication about a year after its founder, Julius Wiggins, passed away in 2001.

The actual numbers of paid subscribers were small compared to its true readership. I myself used to while away many hours in the library at Gallaudet University, reading the Silent News. In an article about Silent News for the Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness, Wiggins wrote that the paid subscription was only 7,000 monthly subscribers, while the estimated true readership was about 30,000 monthly. It was probably much higher than that because of all the people passing on their copies to others to read. In fact, I vaguely recall reading an editorial in Silent News pleading for more people to subscribe instead of passing on their copies.

Despite this struggle to survive financially, Silent News did outlast its competition. In the later years, there were three competing deaf newspapers: Silent News, DeafNation, and Newswaves. One by one they ceased publication. The Silent News was the sole survivor.

When the internet era began, Silent News attempted to adjust, expanding to the web and trying to broaden its coverage. In its last years of publication, the paper carried more original reporting and decreased reprints. Some of today's best known deaf bloggers had their start as writers and cartoonists in the Silent News. The paper was also an important advertising vehicle for vendors of deaf and hard of hearing products and services.

Even with several staff changes and physical moves, Silent News continued publishing until suddenly, subscribers stopped receiving subscriptions in the early 2000s without any explanation. There were rumors about the cause of the end of the publication of Silent News, and the paper never resumed publication.

When the Silent News ceased publication, the deaf community lost one of its most important cultural icons. Not long after Silent News ended, the Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD) launched a print paper, SIGNews, in late 2003. Some of the same writers and artists who had been featured in Silent News, appear in SIGNews.

Sources:

Gannon, Jack R. ,Deaf Heritage, National Association of the Deaf, 1981. Page 244. Image of cover of first issue of Silent News.

Van Cleve, John V., ed. Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1987.

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