From the History Co-operative: Dangerous Liaisons: How 18th Century France Made The Modern Media Circus.
But rather than compiling all the examples on historical record, instead we should consider a particular time and place: The Old Regime in France, and in particular, Paris around 1750. This particular time period and place was difficult to discover news because the government did not allow what we consider to be news; reading newspapers, profiles of public affairs and prominent figures, simply did not exist.
For the time, to discover what was really going on, one went to the tree of Cracow. A large, leafy chestnut tree, it was the heart of Paris by way of the Palais-Royal Gardens. At the time, no doubt, it had acquired it’s name from the intense discussions that took place underneath its branches during the time of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1735), and although the name suggests rumors, it was a place of intelligence. News mongers flocked here; spreading information about current events and the goings on of the Crown by word of mouth. They claimed to know such tales from private sources (personal letters, servants, eavesdropping were popular sources of the time) about what was really happening among the powerful of the time. But whether it was immediately true or not, the people in power took them seriously, because the government of France worried about what the Parisians were saying. It was common for foreign agents and informers to frequent the tree, either to pick up the latest news, or to plant it there for spreading. Throughout Paris there were other hotspots so to speak: benches in the Luxembourg gardens, speaker’s’ corner on the Quai des Augustins, cafes and boulevards where peddlers were known for incorporating the latest into song. In Paris, at any given time of the day, to hear the news you simply walked out into the street, and tuned in.  [continue]