T he phrase “news diffusion” refers essentially to the process of spreading by word of mouth fresh and timely information about recent news events or situations through a number of individuals. In that sense, its social and psychological dynamics may be little different from
those involved in the spread of rumors and gossip. Such interpersonal transmissions have probably been a feature of social life for some 45,000 years-since human beings first learned to speak and use oral language. Certainly we know that complex tidings and items of news were passed on through oral transmission long before writing became available to provide the foundation for the first primitive “news media.” Before that, hundreds of generations of our ancestors engaged in oral transmission of rumor and gossip. They also developed techniques to enhance the capacity of human memory for transmitting complex messages about important events in that manner. For example, epic poems, such as the Iliad and Beowolf provided structured accounts of battles and adventures for audiences that heard them from individuals who had committed thousands of their lines to memory.