The way people follow the news has undergone major changes over the years. The technologies that allow us to communicate and get information are constantly being improved upon. For example, moveable type was an improvement upon older printing methods, the telephone was an improvement on the telegraph, and television was an improvement on the radio.
The trend all along has been toward a more global atmosphere. However, no technology has accomplished this as completely as the Internet.
A couple of hundred years ago, most newspapers focused on local news; any foreign news big enough to make the papers was often delayed a little, to account for slower methods of communication. Compare this to today, when you can read about something that happened halfway around the world, an hour or less after it occurred.
Until the telegraph was invented in the 1830s, there was simply no way to spread news quickly so local papers just reported local news. Even after the telegraph was invented, though, there were still limits on how quickly information could be relayed. A message had to be composed by the sender, sent in Morse code (which taps out each letter separately) by the telegraph operator, and interpreted and written down by the receiving telegraph operator who then had to find the recipient and deliver the message. Also, because telegraph messages were sent letter by letter, long messages (or lots of information) were inconvenient and expensive.
Printing also offered some hurdles for news reporting. Prior to 1800, printing presses were manually operated, which put severe limits on how many pages could be printed in an hour. Throughout the 19th century, the advent of steam-powered printing presses and other innovations enabled printers to more than quadruple the number of pages they could print in an hour.
As a result, newspapers were widely available by the mid to late1800s. More people learned to read, and more people read the news than ever before.