Northcliffe, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, Viscount

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Northcliffe, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, Viscount

Alfred Charles William Harmsworth Northcliffe, Viscount, 1865–1922, British journalist, b. Ireland. He was one of the most spectacular of popular journalists and newspaper publishers in the history of the British press. Beginning his career as a free-lance contributor to popular periodicals, he launched in 1888 his first independent effort, Answers to Correspondents, a weekly of informative tidbits. With his brother Harold (later Viscount Rothermere) as his financial administrator, he increased the circulation of his magazine in five years to more than a million copies a week. Other publications were gradually acquired that formed the basis for what became the world's largest periodical combine, the Amalgamated Press.

In 1894, Northcliffe bought the London Evening News, launching his career in newspaper publishing. Continuing to popularize, he inaugurated such specialties as woman's columns, serials, and social gossip in this and in later papers that he founded—the Daily Mail in 1896 and the Daily Mirror in 1903. He gained control of the dying Times in 1908, putting it back on its feet with changes in makeup and editorial policy; The Times was sold to John Jacob Astor (1886–1971) after Northcliffe's death.

Northcliffe's newspaper campaigns during World War I, particularly those concerning faulty munitions, national conscription, and food rationing, were determining factors in England's conduct of the war, and his support of Lloyd George in 1916 was instrumental in bringing the downfall of the Asquith government. He was made a viscount in 1917.

See biographies by R. Pound and G. Harmsworth (1960) and H. H. Fyfe (1930, repr. 1969); P. Ferris, The House of Northcliffe (1972).

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