newspaper, publication issued periodically, usually daily or weekly, to convey information and opinion about current events.
The earliest recorded effort to inform the public of the news was the Roman Acta diurna, instituted by Julius Caesar and posted daily in public places. In China the first newspaper appeared in Beijing in the 8th cent. In several German cities manuscript newssheets were issued in the 15th cent. The invention and spread of the printing press (1430–50) was the major factor in the early development of the newspaper. The Venetian government posted the Notizie scritte in 1556, for which readers paid a small coin, the (gazetta).
In England in the 17th cent., journalism consisted chiefly of newsletters printed principally by Thomas Archer (1554–1630?), Nathaniel Butter (d. 1664), and Nicholas Bourne (fl. 1622). The London Gazette, founded (1665) in Oxford, is still published as a court journal. The first daily paper in England was the Daily Courant (1702). Thereafter many journals of opinion set a high standard of literary achievement in journalism—the Review (1704–13) of Daniel Defoe; the Examiner (1710–11) edited by Jonathan Swift; and the high society periodicals, Tatler (1709–11) and the Spectator (1711–12) of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele.
The first English periodical essay was published in the Tatler. John Wilkes, the 18th-century outspoken journalist, challenged Parliament's efforts to punish the press for the reporting of Parliamentary debates. After Wilkes's successful battle for greater freedom of the press, British newspapers began to reach the masses in the 19th cent. Of several present-day London papers born in the 18th cent., The Times, founded in 1785 by John Walter, the Manchester Guardian, now printed in London, and the Financial Times are internationally known. Other prominent London newspapers include the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail.
The continental newspaper also developed in the 17th cent. in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Censorship was common throughout Europe, and Sweden was the first country to pass a freedom of the press law in 1766. One of the oldest papers, Avisa Relation oder Zeitung, appeared in Germany in 1609; the Nieuwe Tijdingen was published in Antwerp in 1616; the first French newspaper, the Gazette, was founded in 1631.
Major French newspapers today include Le Figaro,France-Soir,Libération, and Le Monde. Among newspapers of contemporary Germany are Tagesspiegel (Berlin), Die Welt (Hamburg), Rheinische Merkur (Coblenz), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich), Frankfurter Allgemeine, and Frankfurter Rundschau. Other well-known European newspapers include the Irish Independent (Dublin), Popolo (Rome), Corriere della Sera (Milan), Osservatore romano (Vatican), and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zürich).
Newspapers have played an important historical role as the organs of revolutionary propaganda. The most notable of such revolutionary newspapers was Iskra, founded by Lenin in Leipzig in 1900. In the USSR, Izvestia and Pravda were the largest-circulation official newspapers. After the Soviet Union's disintegration, Izvestia became an independent newspaper involved in joint ventures with the New York Times and the Financial Times.Pravda, which the new government briefly banned (1993), remained aligned with the former Communists. In 1994 an editorial faction at Pravda opened a rival paper with the same name, and in 1998 the original Pravda changed its name to Slovo ( "the word" ).
In Asia the leading newspapers include Renmin Ribao (Beijing), Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo), the Straits Times (Singapore), the Times of India (Delhi), and the Manila Times. Japan's first daily newspaper, Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun, appeared in 1870, although printing from movable type was introduced in Japan in the late 16th cent. Today, Japan has a very high newspaper readership.
The United States
The existence in the United States of an independent press, protected by law from government authority and responsible to the public can be traced back to the libel trial (1735) in the colony of New York of John Peter Zenger. A single number of a newssheet, Publick Occurrences, was issued in Boston in 1690 and was then suppressed by royal authority. John Campbell's Boston News-Letter endured from 1704 to 1776. James Franklin launched the New England Courant in 1721, and seven years later his younger brother, Benjamin Franklin, founded the Pennsylvania Gazette. Other colonial papers include the American Weekly Mercury (Philadelphia), the New York Gazette, and the Maryland Gazette.
The first American daily, the Pennsylvania Packet and General Advertiser, appeared in Philadelphia in 1784. The Independent Journal (New York) carried the famous Federalist essays. Two rival political organs were Alexander Hamilton's Gazette of the United States and Thomas Jefferson's National Gazette, edited by Philip Freneau. The first New York daily newspaper was the Minerva (1793), edited by Noah Webster. Under other names it survived into the 20th cent.
Alexander Hamilton was among the founders (1801) of the New York Evening Post, for many years edited by William Cullen Bryant. As the New York Post, it is the oldest newspaper in the United States with a continuous daily publication. William Lloyd Garrison made the Liberator a powerful organ for the abolitionists. The New York Sun (1833) achieved national fame under Charles A. Dana. The New York Herald, launched (1835) by James Gordon Bennett, was famous for its foreign news coverage and later established a Paris edition.
Horace Greeley, one of the best-known figures in American journalism, was proprietor and editor of the New York Tribune from its inception in 1841 until 1872. The Tribune was influential in the Civil War period. The New York Times was founded (1851) by Henry J. Raymond, and under the supervision of Adolph S. Ochs it achieved worldwide coverage and circulation, which it has retained. The rotary press, a huge automated roll-fed printing press made high production rates possible to increase circulation. Newspaper circulation increased to keep up with growing population.
The New York World became enormously influential after its purchase by Joseph Pulitzer. When it issued the first colored supplement in the United States in 1893, the paper's critics dubbed it "yellow journalism." The term stuck and it came to represent a more sensational handling of the news, for which Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst are considered by many to be main instigators.
Other major U.S. newspapers include the New York Daily News, the Providence Journal, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, the Nashville Tennessean, the Kansas City Star, the Atlanta Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor (Boston), the Dallas News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post, the Miami Herald and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
A number of American newspapers are published in languages other than English. An example of a foreign-language paper published in an urban area is El Diário in New York. Several other newspapers are oriented toward professional interests: Variety, for example, deals with show business. Although the Wall Street Journal is primarily concerned with commerce and finance, it now has the largest daily circulation of any U.S. newspaper.
As the U.S. population in the latter half of the 20th cent. shifted from cities to suburbs and as competition from other media grew, many large city newspapers were forced to cease publication, merged with their competitors, or were taken over by newspaper chains such as the Gannett Company or Knight Ridder. (In 2006 the latter was itself taken over by the McClatchy Company chain.) In England large newspaper-publishing empires were built up by Lords Rothermere, Northcliffe, and Beaverbrook. More recent media empires with major operations on both sides of the Atlantic have been created by Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell. The great American chains were founded by Joseph Pulitzer, J. G. Bennett, William Randolph Hearst, F. A. Munsey, E. W. Scripps, the McCormick-Pattersons, Frank E. Gannett, Charles L. and John S. Knight, and Hermann Ridder.
In 1982, using satellite transmission and color presses, the Gannett chain established a new national newspaper, USA Today, published and circulated throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today are read all over the country; small towns and rural districts usually have daily or weekly local papers made up largely of syndicated matter, with a page or two of local news and editorials. These local papers are frequently influential political organs.
Since the invention of the telegraph, which enormously facilitated the rapid gathering of news, the great news agencies, such as Reuters in England, Agence France-Presse in France, and Associated Press and United Press International in the United States, have sold their services to newspapers and to their associate members. Improvements in photocomposition and in printing (especially the web offset press) have enhanced the quality of print and made possible the publication of huge editions at great speed. Modern newspapers are supported primarily by the sale of advertising space.
Computer technology also has had an enormous impact on the production of news and newspapers, and by the 1990s when the first independent on-line daily appeared on the the Internet, it also had begun to affect the nature of newspapers. By the decade's end some 700 papers had web sites, some of which carried news gathered by their own staffs, and papers regularly scooped themselves by publishing electronically before the print edition appeared. Meanwhile, independent Internet-based news sources proliferated. The growth of on-line editions of established newspapers, other on-line news sources, and on-line venues offering free classified ad space also affected newspapers' sale of advertising space and the production of vital advertising revenue. In the early 21st cent., as newspaper owners devoted more and more attention to their Web editions, print advertising was typically declining while sales of advertising for increasingly popular on-line and other digital editions was growing but not enough to offset print adversitising losses. Concurrently, as print readership and advertising declined, many newspapers were experiencing cuts in their budgets, buyouts, staff layoffs, and reductions in physical size, and some daily newspapers moved to publishing several days a week instead of every day.
The extent to which the editorial policy of a paper is affected by the interests of its advertisers has been a subject of frequent controversy. More broadly controversial is the entire question of corporate ownership wielding vast influence through controlling interests in newspapers, radio, and television.
For discussion of newspaper censorship, see press, freedom of the. See also journalism and periodical.
See F. L. Mott, American Journalism (3d ed. 1962); J. C. Merrill, The Elite Press (1968); A. K. MacDougall, The Press (1972); A. M. Lee, The Daily Newspaper in America (1937, repr. 1972); E. Case, The Press (1989); P. Meyer, The Vanishing Newspaper (2004); A. S. Jones, Losing the News (2009); D. Kindred, Morning Miracle: Inside The Washington Post (2010); J. O'Shea, The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers (2011); D. Folkenflik, ed., Page One: Inside the New York Times and the Future of Journalism (2011).