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Fascinating facts about news and newspapers

New and newspapers

Many of us still enjoy our news in the form of the daily newspaper, even though many have switched to digital media and social media to stay up to date. Going with the times! But if we look back at how it all started, there are so many interesting things to learn about newspapers. What was happening during life before the computer?

How was news distributed in ancient times?

1. Around 59 BC, Julius Caesar ordered a daily bulletin of announcements which was published, carved in stone or metal and displayed in public places. Can you imagine?

2. In the second and third centuries, the Chinese circulated news sheets among court officials.

3. The Notizie scritte or written notices were published monthly in Venice from 1556 – pretty much like the current day news. The price was one Venetian coin called a gazetta – now you can guess where the word gazette came from!

Some interesting facts

The first reference to “News Papers” in English was in 1667 and the earliest mention in the Oxford English Dictionary of it spelled as one word is from 1688.

Under a 1789 Act of George III, it was illegal “for any hawker of any newspaper” to “let out any newspaper for hire to any person or persons”.

Around 24 billion newspapers are published around the world every year.

The bar codes of all newspapers and magazines anywhere in the world begin with the digits 977.

Fascinating facts about news and newspapers

Evolution of the news

The years 1890-1920 were known as the “Golden Age” of print media. Newspapers had their widest readership and greatest influence during this era.

Increasingly, the Web is the contemporary medium of choice for accessing newspaper content. According to the Newspaper Association of America, newspaper Websites draw over one-third (37%) of all Web users—an average monthly unique audience of 72 million as of 2009.

According to 2008 figures collected by the World Association of Newspapers, the top newspaper by circulation is the Japanese-language Yomiuri Shimbun, with an average daily circulation of 14,067,000. (This is about 6 times the circulation of USA Today!) In fact, the top five papers by circulation are all from Japan. While no one disputes that Japan is a nation of dedicated newspaper readers, some have claimed that the circulation numbers of Japanese papers are routinely inflated by “Oshigami,” the institutionalized process of circulation exaggeration.

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The oldest, the first in the news business

The first crossword in a British newspaper was published in the Sunday Express on November 2, 1924.

Some of the oldest newspapers still being published today are:

  • Oldest in the World: Post- och Inrikes Tidningar (Sweden), began 1645
  • Oldest in English Language: The London Gazette (UK), began 1665
  • Oldest in the United States: The Hartford Courant (CT), began 1764
  • Oldest in Oregon: The Portland Oregonian, began 1850

The first British newspaper was the Courant printed in 1621. The Daily Courant was the first regular daily British newspaper printed in 1702

The Daily Mirror, founded in 1903, is Britain’s oldest surviving tabloid. It was the first UK daily national newspaper to produce a free weekly color magazine (on a Wednesday) in 1969. The Sunday Mirror newspaper used to be called the Sunday Pictorial until 1963.

The Times is the UK’s oldest current daily national newspaper, founded as the Daily & Universal Register in 1785 before changing its name to The Times in 1788. The first photograph in the Times newspaper appeared in 1914. It did not carry news stories on the front page until 1966. The Times crossword first appeared on 1st February 1930. The Times was not printed for nearly a year between 1978 and 1979 due to an industrial dispute.

The Sunday Times newspaper (despite its name) had no relationship with The Times newspaper until a change of ownership in 1966 led to them becoming sister papers. The Sunday Times was the first UK national Sunday newspaper to supply a color magazine supplement in 1962

The Guardian Newspaper used to be called the Manchester Guardian until 1959. The Guardian and Observer newspapers changed to a mid-size format in 2006 (neither broadsheet nor tabloid) – the format is officially known as “Berliner” after a German newspaper of the same size

The Daily Mail Newspaper was founded 1896 as the first UK daily newspaper to sell more than 1 million copies, making it the biggest selling Western newspaper. It is mentioned in The Beatles’ hit single Paperback Writer. Most of the UK’s national newspapers were broadsheets before the 1970s, including the Daily Mail and Daily Express. The sister paper of the Daily Mail is called The Mail on Sunday to prevent it from being confused with the sister paper of the Scottish Daily Record which is called the Sunday Mail!

The Observer Newspaper was founded in 1791 is the world’s oldest Sunday paper and became the sister paper of The Guardian in 1993 following a change in ownership

The Sun is currently Britain’s biggest selling daily newspaper. It used to be called the Daily Herald until 1964 and was re-launched as a tabloid in 1969

News of the World was the most popular English language newspaper in the world in the 1950s. The News of the World and Sunday Mirror newspapers both appointed their first female editors in 1987

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Did You Know About These Newspapers?

The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times are currently the only UK national daily newspapers to retain a broadsheet format.

The Financial Times (founded in 1888) was first printed on pink paper in 1893 to distinguish it from its rival the Financial News- the Financial News was eventually merged with the Financial Times in 1945

The Yorkshire Post was the first British newspaper to report on The Abdication Crisis on 2nd December 1936

The London Evening News was the biggest selling London evening paper for decades before merging with the London Evening Standard in 1980

The Daily Star was first printed in 1978 and is no relation of “The Star”, which was a London evening paper printed 1888-1960

The Today newspaper (printed from 1986-1995) was the UK’s first national full colour newspaper

The Daily Herald was the first UK daily newspaper to sell more than 2 million copies, making it the biggest selling paper in the world in 1933

The Daily Express (founded 1900) was the UK’s most popular daily by 1936 with the largest circulation in the world of 2.25 million, rising to 3 million in 1944 and 4 million in 1949. It was also the last UK national newspaper to leave Fleet Street, which was the home of the British Press from 1702-1989

The Sunday Express was the first UK national newspaper to carry a crossword on 2nd November 1924

The Independent (founded 1986) is the UK’s youngest national daily newspaper

The Daily Star Sunday (started 2002) is the UK’s youngest national Sunday newspaper

The Scotsman was first printed as a weekly newspaper in 1817, before becoming a daily newspaper in 1855

The Herald (Glasgow) was first printed as the Glasgow Advertiser in 1783, before changing its name to the Herald & Advertiser in 1802, the Glasgow Herald in 1805 and The Herald in 1992!

The Daily Graphic (founded 1890) was the UK’s first daily illustrated newspaper

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Famous people in the newspaper industry

Charles Dickens was the first editor for the Daily News, which later merged with the Daily Chronicle to form the News Chronicle.

Michael Foot (former leader of the Labour Party) was once editor of the Tribune newspaper

The Sporting Life (printed 1859-1998) was the late Queen Mother’s favourite paper

Rupert Bear is the longest running cartoon character in a British newspaper first appearing in the Daily Express on 8th November 1920 where he still appears today

The British Gazette newspaper was printed by the Government during the General Strike of 1926 and was edited by Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was acting as war correspondent for the Morning Post newspaper in 1899 during the Boer War when he was captured – his subsequent escape from the prison camp made him a national hero

That’s it. Interesting, right?

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