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Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 4, 2013
The Observer's first issue

The Observer’s first issue

December 4, 1791: The world’s first Sunday newspaper, The Observer, is published. It is a weekly paper first published by W.S. Bourne as a broadsheet, the size of newspaper that is about twice the size of a standard tabloid paper. Bourne soon found himself with £1,699 of debt and tried to sell his paper to anti-government groups in London. His wealthy brother intervened and approached government officials who also declined to buy the paper. They did offer to underwrite costs for the privilege of influencing content.

In 1814, William Innell Clement, already in possession of several papers, bought up The Observer. Defying a court order in 1820, he published details of the trial of the Cato Street Conspirators. He used wood-cut illustrations to promote the story. During the US Civil War, The Observer sided with the North. The paper changed hands several times. The Julius Beer family controlled the paper from the 1870s with Rachel Beer editing both The Observer and The Sunday Times. The 1st Viscount Astor purchased the paper in 1911 and it was finally sold to Atlantic Richfield (a US oil company). It is now part of the Guardian Media Group (GMG).

The Guardian, a Monday through Saturday paper, is also part of the GMG. Both papers take a liberal/social democratic line on political issues, although they are split on opinions regarding the Iraq War. In 1990, Farzed Bazoft, a journalist for The Observer, was charged with spying in Iraq and was executed. Both papers of the GMG went from broadsheet to Berliner format on January 8, 2006. This is a newssheet size which is slightly taller and wider than a tabloid paper while being narrower and shorter than a broadsheet.

The Observer was the first newspaper to publish a blog allowing the outside world insight into the internal editorial process. They were also the first paper to provide podcasts. The paper has monthly magazines with rotating topics included in each edition. The headquarters is located in Farringdon, London where John Mulholland sits as editor. They have a circulation of about 454,400 or greater than 100,000 more than their sister paper, The Guardian.

“The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw of character.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

“The image of the reporter as a nicotine-stained Quixote, slugging back Scotch while skewering city hall with an expose ripped out of a typewriter on the crack of deadline, persists despite munificent evidence to the contrary.” – Paul Gray

“Reporters thrive on the world’s misfortune. For this reason they often take an indecent pleasure in events that dismay the rest of humanity.” – Russell Baker

“When a reporter sits down at the typewriter, he’s nobody’s friend.” – Theodore H. White

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Guardian Media Group (GMG) was founded in 1907 when CP Scott purchased the Manchester Guardian from his cousin’s estate. The paper had been founded in 1821. Manchester Guardian and Evening News Ltd was created in 1924 when the Manchester Evening News was added to the morning paper. The current name was adopted in 1993. GMG is headquartered in Greater London and serves both England and Wales. Besides the two papers above, they have a portfolio of investments which support journalism. Amelia Fawcett is the Chairman and Andrew Miller is the CEO while Alan Rusbridger is editor-in-chief. GMG is entirely owned by Scott Trust Limited which was created to allow for editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity. However print media has been heavily impacted by the Internet. In the 2011/2012 financial year the group lost £75.6 million. The Observer’s circulation has fallen to 216,000 while The Guardian is at 189,000.

Also on this day: The Boss – In 1875, Boss Tweed escaped from prison.
Surf’s Up – In 1969, Greg Noll rode a big wave.
Home on the Grange – In 1867, the Grange was formed.


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