Little Bits of History

The World’s News

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 1, 2015
Final edition's cover*

Final edition’s cover*

October 1, 1843: The News of the World first sees print. John Browne Bell began his newspaper in London and charged just three pence (equal to £1.1 today), making it the cheapest paper of the time. He was aiming for the market of the newly literate working classes. His offerings were geared to them and so his news was often titillating and shocking. He offered news of the crimes of the day and the sources were transcripts of police descriptions – offering up the doings of the brothels, streetwalkers and “immoral” woman (and the men they were immoral with). Always a weekly paper, it wasn’t long before News of the World was the most widely read Sunday paper with early sales around 12,000 copies a week.

Laws changed and with the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1855 and the duty on paper in 1861, the prices for other papers dropped. News of the World did not, however, follow suit and kept their price the same. Readership dropped and it was no longer the leading Sunday tabloid. Although numbers increased to 30,000 the percentage was less and they fell out of the lead by 1880. The Bell family sold to Henry Lascelles Carr in 1891. Already the owner of the Welsh Western Mail, he put his nephew in charge of the London tabloid. He held that post for 50 years. It was George Riddell who was the mastermind behind the paper’s growth. He reorganized its national distribution using local agents. The paper was hailed by some as a “very fine paper indeed” but like everything, it had detractors.

Sales increased and by 1912 circulation was 2 million. By the early 1920s it was up to 3 million and by 1939 it was at 4 million. With the success of News of the World, other British papers of similar style also began publication. After more than 75 years printing in London, Manchester became the seat of printing. As the print shop in Derby Street became unusable, it was moved to Thomson House and when that happened, the Empire News was forced to close as the shop couldn’t print both. In theory, they were merged since they couldn’t handle their print load otherwise. The paper’s motto was “All human life is there” and by 1903 it had become linked with sporting events from darts to golf to snooker. By 1950, it was the biggest paper in the world selling 8,441,000 copies weekly and with some weeks spiking over 9 million.

Rupert Murdoch purchased the paper in 1969 after a yearlong battle with Robert Maxwell. Murdoch was criticized on a David Frost show in the late summer and it was the first of many scandals associated with the paper under Murdoch’s rule. As “journalism” grew less ethical at the paper, more bad press came with it and on July 7, 2011 it was announced the last edition after 168 years in print would be the July 10th edition. Their phone hacking scandal was too much for the public to bear. It was announced the paper would donate all profits, 74 pence of each £1 cover price, would go to “good causes” and advertising space would be given to charities. Shutting the paper down cost News Group Newspapers about £240 million. The government has denied any role in the decision to close the paper and James Murdoch has said they are cooperating fully with ongoing police investigations.

People who read the tabloids deserve to be lied to. – Jerry Seinfeld

Well, I’ve had my fair share in Britain of battling the tabloids. – Elton John

The world is disgracefully managed, one hardly knows to whom to complain. – Ronald Firbank

Humiliation is a guest that only comes to those who have made ready his resting-place, and will give him a fair welcome. … No one can disgrace you save yourself. – Ouida

Also on this day: Yosemite National Park – In 1890, US Congress created Yosemite National Park.
The March King – In 1880, John Philip Sousa became the leader of the United States Marine Band.
Superhighway – In 1940, the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened.
Bright Idea – In 1946, Mensa was formed.
Thrilla in Manila – In 1975, Ali and Frazier battled it out.

* “Final NOTW cover” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –


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