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History of Newspapers in NYC

February 24, 2020

history of newspapers in nyc

The Big Apple is home to one of the first newspapers in the country, delivering domestic and international news well before the United States had even formed. New York City still hasn’t pumped the brakes on its print and broadcast news dominance, with the history of newspaper publishing in NYC woven into the city’s very identity.

Explore the timeline of NYC’s newspaper scene, starting in the pivotal 1800s to current sales and social impact. Then learn how you, too, can be a part of NYC newspapers’ legacy.

Timeline of Major New York Newspapers

The newspaper timeline in NYC is long and dynamic. Its publications and news operations carry on that historical legacy even today, delivering top headlines on current events, politics, sports, social commentary and so much more.

1. Pre-20th Century

Throughout the 1800s, New York City residents had their pick of dozens of daily news outlets costing pennies on the dollar — if that. The city was the country’s — and one of the world’s — premier news regions. By the mid-1800s, 54 of the 373 newspapers published in the United States originated in New York. Publications included the country’s first Spanish-language newspaper, the first African-American-owned and -written newspaper and the first newspaper to include sports coverage.

New York’s reputation as a news-publishing powerhouse hasn’t weakened — and neither has its breadth or depth of reported topics. Journalism in the mid and late 1800s prioritized issues like political party coverage, investigative reporting, human interest pieces, society pages and trending social commentary on the most pressing social issues of the day. Sound familiar?

2. 1900s-1920s

NYC newspapers in the early 1900s produced some of the world’s most groundbreaking investigative pieces. Many earned significant acclaim, including Ida Tarbell’s 1902-1903 expose on John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, while others were sheer “muckraking” sensationalism.

The era also featured one of publishing’s most legendary rivalries between media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Hearst owned The New York Journal, Pulitzer the rival New York World. Together, these two icons leveraged yellow journalism tactics in their papers — among their other media assets — to represent their interests across increasingly partisan causes. Pulitzer often heralded immigrants’ and workers’ rights, while Hearst championed domestic and international affairs.

3. 1940s-1950s

The mid-20th century saw the next major development in the timeline of NYC newspapers. With the burgeoning popularity of broadcast television, print newspapers needed updated business models and practices to keep pace with the times yet enough differentiation to attract readership.

Many NYC newspapers responded through a series of mergers and buy-outs to strengthen their market shares. The Second World War dominated news coverage in the 1940s. In the decade that followed, papers sought to move away from the sensationalized, dramatic practices of yellow journalism, emphasizing fact-based reporting and in-depth long-form journalism that carries on even today.

4. 1960s

The 1960s saw a series of events that would rock New York City newspaper history forever. Most dramatically, these changes developed in the aftermath of the infamous 1962 and 1965 NYC journalist strikes. Collectively, the two incidents resulted in the restructuring of NYC’s 10 major daily newspapers — leaving all but half with sustainable operations.

The cause of the industry upheaval was new technology introduced into the newspaper and print industry, including computerized typesetting systems many saw as a job-stealing form of automation. Journalist unions responded with two formidable strikes, which would result in over 600 million newspaper editions going unprinted and 19,000 newspaper employees affected.

5. 1980s-1990s

Even amid rising production costs, thinner profit margins and an increasingly competitive alternative media landscape, NYC newspapers managed major gains in the 1980s and 1990s. Daily newspaper circulation peaked in NYC and the country in the mid-1980s, providing readers with news headlines, features, expanded editorial content and sports coverage, as well as entertainment sections and cartoons.

Despite this, newspapers were still not immune from these decades’ trend of corporate consolidation. No one better epitomized the zeitgeist of the time than media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who solidified his empire of multimedia assets starting in the early ’80s. We still feel Murdoch’s media impact through his parent organization News Corp. — the assets of which include The Wall Street Journal and Fox Corporation.

6. Today

Two of today’s highest-circulated newspapers call NYC home: The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Both these publications sit only behind USA Today in terms of total daily circulation, with The Wall Street Journal the second-highest circulated news publication and the Times the third-highest circulated newspaper, respectively.

New York City is also home to several other leading news institutions operating both print and digital branches. As more people consume news digitally than ever, many papers have shifted its content business models to meet readers where they are — online — disrupting the emphasis on regionally specific coverage. Few can refute the historical and contemporary dominance of New York City in today’s news landscape — and its continued influence on the future.

Today’s Top New York-Based Newspapers

todays top ny based newspapers

Get your hands on some of the most popular news sources today with any of these New York-based publications.

1. Wall Street Journal (WSJ)

Though still defined as a business publication versus a traditional “general” newspaper, the Wall Street Journal has earned an unparalleled reputation in the print news industry. Indeed, it remains one of the most widely trusted and reputable newspapers in the entire world.

The WSJ, published six days a week and available on every major continent, maintains both a print as well as a strong digital footprint. Its website receives an average monthly viewership exceeding 90 million and an average monthly unique user rate of 38 million. The publication has won over 30 Pulitzer Prizes and currently maintains over 1 million print-only subscribers and 1.8 million digital subscribers — one of the healthiest in the industry.

2. New York Times (NYT)

The New York Times is the third-highest circulating newspaper in the United States and the 18th-most circulated print news publication in the world. In its 160+ years of operation, the NYT has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, making it the most awarded newspaper in history.

Featuring robust sections in headline news, editorial, lifestyle, sports, politics, arts, the sciences and more, the NYT is also one of the most topically diverse and well-rounded print newspapers. Readers access New York City-specific news as well as expansive national and international coverage, a rarity in most major municipal papers today.

3. New York Post

The New York Post is a daily newspaper printed in tabloid format and established in 1801 by none other than American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The Post has shifted away from its original broadsheet format into the trending celebrity news, gossip and features-leaning content it’s known for today. The Post maintains a daily circulation of roughly half a million, making it the fourth-most popular printed newspaper in the nation.

4. New York Daily News

Once the most-circulated newspaper in the United States, the New York Daily News prioritizes tabloid features and trending populist editorial content related to New York City, politics, world events and celebrity gossip. Today, its daily print readership sits just above 230,000 subscribers. It is the 11th most-read newspaper in the United States and is still available in tabloid format, the same layout held since its inception in the early 1900s.

Get NYC Newspapers Delivered to You

Start your day with some of the world’s leading newspaper publications waiting for you at your home or office. Mitchell’sNY delivers print newspapers and magazines wherever and whenever you need them throughout NYC. See our full list of delivered publications to order yours today.
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