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The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 or social democratic
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

 line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.

Origins


The first issue, published on 4 December 1791 by W.S. Bourne, was the world's first Sunday newspaper. Believing that the paper would be a means of wealth, Bourne instead soon found himself facing debts of nearly £1,600. Though early editions purported editorial independence, Bourne attempted to cut his losses and sell the title to the government. When this failed, Bourne's brother (a wealthy businessman) made an offer to the government, which also refused to buy the paper but agreed to subsidise it in return for influence over its editorial content. As a result, the paper soon took a strong line against radicals such as Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

, Francis Burdett and Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley, FRS was an 18th-century English theologian, Dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, and political theorist who published over 150 works...

.

19th century


In 1807, the brothers decided to relinquish editorial control, naming Lewis Doxat
Lewis Doxat
Lewis Doxat was an English newspaper editor.-Biography:Born in India, Doxat came to England as a young boy. He settled in London, where he found work with the Morning Chronicle. In 1804 he started an association with The Observer, and rose to become its editor three years later...

 as the new editor. Seven years later, the brothers sold The Observer to William Innell Clement
William Innell Clement
William Innell Clement was an English newspaper proprietor.Though details of Clement's early years are unknown, it is likely that he was born in London. Starting as a newsagent at a young age, he soon became one of the leading vendors in London...

, a newspaper proprietor who owned a number of publications. The paper continued to receive government subsidies during this period; in 1819, of the approximately 23,000 copies of the paper distributed weekly, approximately 10,000 were given away as "specimen copies", distributed by postmen who were paid to deliver them to "lawyers, doctors, and gentlemen of the town." Yet the paper began to demonstrate a more independent editorial stance, criticising the authorities' handling of the events surrounding the Peterloo Massacre
Peterloo Massacre
The Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation....

 and defied an 1820 court order against publishing details of the trial of the Cato Street Conspirators
Cato Street Conspiracy
The Cato Street Conspiracy was an attempt to murder all the British cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Lord Liverpool in 1820. The name comes from the meeting place near Edgware Road in London. The Cato Street Conspiracy is notable due to dissenting public opinions regarding the punishment of the...

 who were alleged to have plotted to murder members of the Cabinet. The woodcut
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

 pictures published of the stable and hayloft where the conspirators were arrested reflected a new stage of illustrated journalism that the newspaper pioneered during this time.

Clement maintained ownership of The Observer until his death in 1852. During that time, the paper supported parliamentary reform
Reform Act 1832
The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales...

, but opposed a broader franchise and the Chartist
Chartism
Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century, between 1838 and 1859. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838. Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labour movement in the world...

 leadership. After Doxat retired in 1857, Clement's heirs sold the paper to Joseph Snowe, who also took over the editor's chair. Under Snowe, the paper adopted a more liberal political stance, supporting the North during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and endorsing universal manhood suffrage in 1866. These positions contributed to a decline in circulation during this time.

In 1870, wealthy businessman Julius Beer bought the paper and appointed Edward Dicey
Edward Dicey
Edward James Stephen Dicey was an English writer, journalist, and editor.Born at Claybrook Hall, Leicestershire, Dicey was the son of Thomas Edward Dicey, owner of the Northampton Mercury, and Anne Mary, née Stephen...

 as editor, whose efforts succeeded in reviving circulation. Though Beer's son Frederick became the owner upon Julius's death in 1880, he had little interest in the newspaper and was content to leave Dicey as editor until 1889. Henry Duff Traill took over the editorship after Dicey's departure, only to be replaced in 1891 by Frederick's wife, Rachel Beer
Rachel Beer
Rachel Beer was an Indian-born British newspaper editor. She was editor-in-chief of The Observer and The Sunday Times.-Biography:...

, of the Sassoon family
Sassoon family
The Sassoon family was an Indian family of Iraqi Jewish descent and international renown, based in Bombay, India. It was descended from the famous Ibn Shoshans, one of the richest families of medieval Spain...

. Though circulation declined during her tenure, she remained as editor for thirteen years, combining it in 1893 with the editorship of The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

, a newspaper that she had also bought.

20th century


Upon Frederick's death in 1905, the paper was purchased by the newspaper magnate Lord Northcliffe
Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe
Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe rose from childhood poverty to become a powerful British newspaper and publishing magnate, famed for buying stolid, unprofitable newspapers and transforming them to make them lively and entertaining for the mass market.His company...

. After maintaining the existing editorial leadership for a couple of years, in 1908 Northcliffe named James Louis Garvin
James Louis Garvin
For the basketball player, see James Garvin James Louis Garvin , was an influential British journalist, editor, and author...

 as editor. Garvin quickly turned the paper into an organ of political influence, boosting circulation from 5,000 to 40,000 within a year of his arrival as a result. Yet the revival in the paper's fortunes masked growing political disagreements between Garvin and Northcliffe. These disagreements ultimately led Northcliffe to sell the paper to William Waldorf Astor
William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor
William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor was a very wealthy American who became a British nobleman. He was a member of the prominent Astor family.-Life in United States:...

 in 1911, who transferred ownership to his son Waldorf
Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor
Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor was an American-born British politician and newspaper proprietor.-Early life:...

 four years later.

During this period, the Astors were content to leave the control of the paper in Garvin's hands. Under his editorship circulation reached 200,000 during the interwar years, a figure which Garvin fought to maintain even during the depths of the Great Depression
Great Depression in the United Kingdom
The Great Depression in the United Kingdom, also known as the Great Slump, was a period of national economic downturn in the 1930s, which had its origins in the global Great Depression...

. Politically the paper pursued an independent Tory
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 stance, which eventually brought Garvin into conflict with Waldorf's more liberal son, David
David Astor
Francis David Langhorne Astor CH was an English newspaper publisher and member of the Astor family.-Early life and career:...

. Their conflict contributed to Garvin's departure as editor in 1942, after which the paper took the unusual step of declaring itself non-partisan.

Ownership passed to Waldorf's sons in 1948, with David taking over as editor. He remained in the position for 27 years, during which time he turned it into a trust-owned newspaper employing, among others, George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

, Paul Jennings
Paul Jennings (UK author)
Paul Francis Jennings was a British humourist. He mostly wrote short articles; his most famous collection is The Jenguin Pennings, published in 1963 by Penguin books ....

 and C. A. Lejeune
C. A. Lejeune
Caroline Alice Lejeune was a British writer, best known as the film critic of The Observer from 1928 to 1960.-Family:...

. Under Astor's editorship The Observer became the first national newspaper to oppose the government's 1956 invasion of Suez
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

, a move which cost it many readers. In 1977, the Astors sold the ailing newspaper to US oil giant Atlantic Richfield
ARCO
Atlantic Richfield Company is an oil company with operations in the United States as well as in Indonesia, the North Sea, and the South China Sea. It has more than 1,300 gas stations in the western part of the United States. ARCO was originally formed by the merger of East Coast-based Atlantic...

 (now called ARCO) who sold it to Lonrho plc in 1981. Since June 1993, it has been part of the Guardian Media Group
Guardian Media Group
Guardian Media Group plc is a company of the United Kingdom owning various mass media operations including The Guardian and The Observer. The Group is owned by the Scott Trust. It was founded as the Manchester Guardian Ltd in 1907 when C. P. Scott bought the Manchester Guardian from the estate of...

.

In 1990, Farzad Bazoft
Farzad Bazoft
Farzad Bazoft was an Iranian-born journalist who settled in the United Kingdom in the mid-1970s. He worked as a freelance reporter for The Observer. He was arrested by Iraqi authorities and executed in 1990 after being convicted of spying for Israel while working in Iraq.Bazoft relocated to the...

, a journalist for The Observer, was executed in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 on charges of spying. In 2003, The Observer interviewed the Iraqi colonel who had arrested and interrogated Barzoft and who was convinced that Barzoft was not a spy.

21st century


On 27 February 2005, The Observer Blog was launched, making The Observer the first newspaper to purposely document its own internal decisions, as well as the first newspaper to release podcast
Podcast
A podcast is a series of digital media files that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication...

s. The paper's regular columnists include Andrew Rawnsley
Andrew Rawnsley
Andrew Nicholas James Rawnsley is a British political journalist, notably for The Observer, and broadcaster.-Early life:...

 and Nick Cohen
Nick Cohen
Nick Cohen is a British journalist, author and political commentator. He is currently a columnist for The Observer, a blogger for The Spectator and TV critic for Standpoint magazine. He formerly wrote for the London Evening Standard and the New Statesman...

.

In addition to the weekly Observer Magazine which is still present every Sunday, for several years each issue of The Observer came with a different free monthly magazine. These magazines had the titles Observer Sport Monthly, Observer Music Monthly, Observer Woman and Observer Food Monthly.

Content from The Observer is included in The Guardian Weekly
The Guardian Weekly
The Guardian Weekly is a weekly newspaper published by the Guardian Media Group and is one of the world's oldest international newspapers. It was founded with the aim of spreading progressive British ideas into America after the First World War...

for an international readership.

The Observer followed its daily partner The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

and converted to 'Berliner
Berliner (format)
Berliner, or "midi", is a newspaper format with pages normally measuring about . The Berliner format is slightly taller and marginally wider than the tabloid/compact format; and is both narrower and shorter than the broadsheet format....

' format on Sunday 8 January 2006.

The Observer was announced as National Newspaper of the Year at the British Press Awards
British Press Awards
The British Press Awards is an annual ceremony that celebrates the best of British journalism. Established in the 1970s, honours are voted on by a panel of journalists and newspaper executives...

 2007.

Whitehall Editor Jo Revill had, as Health Editor, been named Medical Journalist of the Year in 2000 and 2006 by two different organisations, when she was Health Editor.

On 24 October 2007, it was announced that editor Roger Alton
Roger Alton
Roger Alton is a British journalist. Currently executive editor of The Times he was formerly editor of The Independent and The Observer....

 was stepping down at the end of the year to be replaced by his deputy, John Mulholland.

In early 2010, the paper was rejuvenated. An article on the paper's website previewing the new version stated that "The News section, which will incorporate Business and personal finance, will be home to a new section, Seven Days, offering a complete round-up of the previous week's main news from Britain and around the world, and will also focus on more analysis and comment."

Supplements and features


After the paper was rejuvenated in early 2010, the main paper came with only a small number of supplements – Sport, The Observer Magazine, The New Review and The New York Times International Weekly, an 8-page supplement of articles selected from The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, has been distributed with the paper since 2007. Every four weeks the paper includes The Observer Food Monthly magazine.

Previously, the main paper had come with a vast range of supplements including Sport, Business & Media, Review, Escape (a travel supplement), The Observer Magazine and various special interest monthlies, such as Observer Food Monthly, Observer Women monthly, Observer Sport Monthly and The Observer Film Magazine.

The Newsroom


The Observer and its sister newspaper The Guardian operate a visitor centre in London called The Newsroom. It contains their archives, including bound copies of old editions, a photographic library and other items such as diaries, letters and notebooks. This material may be consulted by members of the public. The Newsroom also mounts temporary exhibitions and runs an educational program for schools.

In November 2007, The Observer and The Guardian made their archives available over the internet.The current extent of the archives available are 1791 to 2000 for The Observer and 1821 to 2000 for The Guardian. These archives will eventually go up to 2003.

Editors

  • W. S. Bourne & W. H. Bourne (1791–1807)
  • Lewis Doxat
    Lewis Doxat
    Lewis Doxat was an English newspaper editor.-Biography:Born in India, Doxat came to England as a young boy. He settled in London, where he found work with the Morning Chronicle. In 1804 he started an association with The Observer, and rose to become its editor three years later...

     (1807–1857)
  • Joseph Snowe (1857–1870)
  • Edward Dicey
    Edward Dicey
    Edward James Stephen Dicey was an English writer, journalist, and editor.Born at Claybrook Hall, Leicestershire, Dicey was the son of Thomas Edward Dicey, owner of the Northampton Mercury, and Anne Mary, née Stephen...

     (1870–1889)
  • Henry Duff Traill
    Henry Duff Traill
    Henry Duff Traill , was a British author and journalist.Born at Blackheath, he belonged to an old Caithness family, the Traills of Rattar, and his father, James Traill, was the stipendiary magistrate of Greenwich and Woolwich Police Court...

     (1889–1891)
  • Rachel Beer
    Rachel Beer
    Rachel Beer was an Indian-born British newspaper editor. She was editor-in-chief of The Observer and The Sunday Times.-Biography:...

     (1891–1904)
  • Austin Harrison
    Austin Harrison
    Austin Frederic Harrison was a British journalist and editor, best known for his editorship of The English Review from 1909 until 1923.-Early life and career:...

     (1904–1908)
  • James Louis Garvin
    James Louis Garvin
    For the basketball player, see James Garvin James Louis Garvin , was an influential British journalist, editor, and author...

     (1908–1942)
  • Ivor Brown
    Ivor Brown
    Ivor John Carnegie Brown was a British journalist and man of letters.-Biography:Born in Penang, Malaya, Brown was the younger of two sons of Dr. William Carnegie Brown, a specialist in tropical diseases, and his wife Jean Carnegie. At an early age he was sent to Britain, where he attended Suffolk...

     (1942–1948)
  • David Astor
    David Astor
    Francis David Langhorne Astor CH was an English newspaper publisher and member of the Astor family.-Early life and career:...

     (1948–1975)
  • Donald Trelford
    Donald Trelford
    Donald Trelford is a British journalist and academic, who was editor of The Observer newspaper from 1975 to 1993. He was also a director of The Observer from 1975 to 1993 and Chief Executive from 1992 to 1993....

     (1975–1993)
  • Jonathan Fenby
    Jonathan Fenby
    Jonathan Fenby is a British journalist, and was Editor of The Observer newspaper from 1993-1995 and then Editor of the South China Morning Post from 1995-2000, during the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty...

     (1993–1995)
  • Andrew Jaspan
    Andrew Jaspan
    Andrew Jaspan, a British journalist, was appointed in October 2004, as Editor-in-Chief of The Age, a broadsheet daily newspaper published in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to this appointment, he was the founder and editor of the Sunday Herald in Scotland from 1999 to 2004...

     (1995–1996)
  • Will Hutton
    Will Hutton
    William Nicolas Hutton is an English writer, weekly columnist and former editor-in-chief for The Observer. He is currently Principal of Hertford College, Oxford and Chair of the Big Innovation Centre , an initiative from The Work Foundation , having been Chief Executive of The Work Foundation from...

     (1996–1998)
  • Roger Alton
    Roger Alton
    Roger Alton is a British journalist. Currently executive editor of The Times he was formerly editor of The Independent and The Observer....

     (1998–2007)
  • John Mulholland (2008–)

Awards


The Observer was named the British Press Awards
British Press Awards
The British Press Awards is an annual ceremony that celebrates the best of British journalism. Established in the 1970s, honours are voted on by a panel of journalists and newspaper executives...

 National Newspaper of the Year in 2007. Its supplements have twice won "Regular Supplement of the Year" (Sport Monthly, 2001; Food Monthly, 2006).

Observer journalists have won a range of British Press Awards, including
  • "Interviewer of the Year" (Lynn Barber
    Lynn Barber
    Lynn Barber is a British journalist, who writes for The Sunday Times.-Early life:Barber attended Lady Eleanor Holles School...

    , 2002; Sean O'Hagan, 2003; Rachel Cooke, 2006; Chrissy Iley (freelance for Observer and Sunday Times magazine), 2008)
  • "Critic of the Year" (Jay Rayner
    Jay Rayner
    Jay Rayner is a British journalist, writer, broadcaster, and food critic.Rayner is the younger son of journalist Claire Rayner and Desmond Rayner, and attended the independent Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School. He joined The Observer newspaper after graduating from Leeds University in 1988 where...

    , 2006; Philip French
    Philip French
    Philip French is a British film critic and former radio producer.French, the son of an insurance salesman, was educated at the direct grant Bristol Grammar School, read Law at Oxford University. and post graduate study in Journalism at Indiana University, Bloomington on a scholarship.He has been...

    , 2009)

See also


  • Anthony Howard
    Anthony Howard (journalist)
    Anthony Michell Howard, CBE was a prominent British journalist, broadcaster and writer. He was the editor of the New Statesman, The Listener and the deputy editor of The Observer...

  • Cambridge Apostles
    Cambridge Apostles
    The Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society, is an intellectual secret society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar....

  • Observer Mace debating competition
    John Smith Memorial Mace
    The John Smith Memorial Mace is an annual debating tournament contested by universities in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales....

     – now known as the John Smith Memorial Mace


External links