Oldest English newspaper still in publication

Oldest English newspaper still in publication


The oldest English newspaper adapts to changing times.

Development of news since 1737

  • Provo, UT

With the changing styles of the English language, it is fascinating to see how the news has been presented over the past four centuries.  Writers for the Irish News Letter comment on this phenomenon:

"The History of The News Letter

The News Letter, now in its fourth century of continuous publication, has come a long way since it first saw the light of day in 1737.

In those far-off days it was printed in what is now called Joy's Entry in Belfast, and was published by the original owner, Francis Joy, under the "sign of the Peacock" in Bridge Street.

The peacock symbol has been synonymous with the newspaper ever since and appears in a more modern format on today's masthead.

Initially a weekly paper, it became daily in 1855 and although some other newspapers originated before 1737, the News Letter is distinguished by its continuity of publication and retention of the original title.

On a recent visit to Northern Ireland, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth described the longevity of the newspaper as "an achievement in which the people of Northern Ireland can take great pride".

There is no doubting our special place in newspaper history, and in the daily life of the Province.

Now located at a modern publishing centre, modern production systems include computerised typesetting, electronic page make-up, satellite transmission services and full colour printing capability.

These significant advances have been successfully utilised for business, agricultural, entertainment and lifestyle supplements alongside sister titles like the Belfast News, and leading agriculture newspaper Farming Life.

Today's sophisticated news gathering techniques, which link the editorial offices by computer with worldwide news and picture services, contrast starkly with the 18th Century when the printing of international news depended on the arrival of packet boats from foreign or British parts.

One such arrival provided the News Letter with what can be justifiably claimed as the first genuine "world exclusive". The boat carrying the first copy to leave America of the Declaration of Independence, and bound for London, hit stormy waters off the north coast of Ireland. The boat sought refuge in Londonderry port and arrangements were made for the declaration to be sent on horseback to Belfast, where it would be met by another ship for delivery to King George III.

Somehow, and in the best traditions of revelatory journalism, the News Letter editor of the day gained access to the priceless document and duly published it on the front page of the August 23, 1776 edition. Today there is a constant demand for copies of that famous and historical front page.

More recently, the News Letter has played a prominent role in the search for peace and a political settlement in Northern Ireland.

It remains a relevant and challenging voice in Northern Ireland, displaying the perseverance, wit, creativity, knowledge and even the impertinence which makes a newspaper useful, entertaining, and on guard."

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