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40 fascinating facts about the news industry

  • First Black-run newspaper denounces slavery decades before Civil War

    The nation’s first Black owned and operated newspaper was Freedom’s Journal, founded by a group of free Black men in New York City in 1827. The four-page weekly circulated in 11 states as well as Haiti, Canada, and Europe; ran editorials denouncing slavery and lynchings; ran profiles of prominent Black Americans; and announced birth, death, and marriage announcements in New York’s Black community.

  • Rivalry at U.S. schools over oldest newspaper claims

    Several U.S. colleges and universities claim to have the nation’s oldest school newspaper. The Dartmouth Gazette started as a weekly in 1799; the Yale Daily News launched in 1878; and while the Harvard Crimson began in 1873, it did not go daily until 1883. The Cornell Daily Sun that debuted in 1880 is the oldest continuously independent college newspaper, and The Johns Hopkins News-Letter from 1896 is the oldest weekly college newspaper. More recently, The Tech at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the first college newspaper to publish online as of 1993.

  • Newspaper strikes transform industry

    Two major newspaper strikes in New York City in the 1960s reshaped the industry in dramatic fashion. In 1962, 17,000 newspaper workers went on strike for 114 days, and a second significant walkout in 1965 lasted 140 days. The job actions helped pare the city’s daily newspapers selection down to three from 10, set production firmly on a path to computerized typesetting, and accelerated the growth and influence of local television news and all-news radio.

  • New York mayor takes to radio to read comics aloud

    During a newspaper delivery strike in 1945, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia went on the radio to read the comics aloud to the city’s children. While he had been hosting a weekly radio broadcast of news and information during the war years, his move to address children and win goodwill among New Yorkers is still considered a brilliantly astute political maneuver. In his first such broadcast, he read “Dick Tracy,” portraying an array of character voices, and in another, he read “Little Orphan Annie.”

  • First commercially licensed radio news reports election results

    The first commercially licensed news radio program aired on Election Night in 1920. Working with the Pittsburgh Post newspaper to get the results by telephone, Station KDKA, which operated from a rooftop in Pittsburgh, announced the landslide presidential victory of Republican Warren G. Harding to about 1,000 listeners. The station was the first to be issued a radio license by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and it chose the call letters KDKA, which were the next available on the list of identifiers used for ships and marine stations.

     

  • Pioneering Black reporter poses as domestic worker for exposé

    Marvel Cooke became the first Black woman to write for a mainstream, non-Black newspaper when she was hired by New York’s Daily Compass in 1950. She co-wrote a five-part series titled “I Was Part of the Bronx Slave Market” after posing as one of the city’s domestic workers who would gather at sidewalk locations looking for work and struggled with low pay and mistreatment.

  • Journalists of color hold small fraction of news jobs

    Journalists of color hold about a third of the full-time salaried jobs at online-only news organizations and comprise about a fifth of the nation’s overall newsroom workforce, according to research published in 2019. Slightly more than a quarter of news organizations have at least one non-white person in the newsroom’s top three leadership jobs, and less than a fifth of newsoroom managers overall are people of color.

  • Horoscopes become a newspaper staple

    Newspaper horoscopes, a staple like crossword puzzles and advice columns, got started in 1930 when Britain’s Sunday Express ran a horoscope of newborn Princess Margaret by prominent astrologer R.H. Naylor. He declared that her life would be “eventful.” One of his next forecasts about a British aircraft being in danger was taken seriously when a British airship then crashed outside Paris, killing 48 people. Naylor landed a weekly column, and its popularity spawned what became known as tabloid astrology in newspapers around the world.

  • Trans journalists organize

    A group of about 50 journalists in 2020 launched the Trans Journalists Association (TJA) to help support the transgender community that is underrepresented in newsrooms and often misrepresented in news coverage. The organization publishes a detailed glossary of usage guidance, touching upon issues such as pronoun usage; stereotypes; and deadnames, the former names that trans people no longer use.

  • First Black woman covering White House snubbed by Eisnhower

    The first Black woman accredited to cover the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court was Alice Dunnigan, who was paid so little that she pawned her watch every Saturday for grocery money to last until her Monday morning paycheck. Dunnigan was Washington bureau chief for the Associated Negro Press for 14 years, starting in 1947. President Dwight Eisenhower would not call on her at news conferences for two years due to her persistent questions about civil rights. That changed when President John F. Kennedy took office and, eight minutes into his first White House news conference in 1961, called on Dunnigan and answered her question about voting rights.

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