The Observer is a British newspaper published on Sundays. In the same
place on the political spectrum as its sister papers
The Guardian and
The Guardian Weekly, whose parent company
Guardian Media Group Limited
acquired it in 1993, it takes a social liberal or social democratic
line on most issues. First published in 1791, it is the world's oldest
1.2 Nineteenth century
1.3 Twentieth century
1.4 Twenty-first century
2 Supplements and features
3 The Newsroom
8 Conventions sponsored
10 See also
12 External links
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,
Francis Burdett and Joseph
In 1807, the brothers decided to relinquish editorial control, naming
Lewis Doxat as the new editor. Seven years later, the brothers sold
The Observer to William Innell Clement, 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
Peterloo Massacre and defying an 1820 court order
against publishing details of the trial of the Cato Street
Conspirators, who were alleged to have plotted to murder members of
the Cabinet. The woodcut 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, but
opposed a broader franchise and the Chartist 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 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
Edward Dicey 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, of the Sassoon family.
Though circulation declined during her tenure, she remained as editor
for thirteen years, combining it in 1893 with the editorship of The
Sunday Times, a newspaper that she had also bought.
Upon Frederick's death in 1901, the paper was purchased by the
newspaper magnate Lord Northcliffe. After maintaining the existing
editorial leadership for a couple of years, in 1908 Northcliffe named
James Louis Garvin
James Louis Garvin 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 in 1911, who transferred
ownership to his son
Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor four years
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. Politically
the paper pursued an independent Conservative stance, which eventually
brought Garvin into conflict with Waldorf's more liberal son David
Astor. Their conflict contributed to Garvin's departure as editor in
1942, after which the paper took the unusual step of declaring itself
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, Paul Jennings and C. A. Lejeune. Under Astor's editorship The
Observer became the first national newspaper to oppose the
government's 1956 invasion of Suez, a move which cost it many readers.
In 1977, the Astors sold the ailing newspaper to US oil giant Atlantic
Richfield (now called ARCO) who sold it to
Lonrho plc in 1981.
It became part of the
Guardian Media Group in June 1993, after a rival
bid to acquire it by
The Independent was rejected.
In 1990, Farzad Bazoft, a journalist for The Observer, was executed in
Iraq on charges of spying. In 2003,
The Observer interviewed the Iraqi
colonel who had arrested and interrogated Bazoft and who was convinced
that Bazoft was not a spy.
In 2003 the editorial supported the
Iraq war stating "Military
intervention in the Middle East holds many dangers. But if we want a
lasting peace it may be the only option."
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 podcasts. The
paper's regular columnists include
Andrew Rawnsley and Nick Cohen.
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.
The Observer is included in
The Guardian Weekly for an
The Observer followed its daily partner
The Guardian and converted to
'Berliner' format on Sunday 8 January 2006.
The Observer was awarded the National Newspaper of the Year at the
British Press Awards 2007. Editor
Roger Alton stepped down at the
end of 2007 and was replaced by his deputy, John Mulholland.
In early 2010, the paper was restyled. 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
The New York Times International Weekly,
an 8-page supplement of articles selected from The New York Times, has
been distributed with the paper since 2007. Every four weeks the paper
The Observer Food Monthly magazine, and in September 2013 it
launched Observer Tech Monthly, a science and technology section
which won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Newspaper Awards.
Previously, the main paper had come with a larger range of supplements
including Sport, Business & Media, Review, Escape (a travel
The Observer Magazine and various special interest
monthlies, such as Observer Food Monthly, Observer Women monthly which
was launched in 2006, Observer Sport Monthly and
The Observer Film
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.
The paper was banned in
Egypt in February 2008 after reprinting
cartoons allegedly insulting Mohammed.
W. S. Bourne & W. H. Bourne (1791–1807)
Lewis Doxat (1807–57)
Joseph Snowe (1857–70)
Edward Dicey (1870–89)
Henry Duff Traill (1889–91)
Rachel Beer (1891–1904)
Austin Harrison (1904–08)
James Louis Garvin
James Louis Garvin (1908–42)
Ivor Brown (1942–48)
David Astor (1948–75)
Donald Trelford (1975–93)
Jonathan Fenby (1993–95)
Andrew Jaspan (1995–96)
Will Hutton (1996–98)
Roger Alton (1998–2007)
John Mulholland (2008–)
Jane Bown (resident from 1949 until her death in 2014)
Antonio Olmos (freelance)
Harry Borden (feelance)
Michael Peto (freelance)
Neil Libbert (freelance)
Colin Jones (freelance)
Dean Chalkley (freelance)
Don McCullin (freelance)
Philip Jones Griffiths
Philip Jones Griffiths (freelance)
Giles Duley (freelance)
The Observer was named the
British Press Awards National Newspaper of
the Year for 2006. Its supplements have three times won "Regular
Supplement of the Year" (Sport Monthly, 2001; Food Monthly, 2006,
Observer journalists have won a range of British Press Awards,
"Interviewer of the Year" (Lynn Barber, 2001; Sean O'Hagan, 2002;
Rachel Cooke, 2005; Chrissy Iley (freelance for Observer and Sunday
Times magazine), 2007)
"Critic of the Year" (Jay Rayner, 2005; Philip French, 2008; Rowan
"Food & Drink Writer of the Year" (John Carlin, 2003)
"Travel Writer of the Year" (Tim Moore, 2004)
In May 2017
The Observer helped sponsor The Convention on Brexit.
David Astor and The Observer, André Deutsch, London,
1990, 294 pp. with index. ISBN 0-233-98735-5. Has endpapers that
are facsimiles of The Observer, with other black-and-white
photographic plates of personnel linked to the newspaper.
Jane Bown, 'A Lifetime of Looking' Faber & Faber Ltd, 2015
ISBN 1-783-35088-1. Contains the most iconic photos Jane took for
the Observer from 1949 to the last photo she took a few months before
she died in December 2014. Photos include The Beatles, Mick Jagger,
the Queen, John Betjeman, Bjork...
Observer Mace debating competition – now known as the John Smith
^ Graham Snowdon, "Inside the 19 January edition", The Guardian
Weekly, 16 January 2018 (page visited on 19 January 2018).
^ Matt Wells (15 October 2004). "World writes to undecided voters".
The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
^ "Print ABCs: Metro overtakes Sun in UK weekday distribution, but
Murdoch title still Britain's best-selling paper". Press Gazette.
Retrieved 11 July 2017.
The Observer under review".
BBC News. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 27
Dennis Griffiths (ed.), The Encyclopedia of the British Press,
1422–1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p. 159.
^ "Key moments in the Observer's history - a timeline". the Guardian.
7 November 2017.
^ "Ad Info - Observer History". 17 September 2009.
^ Michael Leapman, "New editor chosen for 'Observer': 'Guardian'
deputy to succeed Trelford", The Independent, 14 May 1993, accessed 22
^ Ed Vulliamy, "Writer hanged by
Iraq 'no spy'", The Guardian, 18 May
2003, accessed 4 April 2007.
Iraq war: the march of time", The Guardian, 15 February 2013.
^ Observer blog, accessed 27 February 2007.
^ Claire Cozens, "Observer announces relaunch date", The Observer, 19
December 2005; accessed 27 February 2007.
^ The archive – summary of holdings, accessed 27 February 2007.
^ Ltd, Magstar. "Press Awards". www.pressawards.org.uk.
^ Stephen Brook (3 January 2008). "Mulholland reshapes Observer team".
The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
^ John Mulholland, "Welcome to the new Observer", Guardian.co.uk, 21
^ Gavriel Hollander (27 August 2003). "Observer to launch new monthly
technology supplement". Press Gazette. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
^ "Observer wins top prize at 2014 Newspaper Awards". The Guardian. 2
April 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
^ "New editor at the FINANCIAL TIMES" (PDF). Press Business (1).
February 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2013.
Retrieved 7 October 2013.
^ "How to access past articles from the Guardian and Observer
archive". the Guardian. 15 November 2017.
^ "Der Spiegel issue on Islam banned in Egypt". France24. 2 April
2008. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
^ a b c Press Gazette, Roll of Honour, accessed 24 July 2011 Archived
16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
Information about The Newsroom Archive and Visitor Centre
DigitalArchive paid-for service
Guardian Media Group 1990 – 1999, Guardian Media Group
website; as of 2 March 2003; GMGplc.co.uk (link requires Flash to view
History of the Observer
Guardian Media Group
The Guardian Weekly
GMG Property Services
Joint ventures and
Development Hell (29.5%)
Seven Publishing (41.9%)
C. P. Scott
Guardian Student Media Award
John Edward Taylor
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